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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 119)

Trump Attacks Impeachment Inquiry and Accuses a Witness of Lying

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164814468_18babbf4-094e-48a5-b68c-7bb212ee7979-articleLarge Trump Attacks Impeachment Inquiry and Accuses a Witness of Lying Zelensky, Volodymyr Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment Holmes, David (Diplomat) European Union

President Trump and Melania Trump at the White House on Thursday.Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday lashed out at the impeachment process and said a key witness — who swore under oath to be truthful — made up his testimony.

In a 53-minute phone interview with “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump referred to the account from David Holmes, a political counselor to the American ambassadors in Ukraine, who told impeachment investigators on Thursday that he had overheard Mr. Trump on a phone call with the American ambassador to the European Union ask about investigations into his political rivals.

“I guarantee you that never took place,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Holmes on Thursday described in detail the phone call between Mr. Trump and the ambassador, Gordon D. Sondland, discuss a recent meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The two were dining together in a Kyiv restaurant a day after the phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, which is at the heart of the impeachment investigation.

He addressed other topics during the interview, including the Democratic presidential candidates, progress on the wall along the United States border with Mexico and the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Mr. Trump said.

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Anticipating Impeachment, Republicans Debate Trial Timeline

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-trial-facebookJumbo Anticipating Impeachment, Republicans Debate Trial Timeline United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch House of Representatives Elections, Senate Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — The White House and the Republicans in the Senate, all but certain that the House will move forward to impeach President Trump, are divided over whether to embrace a lengthy trial that could give his allies a chance to mount an elaborate defense of his conduct before a polarized nation, or to move quickly to dispense with charges against him.

Several Republican senators discussed the issue with some of Mr. Trump’s top aides on Thursday during a meeting at the White House that unfolded as the House Intelligence Committee capped off two weeks of public impeachment hearings exploring whether the president should be impeached on charges of pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.

The group, which included some of Mr. Trump’s closest allies in the Senate and his legal and political advisers, came to no final conclusions about what a person briefed on the matter said would be a “totally unpredictable” situation as all 100 senators meet in public session for only the third time in history to consider whether to remove a president from office.

One White House official said nothing would be resolved until closer to the time of the actual trial. Another person familiar with the White House position said that they believe there should not be a vote in the House and that they considered the inquiry illegitimate, but that they welcomed the chance to present witnesses and try the case, which they cannot do in the current setting.

Mr. Trump has told friends that he is eager to see Senate Republicans aggressively argue that he did nothing wrong, after an elaborate House impeachment proceeding that has featured a constant barrage of damaging Democratic allegations.

But some lawmakers, including Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, are pushing for a quick trial — perhaps as short as two weeks, according to people familiar with the meeting. They hope that a brief proceeding would limit the political damage to Mr. Trump and quickly lead to his acquittal, allowing him and the Republican Party to focus on winning the 2020 election.

Others believe that drawing a trial out for as long as a month early next year could bring political advantages to Republicans, especially if it forces several Democratic senators who are running for president to make a difficult choice between sitting in their seats during an impeachment trial or spending time with voters on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire.

On Thursday, Mr. Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents that could signal which witnesses Republicans might call during an impeachment trial and how his allies might seek to defend the president.

In the letter, Mr. Graham asked for documents and communications with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son Hunter Biden, officials from the Obama administration and former President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine. The list suggests that Mr. Graham envisions a defense of Mr. Trump that focuses on shifting attention away from Mr. Trump’s conduct and onto the issue of whether Hunter Biden’s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president was appropriate.

House Republicans unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry to subpoena Hunter Biden.

A longer trial might help a handful of moderate Republican senators who are eager to show independent voters that they are taking the allegations against Mr. Trump seriously. For those senators, a quick dismissal could be seen as a decision to condone the president’s actions and sweep them under the rug without due consideration. Republican leaders have told Mr. Trump that they do not believe they could get the 51 votes required to quickly dismiss potential articles of impeachment.

Mr. Trump himself is a wild card, according to several people familiar with his thinking about how to handle a trial that appears all but inevitable.

At some moments, the president has told people close to him that he wants to see a lengthy trial in which his defenders are given the opportunity to call witnesses and deliver speeches on his behalf. But at other times, as he watches a torrent of negative news on cable television, he has said he wants a quick end to a process that he finds intolerable.

On Thursday morning, he complained on Twitter about coverage of what he called the “phony Impeachment Hoax,” accusing the news media of failing to fairly report about the impeachment hearings. “FAKE & CORRUPT NEWS!”

In a separate lunch meeting with a group of eight senators on Thursday, including some who have signaled an openness to the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump made brief comments about his frustration with the process, but did not ask for any commitments and did not discuss the procedures that a trial might follow, according to a statement from Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

“He feels that whatever has come forward has been exactly what he says — useless,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, told reporters after returning from the lunch.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, who has been one of the few members of the president’s party to criticize Mr. Trump’s conduct on Ukraine, attended the lunch but said Mr. Trump shook his hand and did not mention the comments about his conduct.

The staff-level discussions with the senators on Thursday focused on the variety of ways that a Senate trial could play out and decisions that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, will eventually have to make about the rules that will govern it.

Those rules, which were last developed for the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton in early 1999, govern how the two sides present evidence, whether they can call witnesses, and what role senators would have as they serve as quasi-jurors on the Senate floor. The answers to those questions — which would have to be negotiated with Democratic senators — would affect how long a trial would last.

In Mr. Clinton’s case, senators agreed that Republicans could only call three witnesses to make their case against the president, making the trial much shorter than it might have been if they were allowed to present a longer case.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump — who frequently calls Republican lawmakers to comment on their television appearances — has begun reaching out to them by inviting small groups of senators to the White House for lunch. While the meetings have not been billed as pertaining to a certain topic, the impeachment inquiry has come up. Mr. Trump has also had Republican lawmakers review transcripts of both of his phone calls with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, before either call was released to the public for the first time.

