(Bloomberg) — House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over his interactions with a foreign leader. The proceedings threaten to slow work in Washington on other crucial policy matters and overshadow the 2020 election. The White House Wednesday released a rough transcript of a call between the president and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is at the center of the controversy.
Read more: White House releases rough transcript of Trump July call with Zelenskiy
Here are the latest developments:
Schumer Wants Whistle-Blower Claim Released (7:12 p.m.)
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called for a whistle-blower’s secret complaint to be made public immediately.
“Having read the whistle-blower complaint, I am even more worried about what happened than when I read the memorandum of conversation between President Trump and President Zelenskiy,” Schumer said in a statement. “There are so many facts that have to be examined.”
“The public has a right to read the whistle-blower’s complaint for themselves,” he said.
Schiff Says Whistle-Blower Claim ‘Disturbing’ (6:33 p.m.)
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said after reading the whistle-blower’s complaint, “I’ve found the allegations deeply disturbing” and that they expose “serious wrongdoing.”
“I’ve found them very credible,” he said. The Democrat said the information “certainly provides information for his committee to follow up with other witnesses and documents.”
Schiff called it “a travesty” that the complaint was initially withheld from Congress because “it is an urgent matter and there was simply no basis to keep this from the committee.”
Members of the House and Senate Intelligence panels viewed the classified complaint in a secure room Wednesday.
Pelosi Weighs Narrowing Impeachment Inquiry (5:30 p.m.)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is weighing suggestions from Democratic colleagues to limit the House’s impeachment investigation to issues surrounding Trump’s interactions with the government of Ukraine, according to a Democratic leadership official.
The official said numbers House Democrats have brought the suggestion to Pelosi and she’s discussing it with other members of the party’s leadership.
Some members have argued that unlike other subjects of the multiple investigations of Trump — including aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in his Russia investigation — revelations that Trump urged Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son are more clear-cut targets of presidential wrongdoing.Representative Elissa Slotkin told reporters she and other moderate Democrats have urged Pelosi to focus inquiries on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine because, “It’s a story that people can understand.” — Billy House
‘I Thought We Won,’ Trump Laments of Impeachment (5:11 p.m.)
Trump said he didn’t like the precedent created by releasing a memorandum of his telephone call with Zelenskiy and indicated he was surprised Democrats have moved to impeach him.
“I thought we won, I thought it was dead,” he said. “The Mueller report — no collusion, no obstruction.”
He complained that Mueller’s investigation had ruined the lives of people he interviewed. “They came to Washington because they wanted to make the United States and the world a better place and they went home and they were dark,” he said.
“And yet they don’t interview Joe Biden and his son?” he said. “If you’re a Democrat you have automatic protection.”
He spoke in a slow and low tone of voice throughout his news conference.“I used to get great press before I ran for politics,” he said. “My family used to be treated great.”
Trump suggested that Representatives Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairmen of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, respectively, have been disingenuous in their public criticism of him.
“Smart guy, by the way,” he said of Schiff. “Then they go into a room with Nadler, they must laugh their asses off.” — Jordan Fabian
Trump Dodges Question on Propriety of Call (4:56 p.m.)
Trump didn’t directly answer a reporter’s repeated questions about why Americans should consider it appropriate for the president to seek information on a political rival from a foreign leader.
Asked how he would have responded if President Barack Obama had sought such information on him, Trump said, “That’s what he did, isn’t it, when you think about it.” Obama’s administration investigated early reports of Russian interference in the election but the focus on Trump intensified after he became president.
Trump complained about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and boasted of his victory against Hillary Clinton.
“There are a lot of very dishonest people,” he said. “We’re the ones who played it straight.”
He then invited Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to make remarks.
Trump Says Democrats Should See More Calls (4:46 p.m.)
Trump invited congressional Democrats conducting an impeachment inquiry to seek records of earlier calls he and Vice President Mike Pence held with Zelenskiy.
“The word is they’re going to ask for the first phone conversation,” Trump said in his news conference. “You can have it anytime you need it. And also Mike Pence’s conversation. They were perfect, they were all perfect.”
He then pivoted to discussing the wall he’s ordered built on the Mexican border. “The wall is going up, many miles a week.”
‘I Didn’t Do It,’ Trump Says, Defending Call (4:37 p.m.)
President Donald Trump again defended his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, now a central focus of a House impeachment inquiry.
“I didn’t do it,” he said in a news conference to conclude his participation in the United Nations General Assembly. “I didn’t threaten anybody. No push, no pressure, I didn’t do anything.”
Burr Says Whistle-Blower Complaint Delivered (4:29 p.m.)
Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told reporters that the whistle-blower complaint was hand-delivered to Congress on Wednesday. — Steven T. Dennis
Congress to Receive Whistle-Blower Complaint (3:14 p.m.)
