House Democrats pursuing an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump say they will subpoena the White House on Friday for documents related to his dealings with Ukraine, citing “flagrant disregard” of their previous requests for information.
House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote in a memo to committee members Wednesday that the action is necessary because the White House has ignored multiple requests. Given the “stark and urgent warnings” the inspector general for the intelligence community has delivered to Congress, Cummings said, the panel has “no choice but to issue this subpoena.”
The subpoena is directed toward acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. It requests 13 separate batches of documents related to a July phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and related matters. The Oversight panel will issue the subpoena in coordination with the House intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, Cummings said.
The action came as House and Senate staff prepared to meet with the State Department’s inspector general on Wednesday. A State Department invitation to the meeting, which was reviewed by The Associated Press, requested an “urgent” meeting with staff from eight House and Senate panels.
The invitation said only that the inspector general, Steve Linick, “would like to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.” The documents were obtained from the State Department’s acting legal adviser, according to the email.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday he was on the phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. He said that as America’s chief diplomat he is well-versed in U.S. policy toward Ukraine. But Pompeo continued to push back against what he said was Democrats’ “bullying and intimidation.”
The Trump administration has set a defiant tone, resisting Congress’ access to witnesses, even as House Democrats warn such efforts themselves could amount to an impeachable offense.
Democrats have scheduled closed-door depositions Thursday with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and next week with ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Rome; Angela Charlton in Kyiv, Ukraine; and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington contributed to this report.
After back-to-back mass shootings in Ohio and Texas this summer, gun control burst back on the scene as a major political issue for Democrats. Now it risks taking a back seat as impeachment fever overtakes Washington.
Gun control advocates are determined to prevent that from happening.
Ten White House hopefuls will be in Las Vegas for a forum on gun policy on Wednesday, almost two years to the day after a gunman killed 58 people at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. The event is being hosted by MSNBC, March for Our Lives and Giffords, the advocacy organization set up by former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot and gravely wounded during a constituent meeting in 2011.
The forum is an effort to keep gun violence front and center of the debate and gives 2020 presidential candidates a chance to showcase their plans to combat the epidemic. Polls show that a majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws, while even more support specific proposals like universal background checks. But negotiations between President Donald Trump’s administration and lawmakers have halted over background checks legislation, an effort that faced long odds even before the impeachment inquiry began.
“Impeachment sucks everything out of the room. Certainly it’s the focus of Trump’s attention,” said Jack Citrin, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of California-Berkeley. “If you need to reach some kind of bipartisan agreement and one party is determined to throw the president out of office, rightly or wrongly, it’s a little hard to see how that builds the kind of goodwill that’s necessary on this or any other issue.”
Ariel Hobbs, a 21-year-old student organizer with March for Our Lives in Houston, said her group wants “to hear from the candidates that they are taking this seriously and they understand they can no longer ignore America’s gun violence epidemic.” She doesn’t think the impeachment inquiry is a reason for lawmakers to stop their push for a bipartisan solution.
The 10 candidates slated to participate in the forum are former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Obama Housing Secretary Julián Castro; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and businessman Andrew Yang.
O’Rourke recast his campaign around gun control after the August shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, where a gunman targeting Hispanics killed 22 people. O’Rourke even vowed to ban assault weapons, saying at a debate in Houston in September, “Hell, yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore.”
One expert said he doesn’t see a downside for O’Rourke or any of his fellow presidential candidates to talk about impeachment alongside other issues like gun control.
“If (O’Rourke) is pointing out that because of impeachment, the president has decided not to work at all on an issue that involves people’s lives, he could make the argument if he wanted that this is itself an impeachable offense,” said Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Las Vegas-Nevada focused on state and national politics. “If you are trying to get your base, your base probably does not mind the idea of impeachment.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut has been leading negotiations with the White House on a background checks deal and will attend the forum. The conversations have gone silent in the past two weeks, but he’s told the White House that he’s still willing to talk. Trump himself has accused Democrats of ignoring other issues to focus on impeachment.
“The Democrats are so focused on hurting the Republican Party and the President that they are unable to get anything done because of it, including legislation on gun safety, lowering of prescription drug prices, infrastructure, etc. So bad for our Country!” he tweeted Sept. 24.