Mr. Trump has also weighed in with his impressions of the House proceedings, and discussed strategy during the lunches.

“They’re just waiting for the House thing to play out,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who attended a lunch last week.

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What We’ve Learned From Hill’s and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimonies

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States Embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union. Mr. Sondland is a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from Thursday’s testimony.

Responding to questions from Republicans, Dr. Hill explained the crux of the issue at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — the United States had two separate agendas operating in Ukraine, yet those involved in each viewed theirs was the only one.

Dr. Hill said she and other career foreign policy officials were frustrated with what Mr. Sondland was doing outside the normal channels of interagency coordination.

Hill: “What I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us. I’ve actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him, that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me ‘But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with? And the point is that we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes, it includes Ambassador Taylor as the chargé in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails, and who was on these emails? These were the people that need to know. And he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill thought Mr. Sondland’s goal of getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals was trivial and contrary to longstanding efforts regarding Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland told lawmakers that he did not understand how there could be an irregular back channel when his channel included the president of the United States, members of the president’s cabinet and the national security adviser.

“I don’t know how they can consider us to be the irregular channel and they to be the regular channel when it’s the leadership that makes the decisions,” Mr. Sondland said.

During an intense exchange with Mr. Sondland at the time, Dr. Hill said she told him, “This is all going to blow up.” She added, “And here we are.”

Westlake Legal Group fiona-hill-opening-statement-ukraine-1574344066729-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill’s and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimonies Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read Fiona Hill’s Opening Statement

Ms. Hill had a front-row seat to dramatic events in the White House around the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that Mr. Zelensky “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes described what other witnesses have depicted — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Westlake Legal Group david-holmes-opening-statement-ukraine-1574351587182-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill’s and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimonies Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read David Holmes’s Opening Statement

The career diplomat said he was told President Trump cared more about investigating his political rivals than about the welfare of Ukraine.

Hill: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. ”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump has sought Ukraine to initiate was looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that the president was always suspicious of Ukraine — and for good reason — because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, some promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

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They Toil Gladly Offstage. Impeachment Lands Them in the Spotlight.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 21dc-scene-articleLarge They Toil Gladly Offstage. Impeachment Lands Them in the Spotlight. Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Taylor, William B Jr House Committee on Intelligence Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Cooper, Laura K

Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, on Thursday. As with other witnesses, she framed her service to the United States in terms of her immigrant experience. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — They are, in a sense, the permanent, beating, bipartisan heart of the government of the United States.

They are deeply credentialed, polyglot, workaholic and respectful before Congress. They are graduates of Harvard and West Point, and veterans of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. They take meticulous notes, are on key phone calls and give “readouts.”

Of the dozen witnesses who have testified in the House impeachment inquiry, 10 are career professionals — members of the “deep state” that President Trump derides — who normally toil far from television. But over the past two weeks of hearings, they have been enduring, if not enjoying, rare turns in the spotlight on Capitol Hill, at times in defiance of the White House.

They have put faces on a Washington bureaucracy often dismissed and disparaged. Their stories are compellingly human, uniquely American, often immigrant.

“I am an American by choice, having become a citizen in 2002,” Fiona Hill, the former top Europe and Russia expert at the White House, and one of three immigrants among the 10, told the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. “I was born in the northeast of England, in the same region that George Washington’s ancestors came from.” As with other witnesses, she was eager to frame her service to the United States in terms of her immigrant experience.

“I can say with confidence that this country has offered me opportunities I never would have had in England,” said Ms. Hill, the descendant of coal miners. “I grew up poor, with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement.”

A similar note of first-generation gratitude came from Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the National Security Council’s Ukraine expert who testified Tuesday. He said he never could have spoken up about his concerns — that a phone call between Mr. Trump and the president of Ukraine was inappropriate — had his father not fled the Soviet Union four decades ago. On the contrary, he offered that as a reason he felt compelled to appear.

“In Russia, my act of expressing concern to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions,” Colonel Vindman said. “Offering public testimony involving the president would surely cost me my life.”

The theme carried unmistakable subtexts. Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, spoke of how undermined she felt when she learned of a smear campaign against her, ostensibly because she was viewed as unhelpful to Mr. Trump — “bad news” in his words.

“What U.S. ambassador could be blamed for harboring the fear that they can’t count on our government to support them,” Ms. Yovanovitch said last week, in an opening statement that also included a chronicle of how her father fled the Soviets and how her mother grew up “stateless” in Nazi Germany. “Their personal histories, my personal history, gave me both deep gratitude toward the United States and great empathy for others like the Ukrainian people who want to be free.”

The Republicans were not always impressed. Representative Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, made repeated references to the witnesses “auditioning” for the right to play in “the Democrat’s star chamber.”

But an essential part of the witnesses’ refrain was that they have served multiple presidents of both parties. Anodyne in some ways, the point makes a statement central to the identity of so many civil servants who populate every administration.

“I take great pride in the fact that I am a nonpartisan foreign policy expert, who has served under three different Republican and Democratic presidents,” Ms. Hill told the committee.

Laura K. Cooper, a career Pentagon official, said on Wednesday, “I have proudly served two Democratic and two Republican presidents.”

William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, let people know where he stood last week exactly three paragraphs into his opening statement. “I am nonpartisan and have been appointed to my positions by every president from President Reagan to President Trump,” he said.

An uglier subtext questioned their patriotism. Colonel Vindman, who was born in Ukraine and came to the United States when he was 3, faced doubts about what nation he was actually committed to serving. In that hearing, Steve Castor, the counsel for the panel’s Republicans, pressed him about whether he considered accepting a job offer as the defense minister of his birth country.

Colonel Vindman said it would have been a great honor but quickly shot down the prospect. “I am an American,” he said. “I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers.”

Although none of the witnesses were angling for cable news gigs, by the close of the last hearing on Thursday, they had become unwilling symbols of the Washington “establishment” — tarred as embedded resistors by a president who is just trying to “shake things up.”

