Three Committees Schedule Multiple Depositions with Key State Department Officials over Next Two Weeks
September 27, 2019
Washington— Today, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo for documents, including many he has refused to produce for weeks.
The Committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression.
“Pursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 4, 2019,” the Chairmen wrote.
To date, Pompeo has refused to produce these documents, which were first requested more than two weeks ago. The Chairmen sent a follow-up letter warning Pompeo that they would consider compulsory measures if he continued to refuse to comply.
“This subpoena is being issued by the Committee on Foreign Affairs after consultation with the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Oversight and Reform. The subpoenaed documents shall be part of the impeachment inquiry and shared among the Committees. Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” the Chairmen wrote.
The Chairmen also sent a separate letter today notifying Pompeo that the Committees have scheduled depositions for five State Department officials over the next two weeks:
- October 2, 2019: Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch
- October 3, 2019: Ambassador Kurt Volker
- October 7, 2019: Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent
- October 8, 2019: Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl
- October 10, 2019: Ambassador Gordon Sondland
“The Committees are conducting this investigation in an expeditious, coordinated manner. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community has determined that the whistleblower complaint raises a matter of ‘urgent concern,’ is ‘credible,’ and ‘relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people’: our free and fair elections,” the Chairmen wrote.
Click here to read the subpoena letter.
Click here to read the deposition letter.
Caught off guard by the speed at which [a whistleblower’s claims
President Donald Trump and his team are scrambling to respond.
They’re turning, at least for now, to some of the same strategies they used to counter special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The basic tactics deployed by the short-staffed White House: Attempt to discredit government officials at the heart of the story. Dispatch Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other allies to muddy the picture. Lean on Republicans in Congress to provide cover.
And, most of all, presidential counterattacks.
“Corrupt Congressman Liddle’ Adam Schiff,” Trump tweeted on Friday about the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, whom he also called on to resign for reading a dramatized version of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president during a hearing the day before.
KellyAnne on ‘defcon deflect mode’
The momentum keeps building…
(Just climbed to 224 since the above headline was published.)
So much for the Republicans’ relentless “whataboutisms” on Hunter Biden.
The real issue here is this: if – and that’s a big if, Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine warranted investigation, why wasn’t that happening through the FBI or the CIA or some other official U.S. government agency? Donald Trump is not a private eye. He’s the President of the United States. He shouldn’t be hiring a private citizen (Rudy Giuliani) to coordinate between a U.S. Ambassador (Kurt Volker) and a foreign government official (Yuri Lutsenko) to investigate his political rival. Even aside from any incriminating phone call, this murky, pseudo-government investigation directed by the President reeks to high heaven.
And now it turns out that the primary accuser who established the flimsy basis for Trump’s rogue investigation has walked back his accusations. A previously posted article lays out this accuser’s original motivations. He could see he was about to get ousted from his Ukrainian government post so he started gaming Giuliani by ginning up dirt on Hunter Biden – he thought that if he could get some traction with the personal lawyer of the U.S. President, he might be able to keep his position. It looks like now that he’s out, he’s decided to come clean. Lots of speculation here so take this with a big grain of salt. But there is plenty of probable cause to warrant the impeachment investigation that will help us uncover the truth.
A former top Ukrainian prosecutor, whose allegations were at the heart of the dirt-digging effort by Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Thursday he believed that Hunter Biden did not run afoul of any laws in Ukraine.
"From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything," former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko told The Washington Post in his first interview since the disclosure of a whistleblower complaint alleging pressure by President Trump on Ukraine’s president, Volodymr Zelensky.
Lutsenko’s comments about Hunter Biden — which echo what he told Bloomberg News in May — were significant, because Trump and his personal attorney Giuliani have sought to stir up suspicions about both Hunter and former vice president Joe Biden’s conduct in Ukraine in recent weeks. Joe Biden is leading Trump in many opinion polls ahead of the 2020 election.
And there’s this:
So not only is the ex-government official admitting that his accusations against Hunter Biden were false, he’s also admitting that during the time he was making those false accusations (while he was an official representative of Ukraine working in the public prosecutors office), he spoke 10 times with Rudy Giuliani (the personal attorney of President Trump).