Murphy says reaching consensus may still be possible.
“I think that the president is going to have some pressure to show that impeachment isn’t consuming him, and a breakthrough on a background checks deal that nobody thought was possible would probably be a pretty good tonic for the administration right now,” he said.
While his fellow Democrats may not be keen on the idea of giving Trump a win, Murphy said he’ll keep pushing because gun control remains top of mind for voters.
“Our party needs to find mechanisms to keep our focus on the issues that matter to voters, and guns is right at the top of that list,” he said. “The forum is an effort to try to keep the primary dialogue focused on an issue that is absolutely going to be top of mind for swing voters.”
At one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president raged about treason. At the other, the methodical march toward impeachment proceeded apace.
Democrats on Monday subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was at the heart of Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family. That was after one of Trump’s staunchest defenders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said he would have “no choice” but to consider articles of impeachment if the House approved them.
With Congress out of session for observance of the Jewish holidays, Democrats moved aggressively against Giuliani, requesting by Oct. 15 “text messages, phone records and other communications” that they referred to as possible evidence. They also requested documents and depositions from three of his business associates.
Meanwhile, the circle of officials with knowledge of Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s president widened with the revelation that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened in on the July 25 conversation.
Pompeo’s presence on the Ukraine call, confirmed by two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an internal matter, provided the first confirmation that a Cabinet official heard Trump press President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden’s membership on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. It is that call, and the circumstances surrounding it, that are fueling the new Democratic drive for impeachment.
McConnell, a steadfast Trump defender, nonetheless swatted down talk that that the GOP-controlled Senate could dodge the matter of impeachment if the House approved charges against Trump.
“It’s a Senate rule related to impeachment, it would take 67 votes to change, so I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell said on CNBC. “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter.”
Trump took to Twitter to defend anew his phone call with Zelenskiy as “perfect” and to unleash a series of attacks, most strikingly against House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff. The Democrat, he suggested, ought to be tried for a capital offense for launching into a paraphrase of Trump during a congressional hearing last week.
“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” the president wrote. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”
Trump tweeted repeatedly through the day but was, for the most part, a lonely voice as the White House lacked an organization or process to defend him. Senior staffers, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, were to present Trump this week with options on setting up the West Wing’s response to impeachment, officials said.
A formal war room was unlikely, though some sort of rapid response team was planned to supplement the efforts of Trump and Giuliani. But Trump was angry over the weekend at both Mulvaney and press secretary Stephanie Grisham for not being able to change the narrative dominating the story, according to two Republicans close to the White House not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Democrats have orders from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep momentum going despite a two-week recess that started Friday. Staff for three committees are scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday to depose Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed by the Trump administration earlier this year, and Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as America’s Ukrainian envoy. Members of intelligence committee on Friday will interview Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community who first received the whistleblower’s complaint.
Democrats are driving the proceedings toward what some hope is a vote to impeach, or indict, Trump by year’s end. They have launched a coordinated messaging and polling strategy aimed at keeping any political backlash in closely divided districts from toppling their House majority.
Meanwhile, an outside group that supports GOP House candidates was starting anti-impeachment digital ads on Monday against three House Democrats from districts Trump won in 2016. The ads by the Congressional Leadership Fund accuse Reps. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan of “tearing us apart,” and are among the first in which Republicans are trying to use the impeachment issue against Democratic candidates.
However, support across America for impeachment has grown significantly from its level before the House launched its formal inquiry last week.
A new poll from Quinnipiac University shows 47% of registered voters say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 47% say he should not. Just a week before, it was 37% for impeachment and 57 percent against. That was before the White House released its rough version of the call between Trump and Ukraine’s president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry.
In the CNN poll, 47% said Trump should be impeached and removed from office, up from 41% in May.
Both polls showed dramatic partisan polarization remains on impeachment: most Democrats expressing support, the vast majority of Republicans opposed. The polls disagreed over whose opinions are changing — Quinnipiac showing increased impeachment support coming more from Democrats, CNN from Republicans.
Schiff said on Sunday that his intelligence panel would hear from the still-secret whistleblower “very soon” but that no date had been set and other details remained to be worked out.