In a sense, they have also become proxies inside a larger battle at the heart of the impeachment debate.

Molly Montgomery, a former Foreign Service officer who did not testify, said the hearings revealed a “huge gap between the reality that is experienced by public servants on the ground and the rhetoric in the political world.”

Ms. Montgomery, whose last position was as special adviser for Europe and Eurasia to Vice President Mike Pence, said she was heartened to see so many “everyday Americans” on social media express their appreciation, even awe, over so much of the testimony in recent days.

“The one silver lining here,” she said, “is that the American people are getting to see firsthand that there are Americans who serve all over the world, under difficult circumstances. And that they are just as patriotic and just as admirable as anyone who wears a uniform.”

Despite the aversion of the witnesses to anything that might suggest grandstanding or partisanship, it did not preclude some of them from expressing points of view. Ms. Hill was adamant Thursday that she would not take part in any “alternative narrative” promoted by Mr. Trump and some Republican allies on the committee that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” Ms. Hill said of these notions.

She issued a broader plea. “When we are consumed by partisan rancor,” she said, “we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other.”

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The Impeachment Witnesses Not Heard

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-assess-facebookJumbo The Impeachment Witnesses Not Heard United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Mulvaney, Mick impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — In recent days, lawmakers were told that when President Trump ramped up his campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping him against his domestic political rivals, he directed advisers to his personal lawyer. “Talk with Rudy,” he instructed. But one thing lawmakers will not do is talk with Rudy.

Rudolph W. Giuliani was hardly the only offstage character during two weeks of impeachment hearings that ended on Thursday. Lawmakers also heard that Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo were in the loop, that Mick Mulvaney organized the political equivalent of a “drug deal” and that John R. Bolton was adamantly against it.

But among those missing from the House Intelligence Committee’s witness list, besides Mr. Giuliani, are Mr. Pence, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Bolton. Not that the panel’s Democratic majority was unwilling to talk with the vice president, secretary of state, acting White House chief of staff or former national security adviser. Democratic leaders have decided not to wage a drawn-out fight to force them to testify over White House objections.

Instead, as the committee wrapped up its public hearings on Thursday, House Democrats have opted for expeditious over comprehensive, electing to complete their investigation even without filling in major gaps in the story. It is a calculated gamble that they have enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump on a party-line vote in the House and would risk losing momentum if they took the time to wage a court fight to compel reluctant witnesses to come forward.

But it leaves major questions unresolved. Was Mr. Pence told about a suspected link between security aid and investigations of Mr. Trump’s political opponents, as one witness testified? Did Mr. Pompeo sign off on it? Did Mr. Mulvaney facilitate the scheme? Did Mr. Bolton ever bring his objections directly to the president? Several current and former officials rushed out statements through aides or lawyers taking issue with testimony about them, but none of them volunteered to offer their own versions of the truth under oath.

Democrats have concluded that in the face of White House refusal to cooperate, it is better to press ahead and simply address the refusal of witnesses like Mr. Mulvaney to testify as a plank in a possible article of impeachment alleging obstruction of Congress.

“They should be coming before us,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday. “They keep taking it to court, and no, we’re not going to wait until the courts decide. That might be information that’s available to the Senate, in terms of how far we go and when we go. But we can’t wait for that because, again, it’s a technique. It’s obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress.”

Even some Republican strategists said she had a point. “As a political matter, the longer this goes, it is a real opportunity for Republicans to paint Democrats as unconcerned about the issues voters care more about, and I think Nancy Pelosi is well aware of that,” said Brendan Buck, who was counselor to former Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

But it leaves some frustrated about the missing pieces. “An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous,” said Representative Will Hurd of Texas, one of the few Republicans willing to criticize the president and at one point seen as theoretically open to the possibility of impeachment. “And it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

With the White House defying the House, Mr. Mulvaney has refused to comply with a subpoena for his testimony while Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo have defied subpoenas for documents. Mr. Bolton has declined an invitation to testify and has not been subpoenaed but is awaiting the result of a lawsuit filed by his former deputy, Charles M. Kupperman, asking a judge to decide whether he should listen to the House or the White House.

That case is due for oral arguments in a Federal District Court in Washington on Dec. 10, but even if the judge rules quickly it could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which would take time.

Another lawsuit seeking to force Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, to testify in response to an earlier House subpoena in a previous matter may be decided by a judge on Monday. But it too could be appealed, and Mr. Bolton’s lawyer has suggested that it might not apply to his client since there are separate national security concerns at stake.

None of which would suit the fast-track timetable envisioned by House Democrats. Although more witnesses could still be called, the Intelligence Committee concluded its scheduled public hearings after 12 witnesses and will now focus on drafting a report on the matter. It could also use the coming days to renew its press for the administration to turn over long-sought documents that have become more significant in light of the testimony.

From there, the committee’s report will go to the House Judiciary Committee, which traditionally handles impeachment and will then hold hearings of its own, but generally on constitutional and legal issues rather than fact-finding of its own. After it drafts articles of impeachment, the committee would vote on them and send them to the House floor, where Democrats anticipate a vote by Christmas.

In theory, if witnesses like Mr. Bolton do agree to testify or are compelled by a court, they could still be called before the Judiciary Committee. And for that matter, if the House does impeach Mr. Trump and sends the case to the Senate for a trial that would open sometime after the new year, additional witnesses could still be called then, too.

But the two weeks of public hearings showed how much remains fluid. Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a key figure in the pressure campaign, amended his original closed-door testimony after other witnesses contradicted him. Others like William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine; Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine; and Laura K. Cooper, a Defense Department official, offered new information after their original interviews when reminded by their staff or other witnesses.

Some of those who have not testified are aggrieved at their portrayals over the last two weeks. Mr. Mulvaney protested testimony on Thursday by Fiona Hill, a former Bolton deputy, that put him at the center of the pressure campaign.