Excellent “Explainer” from CNN: Who’s Who?
Even if you don’t read this word-for-word, scrolling through it will give you a handle on the major players and reveal the sprawling reach of this scandal.
We’re so fortunate to have a free press – they expose wrong doing and enlighten us along the way.
UPDATE: Here’s another excellent “Who’s Who” – this one’s from the WaPo. It includes key dates and info-graphics as well. Happy weekend browsing!
Shoutout to @Akash!
Where the Trump administration is thwarting House oversight
This is a very helpful visual guide to the Congressional oversight and investigation efforts. FYI, it goes on and on and on, be prepared to be overwhelmed.
Since taking control of the House after the 2018 midterms, Democrats have sought to exert their oversight power over the Trump administration by opening up dozens of investigations and inquiries. The White House has pushed back, refusing to provide information and challenging Congressional subpoenas in court. As Democrats begin an impeachment inquiry, here is where the most important oversight battles stand, and which House committee chairs are making the demands.
Stonewalling is obstruction and the Dem Committees are highlighting that key tactic the Administration (and others) are utilizing to thwart the investigation.
These acts of defiance or slow walking it will be considered impeachable offenses which at this juncture make it a whole lot hotter for T n’ Co.
House Democrats are developing a new plan to deal with any White House stonewalling to their upcoming demands for records and testimony: They will use it as evidence for an article of impeachmentagainst President Donald Trump, according to sources involved in the discussions.
Democrats are hoping that the tactic will force White House officials to make a choice: They could provide records to bolster the Democratic investigation, or they can resist the House subpoenas and add to the Democrats’ case that Trump has sought to obstruct Congress. On Friday, three Democratic chairmen signaled their plans in the first round of subpoenas issued since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry earlier this week.
“Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” the chairmen wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mark your calendars: Thur., Oct. 3 – Volker testifies before 3 committees
Former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker plans to appear at his deposition next Thursday in front of three congressional committees, according to a source familiar with his plans.
The source would not say if the White House is seeking to use executive privilege to constrict Volker in terms of what he can say or provide.
Volker’s appearance before the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs committees was announced just hours before the news broke Friday evening that he had resigned.
The former US special envoy is expected to face tough questioning after finding himself in the middle of the controversy surrounding the intelligence whistleblower who had alleged a coverup by the White House over a call made by President Donald Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That whistleblower also mentioned Volker’s name in his complaint when discussing interactions between himself and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, concerning pushing Ukraine to look into activities of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.
Depositions are generally closed door, but the committees have not clarified if Volker’s deposition will be open or closed.
The deadline for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to produce documents from the State Department on this matter after being subpoenaed by three congressional committees is after Volker is set to appear. The sequence here appears strange because usually investigators want to have documents in hand before interviews.
Aides on the Hill are not expressing any interest in delaying the deposition. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is also not confirming whether or not four other State Department officials involved in the Ukraine controversy in different ways are all confirmed to show up on the dates the committee announced for depositions which are set to take place over the next two weeks.
Some White House officials see Volker’s departure as being motivated by him believing he needed to protect the McCain Institute, where he also maintained a role during his time as special representative to Ukraine, explained one source familiar with discussions at the White House.
Generally, there is not much love lost for Volker by White House officials, whom another source says "was never fully on the Trump train."
NOTE: This post was updated to reflect new information about the hearings as released by CNN.
No date yet, but the planets are aligning.
Here’s the key takeaway which is the best news of the day:
Asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether he had reached an agreement with the whistleblower and his attorneys to come before the committee, Schiff said: “Yes, we have.”
“And as (acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph) Maguire promised during the hearing, that whistleblower will be allowed to come in and come in without … a minder from the Justice Department or from the White House to tell the whistleblower what they can and cannot say. We will get the unfiltered testimony of that whistleblower,” he said.
Giuliani can’t keep a lie straight for 30 seconds on TV. This’ll be hilarious.
House Whistleblower Hearings - Whose on Deck
NOTE: In the WaPo article below, I inserted dates for the hearings in [brackets] based on the Congressional letter sent to Pompeo.
… Leaders of top House committees subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Friday for documents related to their investigation into President Trump and his asking Ukraine to investigate a possible 2020 political opponent.
