(Bloomberg) — The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is moving forward as several House committees are due to get private briefings Wednesday from the State Department inspector general on documents related to Ukraine.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has been subpoenaed to provide documents by Friday to three House committees.
Here are the latest developments:
Congress Given Mystery State Documents (5:04 p.m.)
A highly anticipated briefing by the State Department’s inspector general that had been shrouded in mystery may turn out to be “a completely irrelevant distraction” from the House impeachment inquiry, Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin said afterward.Inspector General Steve Linick, who had asked to brief lawmakers, turned over a packet of material consisting of propaganda and disinformation that appeared to be aimed at undermining the Mueller investigation into Russian election interference and, in part, promoting conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joe Biden, Raskin said.
Raskin said the lawmakers had been expecting to get briefed on other matters. Instead they got a packet of materials without any indication of their significance. The document purports to come from the White House, and included Trump hotel folders, but its actual provenance is unknown, he said.
Raskin said the inspector general got the documents in May and sent them to the FBI.Raskin, who was in the briefing, said there was nothing in the material that directly relates to the conduct of President Donald Trump or Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.“The inspector general has no idea where it came from,” Raskin said.
White House to Preserve Phone Call Records (4:10 p.m.)
Justice Department lawyers told a federal judge in Washington that the White House will preserve six categories of records related to Trump’s telephone calls with foreign leaders.
That concession came Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in May, demanding that Trump comply with the federal Presidential Records Act.
That potentially makes the records available if sought for the House impeachment inquiry as well.
On Tuesday, CREW had asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson for a temporary order ensuring the White House didn’t destroy the records while the group pursues its case.
Jackson expressed reservations about CREW’s lawsuit, according to a transcript of a telephone call with lawyers in the case Tuesday. Still, the judge upbraided Justice Department attorney Kathryn Wyer for failing to promise the information would be preserved while the lawsuit is pending.
Wyer filed that assurance in writing Wednesday. The White House has asked Jackson to throw out CREW’s case. — Andrew Harris
Ex-Ukraine Leader Denies Biden Pressured Him on Cases (3:35 p.m.)
Former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko says that Joe Biden never asked him to open or close any criminal cases, adding to the list of Ukrainian officials saying they never saw him do anything improper involving his son.
Speaking to the news media for the first time on the matter, Poroshenko rebutted claims made by Trump and his allies that Biden, as U.S. vice president, sought the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2016 to stop an investigation of a natural gas company where Hunter Biden sat on the board.
“The former vice president, at least in personal conversations, didn’t raise any requests to open or close any concrete cases,” Poroshenko said in a statement to Bloomberg News in response to questions. Poroshenko made similar comments to CNN and the Los Angeles Times in recent days. — Stephanie Baker, Daryna Krasnolutska
Trump Accuses Schiff of Helping Write Complaint (2:53 p.m.)
Trump accused Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of helping write a whistle-blower complaint that led to an impeachment inquiry.
“I think it’s a scandal that he knew before,” Trump said Wednesday at a White House news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. “I’d go a step further — I think he probably helped write it.”
He added: “That’s a big story. He knew long before and he helped write it, too.”
Trump’s comment came after the New York Times reported that Schiff got an early account of what became the whistle-blower complaint that alleges Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, said the committee did not review or receive the complaint in advance. “Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled Committees, the whistle-blower contacted the Committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,” Boland said. — Jordan Fabian
State Watchdog to Detail Efforts to Punish Witnesses (2:39 p.m.)
The State Department’s inspector general is planning to brief lawmakers privately on efforts inside the department to punish officials who cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry of Trump, according to two people familiar with the matter.Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, is scheduled to meet with lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, just one day after Pompeo denounced a request from House committees to take testimony from five department officials.
The inspector general’s office declined to comment. — Billy House
Perry Says He’ll Answer Queries on Zelenskiy (1:19 p.m.)
Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters in Chicago Wednesday he’ll cooperate with House Democrats seeking information about his role in White House interactions with Ukraine’s president. “We are going to work with Congress and answer all their questions,” he said.
Perry has met twice with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, including in May when he led a delegation to Zelenskiy’s inauguration in place of Vice President Mike Pence.
The energy secretary didn’t answer a question about whether he was on the July 25 phone call with Trump and Zelenskiy that is central to the House impeachment inquiry. — Ari Natter
Trump Calls Whistle-Blower Source a ‘Spy’ (12:31 p.m.)
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that the source or sources who revealed his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to a whistle-blower “was a spy” and said the country must learn the person’s identity.