A day after Trump demanded to meet the whistleblower, whom he has repeatedly assailed, he said when asked about the person: “Well, we’re trying to find out about a whistleblower,” who made his perfect call “sound terrible.”
The whistleblower’s attorney, Andrew Bakaj, said Monday that the person “is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this, and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.”
Separately, the Justice Department disclosed that Trump recently asked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other foreign leaders to help Attorney General William Barr with an investigation of the origins of the Russia investigation that has shadowed his administration for more than two years.
Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Trump made the calls at Barr’s request.
Trump was requesting help for U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The investigation outraged Trump, who cast it as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
The Russia probe remains Trump’s motivating factor, according to Tom Bossert, the president’s former homeland security adviser.
“I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 investigation,” Bossert said Sunday on ABC. “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo, Laurie Kellman, Alan Fram, Kevin Freking and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
One Republican hadn’t read the whistleblower’s complaint. Another called President Donald Trump’s conversation with the Ukraine leader “thin gruel” for any impeachment effort. A third said the whole thing was “blown way out of proportion.”
And yet, as more details emerged about what the president said and the efforts to shield it from view, Republicans were straining Thursday under the uncertainty of being swept up in the most serious test yet of their alliance with the Trump White House.
The quickly moving events caught Republicans off stride. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stayed silent throughout the day, other Republicans easily defended the president and some simply shrugged it off.
“It’s just the president being President Trump,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
But amid the jumble were signals, ever so slight, that the tumult of the Trump presidency may have entered a new phase for the party that’s being defined, enthusiastically for some, reluctantly for others, by his tenure.
“We owe people to take it seriously,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a onetime Trump rival who is now member of the Intelligence Committee.
“Right now, I have more questions than answers,” he said. “The complaint raises serious allegations, and we need to determine whether they’re credible or not.”
Others past and potentially future presidential hopefuls, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, also voiced cautious concern in recent days with the same term: “troubling.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president engaged in nothing short of a “cover-up” as Democrats turned their laser focus on the Ukraine matter as central to their impeachment probe. Thursday brought striking new revelations about the extent to which the White House sought to “lock down” Trump’s call.
One certainty was that Congress and the White House are now squaring off for a rare, if not historic, impeachment investigation that will consume both sides and deepen the political divide ahead of the 2020 election.
Pelosi called it a “sad week” in which she, siding with the vast majority of House Democrats, dropped her reluctance to launch an impeachment inquiry of the president.
“This is nothing that we take lightly,” she said.
Pelosi read from the whistleblower’s declassified complaint of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy after he asked him to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“This is a cover-up,” she said. “The actions taken by this president lifts this into whole new terrain, whole level of concern about his lawlessness.”
As the House plunges into an impeachment inquiry, Republican leaders found themselves once again unable to strike a consensus in the face of extraordinary actions coming from the White House that now seem the norm.
McConnell opened the Senate without mentioning the whistleblower’s complaint and declined to engage when reporters asked about it in the halls.
The House Republican leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, defended the White House decision to “lock down” the details of Trump’s call by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.
“Could I see why you’d want to put it on a more secure server?” McCarthy asked. “I think in the world of technology today, yeah, people should secure what’s going forward.”
The defense of the separate computer system at the White House was striking for Republicans who joined Trump in pursuing information on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server during her time as secretary of state.
Yet the restraint being shown by other Republicans gave nod to the seriousness of the situation and what is yet to come in the impeachment inquiry.
“There are a lot of questions, absolutely,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Asked about the separate computer system at the White House, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, “We’re going to have to ask questions about that.”
The complaint released Thursday morning alleges that Trump abused the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s U.S. election. Trump has denied doing anything wrong.
In the nine pages, the unnamed whistleblower acknowledges not hearing the president’s call first-hand but receiving information about it from “multiple U.S. officials.”
Much of what the whistleblower recounts from the president’s July 25 call tracks with a transcript released Wednesday by the White House.
Johnson, who made several trips himself to meet with Ukraine’s new president, including his inauguration in May, brushed off critics “impugning all kinds of nefarious motives here.”