[Documents ordered to be turned over by Friday, Oct. 4.]
They also alerted Pompeo in a separate letter that they have scheduled depositions beginning next week with five State Department officials, beginning Tuesday with former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch
[Wed., Oct. 2], whom Trump disparaged during his phone conversation with the Ukrainian president in July.
The letters were signed by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).
“The Committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression,” the chairmen wrote.
Documents requested from Pompeo include a list of any State Department officials involved in the controversial July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian president as well as any correspondence since Trump’s inauguration about investigations that refer to Hunter Biden, Burisma Holdings — the natural gas company the former vice president’s son worked for, among others.
In addition to Yovanovitch, the chairmen have scheduled hearings with:
● Kurt Volker, U.S. special representative to Ukraine
[Thurs., Oct. 3]who met with Rudolph W. Giuliani and agreed to connect him with Andrey Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky.
● George Kent, a career Foreign Service officer
[Mon., Oct. 7], is deputy assistant secretary of state in the European and Eurasian Bureau, overseeing policy toward Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. He served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev from 2015 to 2018.
● T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, State Department counselor
[Tues., Oct. 8]who was named in the whistleblower complaint as the State official who listened in on the Trump-Zelensky call.
● Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union
[Thur., Oct. 10], who Giuliani said he briefed on his conversations with Ukrainians. …
Trump-Supporting Lawyers diGenova and Toensing Teamed Up With Giuliani to Dig Up Ukraine Dirt on Biden
Fox News cited a U.S. official who said all three were working off the books apart from the administration, and the only person who knew “what they were doing is President Trump.”
This grenade was just lobbed into the President’s camp, and it’s coming from Fox News! He is going to have a conniption fit.
In a bombshell report Sunday morning, Fox News reported that two frequent guests on the right-leaning cable news channel were “working off the books” to help former New York City mayor and current presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani dig up dirt on President Donald Trump’s leading Democratic opponent—and that the only person who knew about their involvement was the president himself.
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace broke the news that Giuliani wasn’t acting alone when it came to digging up Ukrainian dirt on Trump’s potential 2020 presidential opponent Joe Biden.
“Two high-profile Washington lawyers, Joe diGenova, who’s been a fierce critic of the Democratic investigation, and his wife Victoria Toensing were working with Giuliani to get oppo research on Biden,” Wallace said at the top of his broadcast.
“According to a top U.S. official, all three were working off the books apart from the administration,” Wallace added. “The only person in government who knows what they were doing is President Trump.”
Giuliani has denied working with any other attorneys in his quest for Ukrainian-provided information on the Biden family in recent appearances on Fox News, denials that the network’s own reporting now call into question.
“No,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures , when asked if he had worked with other attorneys. “I didn’t work with anybody to try and get dirt on Joe Biden.”
Requests for comment in response to Wallace’s report from diGenova & Toensing, LLP, their eponymous D.C.-based law firm, were not immediately returned. Requests to Giuliani and the White House have also not been returned.
Both diGenova and Toensing have been frequent guests on Fox’s opinion shows, specifically Hannity and Lou Dobbs Tonight. This week, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, diGenova blasted Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano as “a fool” for assessing that Trump had committed a crime during his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.
The remarks sparked a multi-day, on-air scuffle between Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Wallace also appeared to join in the internecine fighting over the network’s coverage of the growing scandal, implicitly criticizing the on-air commentary of some of his Fox News colleagues in recent days.
Both Toensing and diGenova have been two of the president’s fiercest defenders for years. Along with being frequent guests on Fox opinion shows and other conservative media outlets, the husband-wife team has had a close relationship with the president for a while.
In March 2018, they were briefly tapped to join Trump’s special counsel legal team. Days later, however, the president decided against hiring the pair.
“The president is disappointed that conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining the president’s special counsel legal team,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said at the time. “However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the president in other legal matters. The president looks forward to working with them.”
I would take this with a grain of salt since, so far, it appears to be a single source story that Wallace is attributing to a “top U.S. official.” But if true, this would be extremely damaging to Giuliani’s credibility (what’s left of it) and would further widen the list of co-conspirators (including Trump) who were working secretly with (or just plain coercing) a foreign government to influence a U.S. election. These are two more Trump lawyers who need their own lawyers. It’s time for them to testify.
