The developments played out as Trump prepared to head to Minneapolis for his first campaign rally since House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry.
Ahead of the trip, Trump lashed out at Fox News following its release of a poll showing 51 percent of voters would like to see him impeached and removed from office. That is an uptick since the House launched an inquiry focused on Trump’s phone call in which he pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been withheld.
2:30 p.m.: Sen. Gardner is latest GOP member who won’t say if Trump’s request to Ukrainian president was wrong
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) was asked repeatedly on Thursday to answer “yes or no” on the question of whether it was appropriate for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.
Gardner refused to do so, blaming partisan politics for his unwillingness to answer, according to a video posted by Joe St. George, the local Fox31 reporter who asked the questions.
“Unfortunately what we’ve seen is a very political process takeover,” Gardner said as he spoke with reporters in Colorado.
When St. George tried to press him, Gardner said, “I think I’ve answered your question.” But when he turned to the next reporter, she followed up: “Is it yes or no?”
Gardner then a blamed the news media for focusing these questions on Colorado, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina (the four states where GOP incumbents are most vulnerable). “It seems to be about politics and elections,” Gardner said.
“But the question is, is it appropriate?” St. George tried again. Gardner dodged.
St. George tried another way: “Would you be okay with it if a Democrat asked a foreign government to investigate…” No answer. Then he asked if it’d be okay for the senator to ask a foreign government for help. No answer
By the end, St. George became exasperated.
“But you’re not answering the question, we want to hear from you, you’re a smart guy, you know the debate,” the reporter said.
“This is about the politics of the moment,” Gardner replied, still not answering the question.
2:20 p.m.: GOP anger over Syria not translating to support for impeachment inquiry
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said today he’s so furious about Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria that he no long supports the president.
“While my votes will continue to support the president’s domestic policy agenda, because of this terrible foreign policy decision I asked that my name be removed from his campaign’s official list of supporters,” said Shimkus, who is retiring.
But, he added, “This has nothing to do with impeachment.”
Many congressional Republicans have expressed outrage over Trump’s decision on Syria, but they are unmoved on the question of whether the president’s behavior rises to an impeachment inquiry.
1:25 p.m.: Democratic campaign committee says Republicans should return contributions from Parnas
Lev Parnas, one of the two Giuliani associates arrested Wednesday night, contributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee and to GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) in 2018, and the Democratic campaign arm is calling on them to return that money.
“If the GOP Minority Leader and his campaign committee are willing to pocket money from a man who was just arrested for funneling Russian campaign donors into American elections, then it is clear there no line they will not cross,” DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said. “This is a question of un-American activity: either you stand for the sanctity of our elections and defending our Constitution, or you do not. Today, Minority Leader McCarthy and his campaign arm need to make a choice.”
This is a common tactic in congressional politics, where one side demands the other return money from donors who have conducted themselves in an illegal or unethical manner.
1:15 p.m.: Trump’s lawyer says president didn’t know about allegations against Giuliani’s associates
Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump, sought to distance his client from the arrests of Giuliani’s associates.
“As the indictment makes clear, neither the President nor the campaign were aware of these allegations,” Sekulow said in a statement.
The two men had been major political donors to Trump. They were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.
1 p.m.: Trump adviser questions Chinese officials about Biden’s son
Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser who regularly consults with the president, recently asked Chinese officials questions about Hunter Biden and his business dealings, the conservative scholar said Thursday.
“Most everything I learned was already public or well-known,” he said. Pillsbury claimed he was told that money from the bank of China went to Hunter Biden’s firm, but that it was difficult to determine exactly how much. He said the Chinese were largely reticent to speak about Biden. “They really, really didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Pillsbury, who works at the conservative Hudson Institute, said he recently returned from a 10-day trip, during which he also visited Hong Kong. Pillsbury first made comments about his activities to the Financial Times.
Pillsbury said he spoke with Trump just before he went on his trip to China last month, but he said the president didn’t ask him to raise Biden to Chinese officials. “I haven’t reported back to him, no,” he said.
The China expert said he’d never spoken with Trump about Hunter Biden but was aware of the president calling for the Chinese to investigate from the South Lawn of the White House last week.
“What a wonderful, hypothetical question,” he said, when asked if he plans to report back to Trump. Pillsbury declined to say more, saying that White House officials had asked him not to disclose his conversations with the president.