“Fiona Hill’s testimony is riddled with speculation and guesses about any role that Mr. Mulvaney played with anything related to Ukraine,” his lawyer, Robert N. Driscoll, said in a statement. But the statement did not explain what role he did play, leaving the committee to guess.

In Mr. Mulvaney’s case, he has made statements that Democrats, at least, will consider evidence even if it was not under oath. During a briefing for reporters last month, Mr. Mulvaney admitted that Mr. Trump suspended $391 million in American security aid to Ukraine in part to force Ukraine to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory involving Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Mulvaney later tried to take it back.

Those comments as well as statements by the offices of officials like Mr. Pence and Energy Secretary Rick Perry raise the question of whether they have effectively waived any claim of immunity from testifying because they have publicly addressed the matter, according to lawyers. But Democrats may not take the time to litigate the question.

Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee that was involved in the Ukraine investigation at an earlier stage, pointed to Mr. Mulvaney’s public acknowledgment about the link between aid and an investigation as well as other testimony about figures like Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo.

“I very much want to hear from them,” he said. “But if they lack the courage of their colleagues to testify under oath, we can assume that what we’ve learned about their views and actions is true.”

An impeachment proceeding is not the same as a criminal court process, of course, and the standard of evidence is not the same. The House can move forward with whatever evidence a majority considers sufficient. And to the extent that the processes can be compared, an impeachment would be the political equivalent of an indictment, signaling that there is enough evidence to merit a trial in the Senate, though not necessarily enough to convict.

Still, even in the relatively quick investigation conducted in the two months since Ms. Pelosi formally opened the impeachment inquiry, the basic facts of what happened have been established and to a greater or lesser degree verified by different witnesses.

“The reality is there’s not much ambiguity about what took place here,” Mr. Buck said. “We know what happened, and now members and voters have to decide whether it rises to the level of removing him.”

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Bracing for Impeachment, White House and Republicans Weigh Contours of a Senate Trial

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-trial-facebookJumbo Bracing for Impeachment, White House and Republicans Weigh Contours of a Senate Trial United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch House of Representatives Elections, Senate Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — The White House and the Republicans in the Senate, all but certain that the House will move forward to impeach President Trump, are divided over whether to embrace a lengthy trial that could give his allies a chance to mount an elaborate defense of his conduct before a polarized nation, or to move quickly to dispense with charges against him.

Several Republican senators discussed the issue with some of Mr. Trump’s top aides on Thursday during a meeting at the White House that unfolded as the House Intelligence Committee capped off two weeks of public impeachment hearings exploring whether the president should be impeached on charges of pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.

The group, which included some of Mr. Trump’s closest allies in the Senate and his legal and political advisers, came to no final conclusions about what a person briefed on the matter said would be a “totally unpredictable” situation as all 100 senators meet in public session for only the third time in history to consider whether to remove a president from office.

One White House official said nothing would be resolved until closer to the time of the actual trial. Another person familiar with the White House position said that they believe there should not be a vote in the House and that they considered the inquiry illegitimate, but that they welcomed the chance to present witnesses and try the case, which they cannot do in the current setting.

Mr. Trump has told friends that he is eager to see Senate Republicans aggressively argue that he did nothing wrong, after an elaborate House impeachment proceeding that has featured a constant barrage of damaging Democratic allegations.

But some lawmakers, including Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, are pushing for a quick trial — perhaps as short as two weeks, according to people familiar with the meeting. They hope that a brief proceeding would limit the political damage to Mr. Trump and quickly lead to his acquittal, allowing him and the Republican Party to focus on winning the 2020 election.

Others believe that drawing a trial out for as long as a month early next year could bring political advantages to Republicans, especially if it forces several Democratic senators who are running for president to make a difficult choice between sitting in their seats during an impeachment trial or spending time with voters on the campaign trail in Iowa and New Hampshire.

On Thursday, Mr. Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents that could signal which witnesses Republicans might call during an impeachment trial and how his allies might seek to defend the president.

In the letter, Mr. Graham asked for documents and communications with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son Hunter Biden, officials from the Obama administration and former President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine. The list suggests that Mr. Graham envisions a defense of Mr. Trump that focuses on shifting attention away from Mr. Trump’s conduct and onto the issue of whether Hunter Biden’s work on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president was appropriate.

House Republicans unsuccessfully tried to convince the Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry to subpoena Hunter Biden.

A longer trial might help a handful of moderate Republican senators who are eager to show independent voters that they are taking the allegations against Mr. Trump seriously. For those senators, a quick dismissal could be seen as a decision to condone the president’s actions and sweep them under the rug without due consideration. Republican leaders have told Mr. Trump that they do not believe they could get the 51 votes required to quickly dismiss potential articles of impeachment.

Mr. Trump himself is a wild card, according to several people familiar with his thinking about how to handle a trial that appears all but inevitable.

At some moments, the president has told people close to him that he wants to see a lengthy trial in which his defenders are given the opportunity to call witnesses and deliver speeches on his behalf. But at other times, as he watches a torrent of negative news on cable television, he has said he wants a quick end to a process that he finds intolerable.

On Thursday morning, he complained on Twitter about coverage of what he called the “phony Impeachment Hoax,” accusing the news media of failing to fairly report about the impeachment hearings. “FAKE & CORRUPT NEWS!”

In a separate lunch meeting with a group of eight senators on Thursday, including some who have signaled an openness to the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump made brief comments about his frustration with the process, but did not ask for any commitments and did not discuss the procedures that a trial might follow, according to a statement from Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

“He feels that whatever has come forward has been exactly what he says — useless,” Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, told reporters after returning from the lunch.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, who has been one of the few members of the president’s party to criticize Mr. Trump’s conduct on Ukraine, attended the lunch but said Mr. Trump shook his hand and did not mention the comments about his conduct.

The staff-level discussions with the senators on Thursday focused on the variety of ways that a Senate trial could play out and decisions that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, will eventually have to make about the rules that will govern it.