The Trump administration will give Congress a whistle-blower complaint involving Trump’s call with Zelenskiy on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The complaint, made to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community, concerns a sequence of events including the call. Up to now, the administration had prevented the inspector general from briefing Congress on the complaint or providing it to lawmakers.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday and is expected to face questions about the complaint. — Chris Strohm
Biden Says Trump Call Shows Abuse of Power (3:10 p.m.)
Joe Biden said the document describing the phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy shows the president abused his power, but he stopped short of calling for impeachment.
The summary released by the White House shows that after withholding military aid Trump “implored the president of Ukraine to work with his personal attorney to manufacture a smear against a domestic political opponent, using a malicious conspiracy theory that has been universally debunked by every independent outlet that has looked at it,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday.
The political opponent is Biden, one of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. The former vice president previously said he would support impeachment if the White House stonewalled Democrats’ demand for documents. He renewed his call for the White House to release the full whistleblower complaint and any other documents related to the matter.
“Congress must pursue the facts and quickly take prompt action to hold Donald Trump accountable,” Biden said in the statement. — Tyler Pager
Trump Raising Money on House Probe (2:45 p.m.)
President Donald Trump is trying to raise money off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s opening of an impeachment inquiry.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” the solicitation to campaign donors says, “Trust me, you saw the transcript.” It goes on to describe the impeachment effort as baseless, calling it a “witch hunt,” a phrase he also used to describe the now concluded investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. He’s asking for contributions of $5 and up.
It’s not the Trump campaign’s first attempt to raise money off impeachment. Minutes after Pelosi finished speaking on Tuesday, the campaign sent a text message to supporters asking them to join his impeachment defense team by making a donation. And in an email pitch sent to donors Tuesday, billionaire Tom Steyer, who funds the Need to Impeach effort, asked donors to contribute $1 to his presidential campaign. — Bill Allison
Graham Says Whistle-Blower Should Testify (2:25 p.m.)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said the whistle-blower who filed a complaint over the president’s actions should be allowed to testify in Congress.
Graham, a former Trump critic who is now one of the president’s staunchest defenders, added that if the House impeaches Trump, he expects the Senate to hear the case and vote — though he’ll oppose conviction if the case is based on Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
He also said he doesn’t want the Judiciary Committee to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine, adding that someone removed from politics — someone like Robert Mueller — should look at such issues. — Steven T. Dennis
Trump Called GOP Allies From New York (1:40 p.m.)
White House counsel convened a meeting with six Republican senators and House members at 8 a.m. on Wednesday to review and discuss talking points before the public release of the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, according to Senator Ron Johnson, who attended the meeting.
About 30 minutes into the meeting, Trump phoned in from New York — where he’s attending the United Nations General Assembly — to tell the lawmakers that there wasn’t anything improper about his call with Zelenskiy.
“We certainly saw no quid pro quo,” Johnson said. Instead, the transcript showed Trump was “very gracious” with the Ukrainian leader, the Wisconsin Republican added.
Others present included Senators Jim Risch of Idaho, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, David Perdue of Georgia, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota; as well as Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Devin Nunes of California, John Ratcliffe of Texas, and Matt Gaetz of Florida. — Laura Litvan
White House Talking Points Sent to Democrats (1:12 p.m.)
The White House on Wednesday sent congressional Democrats a helpful list of “Myth” versus “Fact” talking points about Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, according to a copy of the email obtained by Bloomberg.
That’s right — the talking points went to impeachment-focused Democrats, not Trump-supporting Republicans. The recipients included rank-and-file moderates from House districts where Trump is popular, as well as the leaders of committees investigating the president’s activities.
The talking points make several arguments:
There was no “quid pro quo” dangled for Ukraine to get U.S. military aid in exchange for investigating former Vice President Joe Biden or his son.The president’s statements were was “entirely proper” — and he didn’t even mention Rudy Giuliani until after Zelenskiy brought his name up first.The whistle-blower complaint was handled “absolutely by the book” and officials properly determined that no further action should be taken. — Billy House
Schiff Compares Trump in Call to ‘Mafia Boss’ (12:31 p.m.)
Democrat Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump attempted to “shake down” the Ukrainian president to prompt an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
Republicans have defended Trump by arguing there was no quid pro quo sought during the conversation, but Schiff said the U.S. was withholding military aid and Ukrainian officials “understood exactly what was being asked of them.”
“Like any Mafia boss, the president did not need to say what a nice country you have, it would be a shame if anything happened to it,” Schiff said at a news conference. “Here we have the president of the United States engaged in a shake-down of a foreign president.” — Billy House
Pelosi Says Call Shows Need for Impeachment Inquiry (12:15 p.m.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the rough transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call confirms the need for an impeachment inquiry.
“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the president engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” Pelosi said in a statement. — Billy House
Transcription Used Voice Recognition Software (11:58 a.m.)
The Trump-Zelenskiy transcript was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and other experts who were listening, according to a White House official.
The transcript didn’t say whether Zelenskiy spoke in English or Ukrainian.
There are ellipses in parts of the document, which the official said doesn’t indicate missing words or phrases. Instead, it represents a voice trailing off or a pause, the official said.