Chinese officials, Pillsbury said, also told him that Trump was more likely to win because of impeachment — and were deeply interested in the 2020 election.
Pillsbury regularly speaks with Trump, who calls him “Mr. Pillsbury” and tells others he is the world’s leading expert on China.
12:30 p.m.: House Democrats issue subpoenas to Giuliani associates
House investigators issued subpoenas Thursday to the two Giuliani associates who were arrested on campaign finance charges, seeking “key documents” that they have not voluntarily produced as part of the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
In a letter to the attorney for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, three House Democratic committee chairmen also indicated that they expect the two men to testify before Congress at a later date.
Parnas and Fruman have assisted Giuliani with his investigation of Biden and his son in connection with the son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
In the letter to John Dowd, the attorney for Parnas and Fruman, the Democrats express frustration with the lack of cooperation from previous requests for documents.
“They are required by law to comply with the enclosed subpoenas,” the letter says. “They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr. Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction.”
The letter is signed by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).
11:30 a.m.: Democrats react to arrests of Giuliani associates
Democrats in Congress started to weigh in on the news that two men who helped Giuliani investigate Biden were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) immediately tweeted that “Rudy Giuliani must testify under oath.”
“Let’s be clear about what just happened,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) soon after. “The two Russian born ringleaders of the Ukraine scandal just got arrested for making hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal contributions to Trump’s re-election.”
Giving each word its own line for emphasis, Murphy added:
11:10 a.m.: Zelensky says he’s open to a ‘joint investigation’
Four hours into a marathon meeting with journalists at a food hall in Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would be open to a “joint investigation” of Ukraine’s role in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and of the Burisma gas company, which had recruited Joe Biden’s son Hunter to its board.
But Zelensky didn’t elaborate, except to point out that no one has presented Ukraine with any evidence of wrongdoing.
Speaking of his July 25 phone call with Trump, he said, “There was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S. I had no idea the military aid was held up. When I did find out, I raised it with [Vice President] Pence at a meeting in Warsaw.”
Zelensky said impeachment is an internal American affair.
“If you will involve Ukraine in this process, that will be a big, big mistake for USA and for Ukraine,” he said in English. “We have our own country. That’s it.”
Zelensky said he is confident of continuing American support for Ukraine, but if that changes, he expects to find out on Twitter.
10:40 a.m.: Biden campaign presses case for impeachment with new video
A day after Biden delivered a fiery speech in New Hampshire calling for Trump’s impeachment, his campaign continued to press the issue with the release of a video contending that Trump has violated the oath of his office.
The minute-long video opens with historical footage of the swearing in of past presidents — including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama — before cutting to Trump’s inauguration.
It then cuts to footage of Trump calling on China to investigate the Bidens from the White House lawn before showing a clip of Biden’s speech Wednesday in Rochester, N.H.
“Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts,” Biden says in the speech.
10:15 a.m.: Two business associates of Giuliani arrested on campaign finance charges
Two business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani have been charged with a scheme to route foreign money into U.S. elections, according to a newly unsealed indictment.
The two men, who helped Giuliani investigate Joe Biden, were arrested Wednesday night in Virginia, according to a person familiar with the charges. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia later on Thursday.
According to the indictment, Parnas, Fruman and other defendants “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”
The indictment also charges that Fruman and Parnas schemed to donate money to an unidentified U.S. congressman, at the same time they were asking that congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job.
9:10 a.m.: Trump lashes out at Fox News in response to impeachment poll finding
Trump lashed out Thursday morning at Fox News in the wake of a new poll that showed 51 percent of voters want to see Trump impeached and removed from office.
“From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,” Trump tweeted. “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.”
He went on to contend that Fox News is “much different than it used to be in the good old days,” citing a number of commentators on the network who have been critical of him.
“It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I’m President!” Trump said.
9:05 a.m.: Trump seizes on comments by leader of Ukraine
Trump seized on comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Fox News report to claim that talk of impeachment should “immediately end.”
As part of a day-long event with media inside a Kiev food market, Zelensky told reporters there was “no blackmail” when Trump pressed him to investigate the Bidens at a time when U.S. military aid was suspended.
In his tweet, Trump quoted the lead of the Fox News story: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters Thursday his controversial July call with President Trump involved no bribe, blackmail or quid pro quo, as impeachment-minded Democrats claim.”
“This should immediately end the talk of impeachment!” Trump added in his own words.