The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee as well as a leader of the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus, said it was all blown out of proportion. He talked to Trump before and after those trips and said the president doesn’t think he did anything wrong.
“I take what President Trump is saying at face value,” Johnson said. Trump, he said, was consistently concerned about corruption in Ukraine and wanted European allies to step up with more foreign aid. “None of this came as a surprise to me.”
One Trump ally, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said, “There is absolutely nothing in this phone call that rises to the level of that (impeachment).”
It was a common refrain from other Republicans. Perdue said that from his own talks with Trump, it’s clear that he’s “moving on.”
And several leading Republicans joined Trump in casting doubts about the whistleblower.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, “I wouldn’t want to make too quick of a conclusion when you’re reading something that somebody heard somebody else say second-hand or third-hand.”
As Democrats dive into impeachment proceedings, Pelosi said the information about the president’s call “removed all doubt that we should move forward.”
The Ukraine question will now become the central focus of the Intelligence Committee headed by Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a former federal prosecutor, and perhaps the House’s most effective investigator.
Schiff said the whistleblower “has given us a roadmap for our investigation.”
The committee is planning to talk to the whistleblower and probe what role Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had in the matter.
Months after the close of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of the 2016 election, as well as the House’s own ongoing investigations into Trump’s administration and business dealings, the impeachment probe is now just beginning.
Pelosi said the president “betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity of our elections.” She would not put a timeline on the investigation. “We have to have an inquiry to further establish the facts.”
Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
A whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump’s dealings with the new president of Ukraine lays out concerns about multiple actions taken by the Trump White House and its allies that suggest the president was using his office “to solicit interference from a foreign country” to boost his reelection prospects. The complaint, written by an unidentified member of the U.S. intelligence community, was released Thursday. The House Intelligence Committee grilled the acting U.S. spy chief on details of the redacted complaint.
A few key takeaways from the complaint and the hearing:
IT’S ABOUT FAR MORE THAN JUST THAT CALL
The complaint discusses a July 25 phone call in which Trump prodded Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to dig up dirt on the son of Democratic rival Joe Biden.
But it goes well beyond the call. For example, the complaint details how Ukrainian leaders met with the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations and others on how to “navigate” the demands made by Trump. Giuliani met with Ukraine advisers in August as a “direct follow-up” to the call.
A COVER-UP IS ALLEGED
The complaint says that in the days after the July 25 phone call, the whistleblower learned that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the call, especially the rough transcript produced by note-takers in the White House Situation Room.
White House officials told the whistleblower they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system where such records are typically stored.
“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the report said.
The officials raised concerns that the transcript was moved to a separate computer system. White House officials told the whistleblower that “this was ‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information,” the complaint said.
RUDY, RUDY, RUDY
“The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort.”
The report says that many U.S. officials told the whistleblower that they were deeply concerned about Giuliani’s efforts to circumvent the national security decision-making process to engage Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth.
In the call, Trump prodded Zelenskiy to work with Giuliani and Barr to investigate Biden and said that Giuliani would be calling him.
The whistleblower said in the complaint that Giuliani traveled to Spain in early August to meet with one of Zelenskiy’s advisers and that U.S. officials characterized the meeting to the whistleblower as a “direct follow-up” to Trump’s call.
The complaint also states that several U.S. officials told the whistleblower that Giuliani had privately reached out to other advisers to the Ukrainian leader.
In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Giuliani said that he had spoken to a Ukrainian official at the request of Trump’s State Department.
CAN’T EXPLAIN THE MONEY
The whistleblower said the National Security Council and Office of Management and Budget didn’t know why Trump held up millions of dollars in aid for Ukraine.
A few days before his call with Zelenskiy, Trump ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. The president said he did so to fight corruption and urge European nations to do more to help Ukraine.
The whistleblower alleges in the complaint that in two separate meetings in July, OMB officials said Trump had personally directed the money to be frozen but that they “were unaware of a policy rationale” for the decision.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER MUST BE PROTECTED
Joseph Maguire, the acting national intelligence director, repeatedly defended the whistleblower during Thursday’s hearing and insisted the person would be protected if that person wanted to appear before Congress. Maguire said he does not know the whistleblower’s identity.
