Politics

Here's the latest on quickly escalating impeachment inquiry

Trump lawyers up for protracted fight

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It was a day in which the White House declared it outright won't cooperate in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry and the efforts by White House staff to contain the fallout around the July 25 call between the American and Ukrainian Presidents became clearer.

Read about all the latest happenings in the impeachment inquiry here:

New: How White House staff tried to contain fallout from July 25 call

CNN's White House team reports that almost as soon as President Donald Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ended July 25, officials worried about the pressure Trump exerted on Zelensky began trying to contain the fallout. It's a very different reality than the one Trump has pushed, that his call was "perfect."

Key points:

  • Sitting in his private quarters, Trump wasn't surrounded by the clutch of aides who would usually join him in person during a call with a foreign leader made from the Oval Office
  • Concerns of White House and NSC aides were independent of the whistleblower complaint
  • At least one NSC official alerted the White House's national security lawyers about concerns
  • Those same lawyers would later order the transcript moved to a highly classified server
  • Aides also immediately began quizzing each other about whether they should alert senior officials who were not on the call
  • "It was weird," a former White House official said. "He seemed to be taking interest in this particular country."

Read the full report from Pamela Brown, Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak

Also: CNN's Jim Acosta and Maegan Vazquez report that a White House official who listened in on the call characterized the conversation as "crazy," "frightening" and was described as "shaken" by the call, according to a memo written by the whistleblower behind the recent intelligence community report about the conversation flagged to Congress. The memo was first reported by The New York Times.

The Latest

  • First on CNN: Trump directed administration officials to work through Giuliani on Ukraine -- President Donald Trump directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to deal with his private attorney Rudy Giuliani when the Ukrainian President sought to meet Trump, in a clear circumvention of official channels, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. LINK
  • WH won't cooperate -- In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the White House says it won't cooperate with the impeachment inquiry because there hasn't been a House vote authorizing the inquiry. LINK
  • Why Pelosi is ruling out a vote anyway -- Democrats won't hold a vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry because they don't think it's necessary, they don't want to put members in a tough spot and they don't want to give Republicans subpoena power. LINK
  • Sondland testimony blocked -- The State Department blocked Tuesday's scheduled testimony of US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland at the very last minute, signaling Trump's new tactic of stonewalling the impeachment inquiry. LINK
  • Trump lawyers up -- He's retained former South Carolina congressman Trey Gowdy, who is most famous for his role as a Benghazi prosecutor during the Obama administration. LINK
  • Romney finds power in opposing Trump -- Vanity Fair published a story with the headline: "'Romney is the pressure point in the impeachment process': Mitt won't primary Trump -- But he's trying to bring him down." It's full of blind quotes and political innuendo. It's also very interesting to read. LINK
  • Giuliani could sidestep House for Senate -- Trump's lawyer is not cooperating with the impeachment inquiry, but could testify before a Senate committee. Rudy Giuliani was invited by Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein is on board too. LINK
  • More than Ukraine - House Democrats could expand their inquiry and ready articles of impeachment that also include obstruction of justice and meddling with elections, according to their lawyer. LINK

14 corroborated whistleblower claims

This saga began because of Trump's recent dealings with Ukraine as detailed in the whistleblower complaint that serves as the foundation of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry in the House. Trump has defended himself by repeatedly by saying the whistleblower complaint was "almost completely wrong" and contained "totally inaccurate and fraudulent" information.

But according to a new analysis from CNN's Marshall Cohen, the overwhelming majority of allegations in the complaint have been corroborated by official government documents, Trump's public statements and news reporting.

He dissects 14 corroborated claims in great detail:

  • Trump pressured Ukraine
  • Role of Giuliani and Barr
  • Trump's ask regarding the Bidens
  • Trump's ask regarding CrowdStrike
  • Who Trump told Zelensky to meet
  • Trump's comments about a top Ukrainian prosecutor
  • Locking down records of the call
  • Hiding previous call transcripts
  • Volker meeting with Zelensky
  • Volker's talks with Ukrainians
  • Suggestions of a quid pro quo
  • Ouster of a US ambassador
  • Withholding US aid from Ukraine
  • Trump's order to freeze US aid

Read his documentation

Collecting receipts

Democrats subpoenaed Sondland and threatened subpoenas for any other State Department officials blocked from testifying, along with messages or documents they might have. Recall the release of text messages between State Department officials last week.

The big question is whether Democrats can pin down when and why and how Trump held back funding for Ukraine over the summer and into September. Relevant documents live all over, including at the Pentagon, where House Democrats delivered subpoenas Monday.

What are Democrats looking for? CNN's Barbara Starr reports from a senior defense official with direct knowledge of the subpoena that some of the requested documents are essentially White House materials that Hill investigators could access by way of the Pentagon.

Will they get it? Starr adds the DoD response to the entire request will be coordinated with the White House.

Democrats are moving quickly. The official noted that typically the Pentagon receives an initial request for documentation when there is a congressional review, but this time the first word of a request came in the form of subpoenas.

This search for documents will become a theme and the production of previously requested documents is coming in a trickle. CNN'S Lauren Fox reports from Capitol Hill that an aide says the Office of Management and Budget "did not turn over all the documents and information the Committees requested" after they were requested.

Subpoenaed so far:

'Mortal threat to the presidency'

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Newsmax CEO and Trump confidant Chris Ruddy said three notable things.

1. He understands why Trump feels persecuted by Congress.

2. He thinks the White House is overreacting by not letting officials testify before the impeachment inquiry.

3. The impeachment inquiry is a "mortal threat" to the presidency and that Democrats are using the Ukraine issue as a means to an end.

AMANPOUR: Do you think -- I mean, it is this a threat to the President?

RUDDY: I believe it's a mortal threat to the presidency. He should treat it that way. Because it's not this issue about the Ukraine. You know, I think, you know, basketball they have the term head faked. What I think we're seeing from the Democrats in Congress is a head fake. They're saying this is only about Ukraine. We're going to do it in 90 days. Why, then, do you open up six different congressional committees involved in the impeachment inquiry?

Support for impeachment inquiry doesn't equal support for impeachment

In total, 58% of respondents in a Washington Post-Schar School Poll said Congress should have begun the inquiry. That includes almost 3 in 10 Republicans. A Quinnipiac University poll out today puts support for the inquiry slightly lower, but still in majority territory at 53%.

For comparison, in July of this year, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 37% of Americans said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings.

Impeachment vs. beginning an inquiry -- There is an important distinction between support for beginning an inquiry and current support for actual impeachment.

An NBC News/WSJ poll out Tuesday has support for impeachment at 43%, before an investigation has been conducted, an indication of how Trump splits the country. The Quinnipiac poll found support for impeachment and removal at 45%, while the Washington Post-Schar School poll landed at 49% support for removing Trump from office.

A narrow majority in the NBC / WSJ poll -- 51% -- say the allegations against Trump are serious and should be fully investigated, while 44% consider them more of the same politically motivated attacks.

What are we doing here?

The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election.

Democrats want to impeach him for it.

It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what's acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history. Have thoughts? Email us: impeachment@cnn.com.


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