“He either got it totally wrong, made it up, or the person giving the information to the whistle-blower was dishonest,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “And this country has to find out who that person was because that person’s a spy, in my opinion.”
He also said in a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House that whistle-blowers deserve protection only when their complaints are “legitimate.” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who helped to write U.S. whistle-blower protection laws, said Tuesday in a statement that the Zelenskiy whistle-blower “appears” to have followed the law “and ought to be heard out and protected.”
“Look, I think a whistle-blower should be protected if the whistle-blower is legitimate,” Trump said. — Jordan Fabian
Trump Says Inquiry Is Driving Stocks Down (11:48 a.m.)
Trump said Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is pushing down down the value of stocks, and that the party is intentionally trying to depress the market to defeat him in the 2020 election.
“All of this impeachment nonsense, which is going nowhere, is driving the Stock Market, and your 401K’s, down,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “But that is exactly what the Democrats want to do. They are willing to hurt the Country, with only the 2020 Election in mind!”
U.S. stocks tumbled to the lowest since August on Wednesday after another disappointing report fueled fears that the American economy is slowing. The S&P 500 headed for the biggest two-day slump in two months as private payrolls fell short of estimates a day after a manufacturing gauge slumped to the lowest in a decade. — Jordan Fabian
Schiff Warns Trump Against Stonewalling (11:34 a.m.)
Any White House attempt to “stonewall” House Democrats’ impeachment investigation will be considered evidence of obstruction of justice, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters.
Schiff said the whistle-blower deserves protection, and that Trump’s tweets have been “a blatant effort to intimidate a witness.”
“We’re not fooling around here now,“ Schiff said. “We don’t want this to drag on for months and months and months.” He added, “They will be strengthening the case if they behave that way.”
Schiff said Democrats are ready to go to court if necessary to enforce demands for information from the White House.
“It is hard to imagine a more corrupt course of conduct” than Trump’s pressuring the Ukraine president to investigate political rival Joe Biden, Schiff said. Republicans who dismiss the call as not rising to the level of an impeachable offense “are going to have to answer, if this conduct doesn’t rise to the level of concern the founders had, what conduct does?” — Billy House
House Chairmen Ready White House Subpoena (10:47 a.m.)
Three House committee chairmen threatened on Wednesday to subpoena the White House if it fails to adhere by Friday to document requests related to allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine into investigating one of his leading political rivals.
Representatives Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel publicly released a memo and draft subpoena Wednesday.
“Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with—or even respond to—the committees,” they said in the memo.
The White House has refused to produce documents that were first requested more than three weeks ago on Sept. 9, the chairmen said. — Billy House
Putin Defends Trump on Ukraine Call Claims (9:36 a.m.)
Under political siege in Washington and facing an impeachment threat, Trump got support from one key figure — Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Putin rode to Trump’s defense Wednesday over allegations the U.S. president pressured his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, now a leading candidate to challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.
“From what we know, I don’t see anything compromising at all,” Putin told an audience at the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow. “I didn’t see that during this phone call Trump demanded compromising material from Zelenskiy at any cost and threatened him that he wouldn’t help Ukraine.”
While the Kremlin has said it wouldn’t like transcripts of Trump’s calls with Putin to be released, the Russian leader appeared more relaxed about the prospect. Pointing to his past experience as a KGB spy, Putin said “any conversation can be published — I always proceed from that.”
Putin added that after political controversy erupted in the U.S. over his Helsinki summit meeting with Trump last year, he told officials in Washington to publish details of their talks.
“We don’t mind,” Putin said. “I assure you that there’s nothing there that would compromise President Trump.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will hold a press conference in the Capitol at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday. Trump holds his own press availability at 2 p.m. at the White House along with the president of the Republic of Finland.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he never met or talked by phone with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whose contacts in Ukraine are part of the impeachment inquiry. Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian transcript of his July 25 call with Trump is similar to the one released by the White House.Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as U.S. special representative to Ukraine, confirmed he’ll testify in private Thursday in front of three House committees, according to an official from one panel.The chairmen of the three committees warned Pompeo to “immediately cease intimidating” State Department witnesses, hours after the secretary of state rejected the panels’ plan to take testimony from several State officials.A Monmouth University poll showed that 63% of Americans say it’s wrong for a U.S. president to request help from a foreign leader to investigate a political rival and about the same proportion believe Trump probably did just that.
–With assistance from Justin Blum, Tony Halpin, James Rowley, Billy House, Erik Wasson, Ari Natter, Mario Parker, Jordan Fabian, Daryna Krasnolutska, Stephanie Baker and Emily Wilkins.
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