It was a stark contrast from Trump’s characterization in a tweet last week that the person was “highly partisan.”
Maguire said the U.S. “must protect those who demonstrate courage to report alleged wrongdoing.”
“I think the whistleblower did the right thing,” he said at one point.
Maguire also told members of the House committee that he was working with the whistleblower’s lawyers to ensure they could appear before Congress and he pledged not to take any action to block their testimony.
PICK YOUR SPIN
The House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and other Democrats played up the urgency of the complaint and allegations that Maguire delayed it by going first to the White House and Justice Department before handing it over to Congress. Schiff said the account of Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s leader detailed by the whistleblower “reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.”
Republicans zeroed in the fact that that whistleblower’s account was based on secondhand information from other White House and administration officials. They dismissed Democrats’ concerns as conspiracy theories.
Trump tweeted his own review after the hearing: “Adam Schiff has zero credibility. Another fantasy to hurt the Republican Party!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has launched a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, yielding to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the commander in chief.
The probe focuses partly on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine Democratic foe Joe Biden and help his own reelection effort. Pelosi said Tuesday such actions would mark a “betrayal of his oath of office” and declared, “No one is above the law.”
The impeachment inquiry, after months of investigations by House Democrats of the Trump administration, sets up the party’s most direct and consequential confrontation with the Republican president, injects deep uncertainty into the 2020 election campaign and tests anew the nation’s constitutional system of checks and balances.
Trump, who thrives on combat, has all but dared Democrats to take this step, confident that the specter of impeachment led by the opposition party will bolster rather than diminish his political support.
Meeting with world leaders at the United Nations, he previewed his defense in an all-caps tweet: “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!”
Pelosi’s brief statement, delivered without dramatic flourish but in the framework of a constitutional crisis, capped a frenetic weeklong stretch on Capitol Hill as details of a classified whistleblower complaint about Trump burst into the open and momentum shifted toward an impeachment probe.
For months, the Democratic leader has tried calming the push for impeachment, saying the House must investigate the facts and let the public decide. The new drive was led by a group of moderate Democratic lawmakers from political swing districts, many of them with national security backgrounds and serving in Congress for the first time. The freshmen, who largely represent districts previously held by Republicans where Trump is popular, risk their own reelections but say they could no longer stand idle. Amplifying their call were longtime leaders, including Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights icon often considered the conscience of House Democrats.
“Now is the time to act,” said Lewis, in an address to the House. “To delay or to do otherwise would betray the foundation of our democracy.”
At issue are Trump’s actions with Ukraine. In a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he is said to have asked for help investigating former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine — prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the funds, later released.
Biden said Tuesday, before Pelosi’s announcement, that if Trump doesn’t cooperate with lawmakers’ demands for documents and testimony in its investigations the president “will leave Congress … with no choice but to initiate impeachment.” He said that would be a tragedy of Trump’s “own making.”
The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of the whistleblower’s complaint, though the administration has blocked Congress from getting other details of the report, citing presidential privilege. Trump has authorized the release of a transcript of the call, which is to be made public Wednesday.
“You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call,” Trump said.
The whistleblower’s complaint was being reviewed for classified material and could go to Congress by Thursday, according to a person familiar with the issue who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
While the possibility of impeachment has hung over Trump for many months, the likelihood of a probe had faded after special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation ended without a clear directive for lawmakers.
Since then, the House committees have revisited aspects of the Mueller probe while also launching new inquiries into Trump’s businesses and various administration scandals that all seemed likely to drag on for months.
But details of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine prompted Democrats to quickly shift course. By the time Pelosi addressed the nation Tuesday, about two-thirds of House Democrats had announced moving toward impeachment probes.
The burden will probably now shift to Democrats to make the case to a scandal-weary public. In a highly polarized Congress, an impeachment inquiry could simply showcase how clearly two sides can disagree when shown the same evidence rather than approach consensus.
Building toward this moment, the president has repeatedly been stonewalling requests for documents and witness interviews in the variety of ongoing investigations.
After Pelosi’s Tuesday announcement, the president and his campaign team quickly released a series of tweets attacking Democrats, including a video of presidential critics like the speaker and Rep. Ilhan Omar discussing impeachment. It concluded: “While Democrats ‘Sole Focus’ is fighting Trump, President Trump is fighting for you.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Pelosi’s well-known “efforts to restrain her far-left conference have finally crumbled.”
