1/ The U.S. ambassador to the European Union testified that he and senior administration officials “followed the president’s orders” to work with Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into Joe Biden and the discredited conspiracy theory that the country helped Democrats in the 2016 election. Gordon Sondland testified that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and special envoy Kurt Volker coordinated with Giuliani at the “at the express direction of the president of the United States” to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations. Sondland said he directly communicated the “quid pro quo” arrangement to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Sondland also provided House impeachment investigators with emails and texts showing that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Perry, and others were all aware that Trump conditioned a White House meeting for Zelensky on his willingness to launch investigations. “They knew what we were doing and why,” Sondland said. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNN
2/ Sondland testified that he told Pence before his Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky that he “had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.” Sondland said Pence “nodded” in response and didn’t ask what investigations he was referring to. When Zelensky raised the issue of security aid, Pence said he would speak to Trump about it. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, claimed Pence “never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations.” (CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
3/ Sondland testified that he kept Secretary of State Michael Pompeo informed of the key developments in the campaign to pressure Zelensky to appease Trump and announce investigations. Sondland and Pompeo discussed drafting a statement in mid-August regarding Zelensky making public commitment to investigate Biden that they hoped would persuade Trump to grant Zelensky an Oval Office meeting and “break the logjam” on providing the security funds. Pompeo expressed approval of the plan. Trump, however, canceled his trip to Poland. (New York Times / Bloomberg)
4/ The FBI asked to interview the CIA whistleblower over concerns with the Justice Department declining to investigate the complaint after a criminal referral was sent from the inspector general of the Intelligence Community. In late September, the Justice Department confirmed that the assistant attorney general, and an appointee of Trump, had reviewed the whistleblower’s complaint and determined there was no violation of campaign finance laws by Trump when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open up an investigation into the gas company that once paid Hunter Biden to serve on its board. FBI counterintelligence officials were particularly concerned about the claims that Rudy Giuliani, Igor Fruman, and Lev Parnas may have been manipulated by Russian interests. The whistleblower has not yet agreed to an interview. (Yahoo News / NBC News / CNN)
4/ Trump described Sondland’s testimony as “fantastic” and said it proves he “did absolutely nothing wrong.” Trump also attempted to distance his relationship with Sondland, saying “I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much.” Last month, Trump called Sondland – who contributed $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee – “a really good man and great American.” Two weeks ago, however, Trump claimed to “hardly know the gentleman.” (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News)
The Trump administration distributed talking points to discredit Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified that he had registered complaints about Trump’s call with the Ukraine president. White House aide Julia Hahn sent two emails to Trump surrogates questioning Vindman’s credibility and claiming Trump did “nothing wrong.” The Army, meanwhile, has increased their protection around Vindman and his family. (Daily Beast / ABC News / Reuters)
In 2017, Nikki Haley lost her password for classified communication, so she used a system meant for unclassified material to send “confidential” information. (Daily Beast)
What happens now: Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary, and David Hale, the under secretary of state for political affairs, are testifying to the House Intelligence Committee.
The DemDebate starts tonight at 9 p.m. ET and will stream on g MSNBC and the Washington Post. The Democrats who qualified based on polling and fundraising are: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang. Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker, and Kristen Welker will become the third ever all-female moderator lineup.
Today in fronts.