Fox News segment that triggered the Daily Beast report:
Click link to read the letter
Tonight, “60 Minutes” has obtained a letter that indicates the government whistleblower who set off the impeachment inquiry of President Trump is under federal protection, because he or she fears for their safety. These rapidly developing events began Tuesday when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ordered the investigation based on a phone call between Mr. Trump and the president of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Mr. Trump for missiles, Mr. Trump asks Zelensky for “a favor” to investigate Mr. Trump’s Democratic rivals.
Trump-Putin phone calls in U.S. Democrats’ sights: Schiff
Congress is determined to get access to Donald Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee’s chairman said on Sunday, citing concerns that the Republican president may have jeopardized national security.
“I think the paramount need here is to protect the national security of the United States and see whether in the conversations with other world leaders - and in particular with Putin - that the president was also undermining our security in a way that he thought would personally benefit his campaign,” Democrat Adam Schiff said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Absolutely! And we also need to find out what Trump and Putin talked about on the five occasions they met when Trump made extraordinary efforts to keep the conversations secret from U.S. officials who are normally privy to such meetings.
The first time they met was in Germany. President Trump took his interpreter’s notes afterward and ordered him not to disclose what he heard to anyone. Later that night, at a dinner, Mr. Trump pulled up a seat next to President Vladimir V. Putin to talk without any American witnesses at all.
Their third encounter was in Vietnam when Mr. Trump seemed to take Mr. Putin’s word that he had not interfered in American elections. A formal summit meeting followed in Helsinki, Finland, where the two leaders kicked out everyone but the interpreters. Most recently, they chatted in Buenos Aires after Mr. Trump said they would not meet because of Russian aggression. …
It’s time to question the interpreters. Yes, that would break all precedents, but it is Trump who has broken the precedents and placed us in a position where we have no choice.
And remember that fist pump at the G20 dinner in 2017 just before Trump met with Putin in an isolated area of the banquet hall? Watch it here:
At G20 dinner, Trump appeared to gesture to Putin - CNN Video
A former member of the Ukrainian parliament and adviser to Ukraine’s president told CBS News it was a “well-known fact” there that President Donald Trump wanted “compromising” information on former Vice President Joe Biden. Serhiy Leshchenko added that Ukraine’s president knew that U.S. aid to his country was at stake.
“I am sure that issue of Biden was forever on the table between Zelensky and Trump,” said Leshchenko. As a former lawmaker and adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, Leschenko believes it was clear that President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals.
Former member of the Ukrainian parliament and adviser to Ukraine’s president Serhiy Leshchenko. CBS NEWS
“Of course, he wanted political privileges, favors, for his re-election from Ukraine,” he said.
“In return for military aid?” asked correspondent Roxana Saberi.
“I would say yes,” Leshchenko replied.
I have a thread on this topic, full of articles. I believe it’s been more than 5 times now, but definitely the degree of secrecy around Trump’s meetings with Putin is mind-blowing.
If you haven’t kept up with Trump’s false claims this morning…
…besides referencing a Civil War if he is removed on Sunday, he also inadvertently admitted that his win over Hillary Clinton in 2016 was impeachable, because he is dumb:
He falsely suggested that somebody changed the whistleblower rules, though there is no way that could just randomly happen under his own watch:
He again repeated lies that he released the call (it’s not a transcript, it’s a memo) immediately (he was forced into it after this all came to light), that the whistleblower complaint is not holding up (it is, 100%), and that being a 2nd-hand description means something (it does not in the slightest, and the fact that it HAS been so heavily corroborated by what’s been released gives it MORE credence, not less).
He accused Adam Schiff of making things up and suggested he be arrested for treason, which is obstruction of justice:
He threatened the free press, warning them to stay away from this story (they won’t) and calling them more corrupt than the Bidens (who were exonerated):
And he admitted, again, to digging up dirt on the Bidens.
That’s pretty much the highlights.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate would have no choice but to take up impeachment if the House votes to effectively charge President Donald Trump.
- The Republican-held Senate is unlikely to vote to convict Trump and remove him from office.