Pelosi has for months resisted calls for impeachment from her restive caucus, warning that it would backfire against the party unless there was a groundswell of public support. That groundswell hasn’t occurred, but some of the more centrist lawmakers are facing new pressure back home for not having acted on impeachment.
While Pelosi’s announcement adds weight to the work being done on the oversight committees, the next steps are likely to resemble the past several months of hearings and legal battles — except with the possibility of actual impeachment votes.
On Wednesday, the House is expected to consider a symbolic but still notable resolution insisting the Trump administration turn over to Congress the whistleblower’s complaint. The Senate, in a rare bipartisan moment, approved a similar resolution Tuesday.
The lawyer for the whistleblower, who is still anonymous, released a statement saying he had asked Trump’s director of national intelligence to turn over the complaint to House committees and asking guidance to permit the whistleblower to meet with lawmakers.
Pelosi suggested that this new episode — examining whether a president abused his power for personal political gain — would be easier to explain to Americans than some of the issues that arose during the Mueller investigation and other congressional probes.
The speaker put the matter in stark terms: “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of his national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Laurie Kellman, Andrew Taylor, Eric Tucker and Zeke Miller in Washington and Jonathan Lemire and Deb Riechmann in New York contributed to this report.
Accepting the inevitable and under pressure from her Democratic colleagues, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is set Tuesday to announce a formal impeachment inquiry into the corrupt practices of president Donald Trump.“As soon as we have the facts, we’re ready. Now that we have the facts, we’re ready,” Pelosi said at a forum hosted by The Atlantic Tuesday. “For later today.”
Her belated decision to investigate the increasing corrupt practices of Trump comes as a dozen more Democratic members of Congress decided to support impeachment in just the last day.
Trump, struggling to try and stay ahead of the rapidly growing scandal around his use of foreign aid to convince the government of Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination to oppose him in the 2020 election, announced Tuesday that he will release the full transcript of his phone call with the President of Ukraine, where a probe of Biden was discussed.
Pelosi huddled with the Democratic caucus of the House of Representatives Tuesday to discuss her plans in an investigation of Trump and the growing calls for impeachment.
Among her possible approaches could be establishment of a special panel to handle the impeachment inquiry instead of leaving it with the House Judiciary Committee, which is handling the current push.
Since becoming Speaker, Pelosi has refused an outright endorsement of impeachment but pressure within the party’s liberal base and most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates has increased dramatically in recent weeks.
The few Democrats who remain wary worry that impeachment would stall in the GOP controlled Senate and could become a political liability that threatens the gains in the 2018 election that gave Democrats control of the House.
While some Republican members of Congress privately express “reservations” about Trump’s latest actions, none have come out publicly in favor of impeachment in the House or Senate.
Some Democrats oppose creation of a special panel, saying they think the House Judiciary has taken the lead and should remain there.
“Judiciary has been investigating & putting the pieces together for months,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday. “Impeachment belongs there. We must honor jurisdiction, historical precedent, & work done + allow Judiciary to move forward.”
President Donald Trump ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before a phone call in which he pressured the Eastern European nation’s leader to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden, a revelation that comes as more Democrats move toward impeachment proceedings.
Trump’s order was first reported by The Washington Post and was confirmed to The Associated Press by two people familiar with but not authorized to discuss private conversations. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Late Monday, an influential group of freshmen Democrats who served in the military and national security before winning office said Trump’s actions cut to the core of the country’s defenses. Their views, as centrist lawmakers from previously Republican-held districts where Trump has been popular, hold sway with party leadership.
At issue is a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump is said to have pushed for investigations into Biden. In the days before that call, Trump ordered the aid to Ukraine frozen.
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong and has denied that any requests for help in procuring damaging information about Biden were tied to the aid freeze.
The United States began providing military aid to the government of Ukraine shortly after Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. With Ukraine’s new president still grappling with separatist rebels in the east, the aid has long been viewed as a measure of Washington’s determination to push back against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Democrats, and some Republicans, have urged the White House to be open about Trump’s actions, which are at the center of a whistleblower complaint. But with no new information from the administration forthcoming, more than a dozen Democrats, including some in House leadership, added their names to those calling for impeachment proceedings.