Those rules, which were last developed for the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton in early 1999, govern how the two sides present evidence, whether they can call witnesses, and what role senators would have as they serve as quasi-jurors on the Senate floor. The answers to those questions — which would have to be negotiated with Democratic senators — would affect how long a trial would last.

In Mr. Clinton’s case, senators agreed that Republicans could only call three witnesses to make their case against the president, making the trial much shorter than it might have been if they were allowed to present a longer case.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump — who frequently calls Republican lawmakers to comment on their television appearances — has begun reaching out to them by inviting small groups of senators to the White House for lunch. While the meetings have not been billed as pertaining to a certain topic, the impeachment inquiry has come up. Mr. Trump has also had Republican lawmakers review transcripts of both of his phone calls with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, before either call was released to the public for the first time.

Mr. Trump has also weighed in with his impressions of the House proceedings, and discussed strategy during the lunches.

“They’re just waiting for the House thing to play out,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who attended a lunch last week.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Fiona Hill Testifies That ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by the G.O.P. Help Russia

WASHINGTON — The White House’s former top Europe and Russia expert sharply denounced what she called a “fictional narrative” embraced by President Trump and his Republican allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections, testifying that the claim at the center of the impeachment inquiry was a fabrication by Moscow that had harmed the United States.

Testifying on the final day of the week’s public impeachment hearings, the expert, Fiona Hill, tied Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to a dangerous effort by Russia to sow political divisions in the United States and undercut American diplomacy. Her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was an implicit rebuke to the president, suggesting that when he pressed Ukraine to investigate the theory that Kyiv rather than Moscow undertook a concerted campaign to meddle in the 2016 campaign, he was playing into Russia’s hands for his own political gain.

Dr. Hill’s account of how Mr. Trump’s team carried out what she called a “domestic political errand” that diverged from his own administration’s foreign policy amounted to sharp — albeit indirect — criticism of the president she served, and it brought home the grave national security consequences of the effort.

“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” said Dr. Hill, the British-born daughter of a coal miner who became a United States citizen and co-wrote a lengthy book analyzing the psyche of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Russians, she said, “deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”

Both Dr. Hill and David Holmes, a top aide in the United States Embassy in Kyiv, testified in detail about what they understood to be a concerted campaign by the president and his allies, led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to condition a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president on his announcement of investigations that Mr. Trump wanted into the 2016 election claim and of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164792364_be9a3c27-b7af-4cb8-90aa-9a2fbc617580-articleLarge Fiona Hill Testifies That ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by the G.O.P. Help Russia United States Politics and Government United States International Relations 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 2016 Hill, Fiona (1965- )

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Conaway of Texas, both Republicans, talking with a colleague during a break in the hearing.Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

“Investigations for a meeting,” is how Dr. Hill described her understanding of the deal laid out by the president’s inner circle, including Mr. Giuliani, Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Under questioning from the top Republican counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, Dr. Hill said she confronted Mr. Sondland in July about his failure to coordinate with other members of the administration on his actions regarding Ukraine. She understood only later that Mr. Sondland was part of a group of officials — along with Mr. Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who were “being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security, foreign policy — and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill said she had told Mr. Sondland at the time that, “this is all going to blow up.”

Mr. Holmes said it was his “clear understanding” by the end of August that Mr. Trump had frozen $391 million in vital security aid to pressure Ukraine to commit to announcing an investigation into Mr. Biden and his family.

Their testimony came as Democrats sought to pull back the focus of the impeachment proceedings at the end of two weeks of detail-heavy hearings focused on White House meetings, suspended security assistance for Ukraine, diplomatic exchanges and plenty of obscure Ukrainian names. But they also notched additional new information that could help bolster their case.

Republicans, knowing that Dr. Hill’s criticism was coming, used their opening remarks to try to blunt the attacks. Representative Devin Nunes of California, the panel’s top Republican, said that his party did not doubt Russia’s actions in 2016, but were open to a broader focus that Democrats were not.

“Needless to say, it’s entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries,” Mr. Nunes said.

In 2017, American intelligence officials released a report concluding that Mr. Putin ordered a state-sponsored campaign to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. No evidence has emerged that there was a similar effort by Ukraine.

Mr. Trump, who has responded to the proceedings in real time, took shots at Mr. Holmes Thursday morning, and his allies went after Dr. Hill as well. As Mr. Holmes testified, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that there was no way he could have heard what he claimed to have picked up the cellphone conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, wrote on Twitter that Dr. Hill only had an “OPINION” to offer, not firsthand knowledge. Republicans have dismissed multiple witnesses as unelected bureaucrats merely second-guessing the president’s policy positions.

Mr. Holmes said his assessment came after he drafted and sent a cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on behalf of William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, attempting to explain the importance of the security assistance to Ukraine.

“By this point,” Mr. Holmes said, “my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Burisma is a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, on its board.

Mr. Holmes also offered a detailed account of a phone call he overheard between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, in Kyiv in late July. The call took place a day after Mr. Trump directly asked Mr. Zelensky for the investigations.

Mr. Holmes said he could overhear the president ask Mr. Sondland if Mr. Zelensky would conduct the inquiries he sought. Mr. Sondland assured him “he’s going to do it,” and that the Ukrainian leader would do “anything you ask him to.” Afterward, Mr. Holmes testified that the ambassador told him Mr. Trump did not care for Ukraine but only for the “big things” like the investigations.

A day after Mr. Sondland laid out an extensive campaign to secure the political investigations, both witnesses said they had zero doubt about what Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were after. Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes both testified that references to investigating Burisma by Mr. Giuliani and other government officials were, in Dr. Hill’s words, “code for the Bidens.”

Asked by the Democratic counsel for the Intelligence Committee whether “anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well,” Mr. Holmes had a one-word answer: “Yes.”

Mr. Sondland and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, both said under oath this week that for many months they believed talk of Burisma was merely a reference to Mr. Trump’s interest in eliminating rampant corruption in Ukraine, given the company’s history.