9 a.m.: House Republican leaders launch fresh attacks on Democrats over impeachment
Top House Republicans launch fresh attacks on Democrats over impeachment on Thursday, seeking to portray the chamber’s leaders as so focused on ousting Trump that they are unable to get anything else done.
“Democrats are so obsessed over impeaching President Trump, they’ve turned their back on the border crisis,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted.
His tweet came minutes after House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) shared a two-year-old video on Twitter of Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) calling for Trump’s removal from office.
“Democrats were already trying to impeach @realDonaldTrump without a reason back in MAY 2017,” Scalise wrote on Twitter. “This has always been about politics and power for them — not the facts.”
8:30 a.m.: Omar re-ups impeachment call ahead of Trump rally in her district
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) went on Twitter on Thursday morning to preempt an expected attack on her at Trump’s Minneapolis rally and to remind voters that she has called for impeaching the president.
Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia, has been in Trump’s crosshairs for months and was the subject of a “send her back” chant at a Trump rally in North Carolina in July.
“Trump will see his rally in my district today as an opportunity to attack me,” Omar tweeted Thursday morning, hours before Trump was scheduled to depart the White House. “But no smear will ever stop me from working toward what I’m in Congress to do.”
She listed several of her priorities, ending with “Impeach Trump.”
7 a.m.: Trump hits campaign trail for first time since inquiry opened
Ahead of his planned campaign rally in Minneapolis, Trump posted a video on Twitter on Wednesday night that features a montage of photos from past events with large crowds of enthusiastic supporters.
The two-minute video is set to the renowned Queen song, “We Will Rock You.”
Thursday night’s rally will be the first since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment inquiry against Trump on Sept. 24.
It marks a rare campaign appearance in a state that Trump did not carry in 2016. His campaign, however, is pouring significant resources into Minnesota in hopes of putting it into play next year.
6 a.m.: George Conway and other prominent conservatives call for ‘expeditious’ impeachment probe
More than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers, including George T. Conway III, offered their legal reasoning for an “expeditious” impeachment probe into Trump, creating a document they hope will be read by Republicans who continue to stand by the president.
The 16 attorneys, many of whom worked in Republican administrations, wrote in a joint statement released Thursday morning that Trump’s now infamous call with Zelensky, the text messages between diplomats and Trump’s public call for China to investigate a political opponent are “undisputed” events that amount to Trump violating his oath of office.
“We have not just a political candidate open to receiving foreign assistance to better his chances at winning an election, but a current president openly and privately calling on foreign governments to actively interfere in the most sacred of U.S. democratic processes, our elections,” they wrote.
5:45 a.m.: Biden campaign slams New York Times for op-ed by conservative author behind Ukraine claims
As Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at Biden and his son, he’s often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer.
So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about the Bidens, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign cried foul.
In a letter sent to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Biden’s campaign called Schweizer a “discredited right-wing polemicist” and suggested the op-ed was part of a larger pattern of “journalistic malpractice.”
“Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks that accompany it?” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, wrote in the Wednesday letter.
6:30 a.m.: 51 percent of voters want Trump removed from office, Fox News poll finds
A Fox News poll is the latest to show growing support for ousting Trump.
Fifty-one percent of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, according to the poll released Wednesday night.
That number has risen from 42 percent in a July poll by the network.
Fox noted that support for impeachment has risen since July among several of Trump’s key constituencies, including white evangelical Christians (up five percentage points), white men without a college degree (up eight points) and rural whites (up 10 points).
5 a.m.: Ousted Ukraine envoy expected to testify in impeachment probe despite White House vow not to cooperate, congressional aides say
Congressional investigators expect that Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, will appear as planned for a Friday deposition in the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry, despite the White House’s emphatic pledge not to cooperate with Democrats’ efforts to investigate Trump, according to congressional officials involved with the process.
Yovanovitch and her lawyer are “on board,” according to a senior congressional aide, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. State Department officials would not address questions about the matter, and efforts to contact Yovanovitch on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
White House lawyer Pat Cipollone issued a letter to Democrats on Tuesday outlining the Trump administration’s objections to the impeachment inquiry, calling it unconstitutional and vowing to reject congressional requests to cooperate.
House Democrats have deposed only Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who resigned his post late last month and then provided the committees with copies of text messages he exchanged with other diplomats, Trump personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and a top aide to Zelensky.
— Karoun Demirjian and Carol Morello