The sudden rush of activity shows the extent to which Trump’s call to the foreign leader, and his subsequent comments about the conversation, are raising further questions about whether the president improperly used his office to pressure another country as a way of helping his own reelection prospects.
“These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent,” wrote the seven freshmen, who include a former Navy pilot, soldiers, officers and intelligence analysts.
“We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly,” the lawmakers wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. The lawmakers include Reps. Gil Cisneros of California, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
“These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect. We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government. And that is what we intend to do.”
Congress on Monday pressed for full disclosure of a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump and pushed the White House to release a transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukraine president.
The president has acknowledged the phone call. On Monday, he said he didn’t want to give money to Ukraine — if there were corruption issues.
“It’s very important to talk about corruption,” Trump told reporters as he opened meetings at the United Nations. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is, is corrupt?”
Later Monday, Trump denied telling the Ukraine president that his country would only get U.S. aid if it investigated Biden’s son. “I didn’t do it,” he said.
The fresh calls for impeachment proceedings come as House Democrats are heading into a closed-door meeting Tuesday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi and her leadership team on the various oversight committees are considering bringing forward a resolution that will put the House on the record on this matter, according to a Democratic leadership aide unauthorized to discuss the private talks. The aide was granted anonymity.
Still, Democrats remained divided on moving forward with an effort to impeach Trump. Pelosi has resisted calls for impeachment and is sticking with her position that Congress must not start formal proceedings unless the American public demands it.
However, Pelosi said Sunday that unless the administration provides more information to Congress by the scheduled Thursday hearing at the intelligence committee, its officials “will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation.”
Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate Biden and his son Hunter in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
The matter is under new scrutiny following the whistleblower’s mid-August complaint, which followed Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. The person who filed the complaint did not have firsthand knowledge of the call, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Lawmakers are demanding details of the complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share that information, citing presidential privilege. He is set to testify Thursday before the House.
“Let’s see the transcript,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, about Trump’s call with the Ukraine president.
The chairmen of the House intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform committees are threatening to subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if he does not produce information about whether Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, inappropriately tried to influence the Ukraine government for political gain.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called on Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to investigate the whistleblower’s complaint. In a letter to McConnell, he said that the Republicans’ “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude toward the president’s actions “is unacceptable and must change.”
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida doesn’t think Trump’s actions are grounds for impeachment, but said he wouldn’t have called a foreign leader to discuss a rival.
“I don’t think he should have raised the topic of Joe Biden with the Ukraine president,” Rubio said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday the matter is best left behind closed doors in the classified setting of the intelligence committee, though he did push into the spotlight his own role in securing the Ukraine aid.
McConnell said he had been “personally pressuring” the Trump administration this summer in calls to Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to release the U.S. aid money.
Trump said Monday he may, or may not, release details or a transcript of the call but has stressed that foreign leaders should feel free to speak frankly with an American president without fear that the details of their conversations will later be disclosed.
Hunter Biden was hired by the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings in April 2014, two months after Ukraine’s Russia-friendly former president was ousted by protesters and as Biden’s father was heavily involved in U.S. efforts to support the new pro-Western government. The move immediately raised concerns that the Ukrainian firm, whose owner was a political ally of the ousted president, was seeking to gain influence with the Obama administration.
Trump and Zelenskiy plan to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Matthew Daly, Michael Balsamo, Laurie Kellman and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
Putting her stamp on the health care issue that worries consumers the most, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday unveiled an ambitious plan to lower drug prices for seniors on Medicare and younger people with private insurance.
Pelosi, D-Calif., would empower Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 250 of the costliest drugs, including insulin. Pharmaceutical companies that refuse to negotiate could face steep penalties. Additionally, drugmakers that hike prices beyond inflation would have to pay rebates to Medicare.
The plan would limit copays for seniors covered by Medicare’s “Part D” prescription drug program to $2,000. And Medicare-negotiated prices would be available to other buyers, such as employer health plans.