Dr. Hill also offered the most precise account to date of an awkward White House meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10 that ended abruptly after Mr. Sondland told the visiting officials that they would need to commit to investigations Mr. Trump sought before getting a meeting with the president.

John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, stiffened visibly and sat back in his chair when Mr. Sondland made the comment, apparently so disturbed by it that he quickly cut off the meeting, she said. After the meeting ended, Mr. Sondland explained precisely what he was up to, Dr. Hill testified, referencing a deal with Mr. Mulvaney.

“That he had an agreement with chief of staff Mulvaney that in return for investigations, this meeting would get scheduled,” she said.

Thursday’s session capped two marathon weeks on investigative impeachment hearings, the first in two decades, and only the third such proceedings in modern history. In public sessions by turns gripping and grinding, the House Intelligence Committee has heard from a dozen witnesses who described how Mr. Trump and his allies inside and outside the government shunted aside official American policy toward Ukraine in favor of an unorthodox, politically charged campaign to secure two investigations that Mr. Trump sought.

A former ambassador to Ukraine spoke of being smeared and ousted from her post because she ran afoul of Mr. Giuliani and his allies. The seasoned diplomat who reluctantly replaced her said he watched, distraught, as the entire United States relationship with Ukraine was staked on the investigations, with Ukrainian lives and American foreign policy interests as collateral damage. Then on Wednesday, Mr. Sondland testified in no uncertain terms that there had been a clear “quid pro quo” at the highest levels of Mr. Trump’s government linking a White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky to investigations — and that everyone had known it.

Other witnesses from the White House, State Department and Defense Department spoke of unanimous opposition to Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze the security assistance, and how they raised questions about the legality of withholding money appropriated by Congress. One of them, Laura Cooper, testified that Ukraine began inquiring about the assistance on July 25, a month earlier than Republicans have insisted they knew, on the very same day of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky.

“In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said as he opened Thursday’s hearing. “It will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”

As lawmakers leave town for the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears increasingly inevitable that the 116th Congress will impeach the president for only the third time in American history. The question is on what timetable they will proceed giving the dwindling number of legislative days and competing priorities before them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Fiona Hill Testifies That ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by the G.O.P. Help Russia

WASHINGTON — The White House’s former top Europe and Russia expert sharply denounced what she called a “fictional narrative” embraced by President Trump and his Republican allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections, testifying that the claim at the center of the impeachment inquiry was a fabrication by Moscow that had harmed the United States.

Testifying on the final day of the week’s public impeachment hearings, the expert, Fiona Hill, tied Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to a dangerous effort by Russia to sow political divisions in the United States and undercut American diplomacy. Her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was an implicit rebuke to the president, suggesting that when he pressed Ukraine to investigate the theory that Kyiv rather than Moscow undertook a concerted campaign to meddle in the 2016 campaign, he was playing into Russia’s hands for his own political gain.

Dr. Hill’s account of how Mr. Trump’s team carried out what she called a “domestic political errand” that diverged from his own administration’s foreign policy amounted to sharp — albeit indirect — criticism of the president she served, and it brought home the grave national security consequences of the effort.

“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” said Dr. Hill, the British-born daughter of a coal miner who became a United States citizen and co-wrote a lengthy book analyzing the psyche of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Russians, she said, “deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”

Both Dr. Hill and David Holmes, a top aide in the United States Embassy in Kyiv, testified in detail about what they understood to be a concerted campaign by the president and his allies, led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to condition a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president on his announcement of investigations that Mr. Trump wanted into the 2016 election claim and of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164792364_be9a3c27-b7af-4cb8-90aa-9a2fbc617580-articleLarge Fiona Hill Testifies That ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by the G.O.P. Help Russia United States Politics and Government United States International Relations 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 2016 Hill, Fiona (1965- )

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Conaway of Texas, both Republicans, talking with a colleague during a break in the hearing.Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

“Investigations for a meeting,” is how Dr. Hill described her understanding of the deal laid out by the president’s inner circle, including Mr. Giuliani, Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Under questioning from the top Republican counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, Dr. Hill said she confronted Mr. Sondland in July about his failure to coordinate with other members of the administration on his actions regarding Ukraine. She understood only later that Mr. Sondland was part of a group of officials — along with Mr. Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who were “being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security, foreign policy — and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill said she had told Mr. Sondland at the time that, “this is all going to blow up.”

Mr. Holmes said it was his “clear understanding” by the end of August that Mr. Trump had frozen $391 million in vital security aid to pressure Ukraine to commit to announcing an investigation into Mr. Biden and his family.

Their testimony came as Democrats sought to pull back the focus of the impeachment proceedings at the end of two weeks of detail-heavy hearings focused on White House meetings, suspended security assistance for Ukraine, diplomatic exchanges and plenty of obscure Ukrainian names. But they also notched additional new information that could help bolster their case.

Republicans, knowing that Dr. Hill’s criticism was coming, used their opening remarks to try to blunt the attacks. Representative Devin Nunes of California, the panel’s top Republican, said that his party did not doubt Russia’s actions in 2016, but were open to a broader focus that Democrats were not.

“Needless to say, it’s entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries,” Mr. Nunes said.

In 2017, American intelligence officials released a report concluding that Mr. Putin ordered a state-sponsored campaign to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. No evidence has emerged that there was a similar effort by Ukraine.

Mr. Trump, who has responded to the proceedings in real time, took shots at Mr. Holmes Thursday morning, and his allies went after Dr. Hill as well. As Mr. Holmes testified, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that there was no way he could have heard what he claimed to have picked up the cellphone conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, wrote on Twitter that Dr. Hill only had an “OPINION” to offer, not firsthand knowledge. Republicans have dismissed multiple witnesses as unelected bureaucrats merely second-guessing the president’s policy positions.

Mr. Holmes said his assessment came after he drafted and sent a cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on behalf of William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, attempting to explain the importance of the security assistance to Ukraine.

“By this point,” Mr. Holmes said, “my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Burisma is a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, on its board.