The transcript itself includes a cautionary note: It’s not a verbatim transcription. Instead, it “records the notes and recollections” of those assigned to listen and write it. “A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation,” according to the note. — Justin Sink
Justice Says Complaint on Call Is Secondhand (11 a.m.)
The whistle-blower report on Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine is based on secondhand reports from unnamed “White House officials,” according to a just-released Justice Department opinion.
The indirect nature of the information could suggest that the whistle-blower report, if turned over to Congress, would not reveal much beyond what is in the transcript released Wednesday.
“The complainant alleged that he or she had heard reports from ‘White House officials’ that, in the course of a routine diplomatic communication between the president and a foreign leader, the president had made statements that the complainant viewed as seeking to pressure that leader to take an official action to help the president’s 2020 re-election campaign,” Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said. “Having heard about the president’s reported statements, the complainant expressed an intent to report this information to the intelligence committees.”
Engel, who heads the Office of Legal Counsel, told the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that the whistle-blower report did not have to be submitted to Congress because it related to the conduct of the president, and not intelligence agencies. Congressional Democrats disagree and say the Inspector General Act requires it to be turned over. — Gregory Korte
Romney Says Transcript Underscores Concerns (10:50 a.m.)
Senator Mitt Romney said the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call underscored concerns he raised earlier about the president’s comments.
“I remain deeply troubled,” the Utah Republican said after release of the transcript. He wouldn’t say whether Trump’s actions were an abuse of power or an impeachable offense. — Steven Dennis
Zelenskiy Mentioned Trump Tower Stay (10:45 a.m.)
The rough transcript of the July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy offers an example of how foreign governments use stays at Trump properties to ingratiate themselves with the U.S. president.
Before Zelenskiy got off the phone, he made a point of dropping in his accommodation arrangements during a recent visit.
“Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower,” Zelenskiy said, according to the transcript.
Critics of the president have filed lawsuits pressing the case that Trump’s decision to keep his stakes in his global business, the Trump Organization, raised the question of whether he is violating what’s known as the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution. — Mike Dorning
House Panel Seeks Whistle-Blower Complaint (10:30 a.m.)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked Attorney General William Barr to turn over any Justice Department legal opinion on a contentious whistle-blower complaint by Friday.
In a letter to Barr, the California Democrat also is requesting any information on FBI action pertaining to the “underlying conduct of the complaint,” and all DOJ communications with the White House related to the complaint, by Oct. 1.
He argues that the law requires the complaint be turned over to congressional intelligence committees. — Billy House
Ukrainian Leader Addresses UN Amid U.S. Furor (10:15 a.m.)
The Ukrainian leader at the center of the latest crisis facing Trump was the first speaker at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy focused his 15-minute speech on Ukraine’s continuing conflict with Russia, saying his country’s citizens are still paying the price for Moscow’s support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskiy renewed calls for international support to confront Moscow. U.S. aid for Ukraine’s fight with Russia was at the heart of the almost $400 million package Trump said he held up before speaking with Zelenskiy in July. At one point the 41-year-old president held up a bullet that he said was similar to the one which killed a popular opera singer — one of 13,000 Ukrainians killed so far — who volunteered to fight Russian separatists.
Ukraine “keeps losing its citizens,” he said, citing 13,000 killed and 1.5 million displaced. “Every year these figures are growing.” — Daryna Krasnolutska
Trump-Call Summary Set for Release (9:20 a.m.)
A rough transcript of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart is expected to be released Wednesday as the nation awaits the next steps in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch a formal impeachment inquiry that may determine whether the president heads into re-election damaged or emboldened.
Trump is also expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in person on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly before holding a news conference Wednesday, as the investigation gets underway into whether Trump leaned on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
U.S. stocks rose amid mixed reactions to the prospect of an impeachment investigation and news China is preparing to buy more U.S. pork. In notes to clients, Wall Street analysts compared the events to proceedings against Bill Clinton in the 1990s, which failed to topple a popular president. Other events had more of a market impact then, and might now, too.
Pelosi on Tuesday said the House would begin an official impeachment inquiry stemming from a complaint from a whistle-blower in the intelligence community over Trump’s interaction with a foreign leader.Trump’s private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told Fox News on Wednesday morning that the president didn’t mention military aid or any “quid pro quo” during his call with Zelenskiy. Giuliani said he hadn’t seen a transcript of the call but “let’s say it was read to me.”The House plans to vote Wednesday on a resolution pressuring the intelligence community to release details of the whistle-blower complaint.The House and Senate Intelligence committees are set to question Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire this week about the whistle-blower complaint. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence panel, said the whistle-blower’s lawyer told them his client would like to speak to the committee.
–With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska, Bill Faries, Justin Sink, Mike Dorning, Steven T. Dennis, Gregory Korte, Jordan Fabian, Laura Litvan, Bill Allison, Tyler Pager, Chris Strohm and Erik Wasson.
To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Steven T. Dennis in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org, Max Berley, Laurie Asséo
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