The plan is Pelosi’s marker in what’s shaping up as a high-stakes negotiation to determine if a drug pricing compromise can pass Congress this year or if Democrats and Republicans will take their differences into the 2020 elections.
The sweeping legislation leans left politically and appears to be tailor-made for Pelosi’s Democratic majority in the House. But in a signal that Pelosi wants a deal, it also incorporates ideas from the Trump administration and from Republican and Democratic senators.
A group of House Republicans led by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., quickly accused Pelosi of putting “politics over progress,” calling her plan “a socialist proposal to appease her most extreme members.”
Nonetheless, Americans across party lines say lowering prescription drug costs should be a top priority for Congress this year. Overall, 70 percent deemed that a top priority in a poll earlier this month from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
President Donald Trump appears eager to sign prescription drug legislation and lower costs, but most Republicans oppose the Medicare negotiations that are the centerpiece of Pelosi’s plan. The 2003 law that created Medicare’s prescription drug benefit barred the program from negotiating prices, a restriction Democrats have long opposed.
As a candidate, Trump backed Medicare negotiations. But after Trump was elected president, he seemed to revert to the traditional Republican position that price negotiations are best left to private players like insurance companies.
With tens of billions of dollars in profits at stake, drugmakers are determined to block any major changes to payment policies. But the industry’s powerful lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, has been taking fire from all sides, from liberal Democrats to pro-business Republicans. Trump once accused drug companies of “getting away with murder.”
Pelosi’s proposal would:
— Authorize Medicare to negotiate prices for up to 250 drugs with the greatest total cost to the program and the U.S. health care system. That includes pharmacy drugs covered through the popular “Part D” prescription benefit, along with “Part B” medications dispensed in doctors’ offices, which covers many cancer drugs. Medicare would negotiate for as many drugs as possible, but no fewer than 25 annually. The maximum price would be determined using a blend of international prices, similar to a more limited proposal from the Trump administration. Insulin would be included. Drug companies that balk at making a deal would face penalties that start at 65% of sales for the drug at issue, and would escalate if they hold out.
— Require drugmakers to pay rebates to Medicare if they hike their prices beyond the increase in inflation. That idea resembles a bipartisan plan from Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. The senators’ proposal has already cleared a key committee, with Trump’s support. But many Senate Republicans oppose inflation rebates, and it’s unclear what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plans to do next.
— Limit what seniors pay out of pocket for their medications to $2,000 a year. Currently, Medicare’s pharmacy benefit has no cap on copays, and the advent of drugs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year has left some seniors saddled with bills that rival a mortgage payment. An out-of-pocket limit also is part of the Grassley-Wyden bill, and the idea also is backed by the Trump administration.
Pelosi’s office says her plan is to have the legislation introduced and moved through House committees to a vote on the floor. If compromise can be reached among House Democrats, the Trump White House and enough GOP lawmakers, a drug pricing package could be added to year-end budget legislation.
Movement in Congress comes at a time when criticism of the industry — from Trump and lawmakers of both parties — appears to be having an effect on prices.
The Commerce Department’s inflation index for prescription drug prices has declined in seven of the last eight months, which is highly unusual. That index includes lower-cost generic drugs.
The story is different for brand name drugs, however. A recent analysis by The Associated Press shows that on average prices are still going up but at a slower pace. Costly brand-name drugs can translate to steep copays for insured patients.
The AP analysis found that in the first seven months of 2019, drugmakers raised list prices for brand name medicines by a median, or midpoint, of 5%.
That does reflect a slowdown. Prices were going up 9% or 10% over those months the prior four years.
But there were 37 price increases for every decrease in the first seven months of 2019.
The House is set to pass a government-wide temporary spending bill to prevent a federal shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30.
The bipartisan measure would give lawmakers until the Thanksgiving break to pass and negotiate $1.4 trillion worth of annual agency spending bills. Those bills would fill in the details of this summer’s budget and debt agreement between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Thursday’s House vote comes as the Republican-controlled Senate struggles to process its versions of the follow-up spending bills amid partisan skirmishing over the boundaries of the budget agreement and Trump’s moves to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border fence without approval by Congress.
The Senate is likely to adopt the stopgap bill with plenty of time before the deadline.