Mr. Holmes also offered a detailed account of a phone call he overheard between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, in Kyiv in late July. The call took place a day after Mr. Trump directly asked Mr. Zelensky for the investigations.

Mr. Holmes said he could overhear the president ask Mr. Sondland if Mr. Zelensky would conduct the inquiries he sought. Mr. Sondland assured him “he’s going to do it,” and that the Ukrainian leader would do “anything you ask him to.” Afterward, Mr. Holmes testified that the ambassador told him Mr. Trump did not care for Ukraine but only for the “big things” like the investigations.

A day after Mr. Sondland laid out an extensive campaign to secure the political investigations, both witnesses said they had zero doubt about what Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were after. Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes both testified that references to investigating Burisma by Mr. Giuliani and other government officials were, in Dr. Hill’s words, “code for the Bidens.”

Asked by the Democratic counsel for the Intelligence Committee whether “anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well,” Mr. Holmes had a one-word answer: “Yes.”

Mr. Sondland and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, both said under oath this week that for many months they believed talk of Burisma was merely a reference to Mr. Trump’s interest in eliminating rampant corruption in Ukraine, given the company’s history.

Dr. Hill also offered the most precise account to date of an awkward White House meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10 that ended abruptly after Mr. Sondland told the visiting officials that they would need to commit to investigations Mr. Trump sought before getting a meeting with the president.

John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, stiffened visibly and sat back in his chair when Mr. Sondland made the comment, apparently so disturbed by it that he quickly cut off the meeting, she said. After the meeting ended, Mr. Sondland explained precisely what he was up to, Dr. Hill testified, referencing a deal with Mr. Mulvaney.

“That he had an agreement with chief of staff Mulvaney that in return for investigations, this meeting would get scheduled,” she said.

Thursday’s session capped two marathon weeks on investigative impeachment hearings, the first in two decades, and only the third such proceedings in modern history. In public sessions by turns gripping and grinding, the House Intelligence Committee has heard from a dozen witnesses who described how Mr. Trump and his allies inside and outside the government shunted aside official American policy toward Ukraine in favor of an unorthodox, politically charged campaign to secure two investigations that Mr. Trump sought.

A former ambassador to Ukraine spoke of being smeared and ousted from her post because she ran afoul of Mr. Giuliani and his allies. The seasoned diplomat who reluctantly replaced her said he watched, distraught, as the entire United States relationship with Ukraine was staked on the investigations, with Ukrainian lives and American foreign policy interests as collateral damage. Then on Wednesday, Mr. Sondland testified in no uncertain terms that there had been a clear “quid pro quo” at the highest levels of Mr. Trump’s government linking a White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky to investigations — and that everyone had known it.

Other witnesses from the White House, State Department and Defense Department spoke of unanimous opposition to Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze the security assistance, and how they raised questions about the legality of withholding money appropriated by Congress. One of them, Laura Cooper, testified that Ukraine began inquiring about the assistance on July 25, a month earlier than Republicans have insisted they knew, on the very same day of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky.

“In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said as he opened Thursday’s hearing. “It will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”

As lawmakers leave town for the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears increasingly inevitable that the 116th Congress will impeach the president for only the third time in American history. The question is on what timetable they will proceed giving the dwindling number of legislative days and competing priorities before them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Fiona Hill Testifies ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by Trump Help Russia

WASHINGTON — The White House’s former top Europe and Russia expert sharply denounced what she called a “fictional narrative” embraced by President Trump and his Republican allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections, testifying that the claim at the center of the impeachment inquiry was a fabrication by Moscow that had harmed the United States.

Testifying on the final day of the week’s public impeachment hearings, the expert, Fiona Hill, tied Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to a dangerous effort by Russia to sow political divisions in the United States and undercut American diplomacy. Her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was an implicit rebuke to the president, suggesting that when he pressed Ukraine to investigate the theory that Kyiv rather than Moscow undertook a concerted campaign to meddle in the 2016 campaign, he was playing into Russia’s hands for his own political gain.

Dr. Hill’s account of how Mr. Trump’s team carried out what she called a “domestic political errand” that diverged from his own administration’s foreign policy amounted to sharp — albeit indirect — criticism of the president she served, and it brought home the grave national security consequences of the effort.

“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” said Dr. Hill, the British-born daughter of a coal miner who became a United States citizen and co-wrote a lengthy book analyzing the psyche of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Russians, she said, “deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”

Both Dr. Hill and David Holmes, a top aide in the United States Embassy in Kyiv, testified in detail about what they understood to be a concerted campaign by the president and his allies, led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to condition a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president on his announcement of investigations that Mr. Trump wanted into the 2016 election claim and of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164792364_be9a3c27-b7af-4cb8-90aa-9a2fbc617580-articleLarge Fiona Hill Testifies ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by Trump Help Russia United States Politics and Government United States International Relations 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 2016 Hill, Fiona (1965- )

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Conaway of Texas, both Republicans, talking with a colleague during a break in the hearing.Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

“Investigations for a meeting,” is how Dr. Hill described her understanding of the deal laid out by the president’s inner circle, including Mr. Giuliani, Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Under questioning from the top Republican counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, Dr. Hill said she confronted Mr. Sondland in July about his failure to coordinate with other members of the administration on his actions regarding Ukraine. She understood only later that Mr. Sondland was part of a group of officials — along with Mr. Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who were “being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security, foreign policy — and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill said she had told Mr. Sondland at the time that, “this is all going to blow up.”

Mr. Holmes said it was his “clear understanding” by the end of August that Mr. Trump had frozen $391 million in vital security aid to pressure Ukraine to commit to announcing an investigation into Mr. Biden and his family.

Their testimony came as Democrats sought to pull back the focus of the impeachment proceedings at the end of two weeks of detail-heavy hearings focused on White House meetings, suspended security assistance for Ukraine, diplomatic exchanges and plenty of obscure Ukrainian names. But they also notched additional new information that could help bolster their case.

Republicans, knowing that Dr. Hill’s criticism was coming, used their opening remarks to try to blunt the attacks. Representative Devin Nunes of California, the panel’s top Republican, said that his party did not doubt Russia’s actions in 2016, but were open to a broader focus that Democrats were not.

“Needless to say, it’s entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries,” Mr. Nunes said.

In 2017, American intelligence officials released a report concluding that Mr. Putin ordered a state-sponsored campaign to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. No evidence has emerged that there was a similar effort by Ukraine.

Mr. Trump, who has responded to the proceedings in real time, took shots at Mr. Holmes Thursday morning, and his allies went after Dr. Hill as well. As Mr. Holmes testified, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that there was no way he could have heard what he claimed to have picked up the cellphone conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, wrote on Twitter that Dr. Hill only had an “OPINION” to offer, not firsthand knowledge. Republicans have dismissed multiple witnesses as unelected bureaucrats merely second-guessing the president’s policy positions.

Mr. Holmes said his assessment came after he drafted and sent a cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on behalf of William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, attempting to explain the importance of the security assistance to Ukraine.

“By this point,” Mr. Holmes said, “my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Burisma is a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, on its board.

Mr. Holmes also offered a detailed account of a phone call he overheard between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, in Kyiv in late July. The call took place a day after Mr. Trump directly asked Mr. Zelensky for the investigations.

Mr. Holmes said he could overhear the president ask Mr. Sondland if Mr. Zelensky would conduct the inquiries he sought. Mr. Sondland assured him “he’s going to do it,” and that the Ukrainian leader would do “anything you ask him to.” Afterward, Mr. Holmes testified that the ambassador told him Mr. Trump did not care for Ukraine but only for the “big things” like the investigations.

A day after Mr. Sondland laid out an extensive campaign to secure the political investigations, both witnesses said they had zero doubt about what Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were after. Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes both testified that references to investigating Burisma by Mr. Giuliani and other government officials were, in Dr. Hill’s words, “code for the Bidens.”

Asked by the Democratic counsel for the Intelligence Committee whether “anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well,” Mr. Holmes had a one-word answer: “Yes.”

Mr. Sondland and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, both said under oath this week that for many months they believed talk of Burisma was merely a reference to Mr. Trump’s interest in eliminating rampant corruption in Ukraine, given the company’s history.

Dr. Hill also offered the most precise account to date of an awkward White House meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10 that ended abruptly after Mr. Sondland told the visiting officials that they would need to commit to investigations Mr. Trump sought before getting a meeting with the president.

John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, stiffened visibly and sat back in his chair when Mr. Sondland made the comment, apparently so disturbed by it that he quickly cut off the meeting, she said. After the meeting ended, Mr. Sondland explained precisely what he was up to, Dr. Hill testified, referencing a deal with Mr. Mulvaney.

“That he had an agreement with chief of staff Mulvaney that in return for investigations, this meeting would get scheduled,” she said.

Thursday’s session capped two marathon weeks on investigative impeachment hearings, the first in two decades, and only the third such proceedings in modern history. In public sessions by turns gripping and grinding, the House Intelligence Committee has heard from a dozen witnesses who described how Mr. Trump and his allies inside and outside the government shunted aside official American policy toward Ukraine in favor of an unorthodox, politically charged campaign to secure two investigations that Mr. Trump sought.

A former ambassador to Ukraine spoke of being smeared and ousted from her post because she ran afoul of Mr. Giuliani and his allies. The seasoned diplomat who reluctantly replaced her said he watched, distraught, as the entire United States relationship with Ukraine was staked on the investigations, with Ukrainian lives and American foreign policy interests as collateral damage. Then on Wednesday, Mr. Sondland testified in no uncertain terms that there had been a clear “quid pro quo” at the highest levels of Mr. Trump’s government linking a White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky to investigations — and that everyone had known it.

Other witnesses from the White House, State Department and Defense Department spoke of unanimous opposition to Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze the security assistance, and how they raised questions about the legality of withholding money appropriated by Congress. One of them, Laura Cooper, testified that Ukraine began inquiring about the assistance on July 25, a month earlier than Republicans have insisted they knew, on the very same day of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky.

“In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said as he opened Thursday’s hearing. “It will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”

As lawmakers leave town for the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears increasingly inevitable that the 116th Congress will impeach the president for only the third time in American history. The question is on what timetable they will proceed giving the dwindling number of legislative days and competing priorities before them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Responding to questions from Republicans, Dr. Hill explained the crux of the issue at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — the United States had two separate agendas operating in Ukraine, yet those involved in each viewed theirs was the only one.

Dr. Hill said she and other career foreign policy officials were frustrated with what Mr. Sondland was doing outside the normal channels of interagency coordination.

Hill: “What I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us. I’ve actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him, that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me ‘But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with? And the point is that we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes, it includes Ambassador Taylor as the chargé in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails, and who was on these emails? These were the people that need to know. And he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill thought Mr. Sondland’s goal of getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals was trivial and contrary to longstanding efforts regarding Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland told lawmakers that he did not understand how there could be an irregular back channel when his channel included the president of the United States, members of the president’s cabinet and the national security adviser.

“I don’t know how they can consider us to be the irregular channel and they to be the regular channel when it’s the leadership that makes the decisions,” Mr. Sondland said.

During an intense exchange with Mr. Sondland at the time, Dr. Hill said she told him, “This is all going to blow up.” She added, “And here we are.”

Westlake Legal Group fiona-hill-opening-statement-ukraine-1574344066729-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read Fiona Hill’s Opening Statement

Ms. Hill had a front-row seat to dramatic events in the White House around the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that Mr. Zelensky “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Westlake Legal Group david-holmes-opening-statement-ukraine-1574351587182-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read David Holmes’s Opening Statement

The career diplomat said he was told President Trump cared more about investigating his political rivals than about the welfare of Ukraine.

Hill: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. ”Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

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