The latest news on the impeachment inquiry
- More than 20 Republican lawmakers refused to leave a secure hearing room to protest closed-door impeachment proceedings, delaying a deposition for more than five hours.
- The top Republicans demanded Democrats call the whistleblower to testify publicly.
- In a 15-page opening statement earlier in the week, William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified on Tuesday that he grew increasingly alarmed over efforts by U.S. officials to pressure Ukraine into investigating President Trump’s rivals.
- On the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
Washington — House Republicans on Wednesday launched a two-pronged offensive against Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, staging a five-hour protest against the closed-door proceedings while issuing a formal request for the whistleblower’s public testimony.
The saga played out on Capitol Hill for most of the day Wednesday as Republican members gained access to a secure briefing room and refused to leave. The top Republicans on the committees leading the impeachment inquiry later wrote a letter to Democrat Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, requesting the whistleblower testify publicly, a demand that was certain to be dismissed outright.
Two dozen Republicans disrupted the impeachment inquiry by staging a “sit-in” in the hearing room where a Pentagon official was set to testify, protesting what they see as the secretive nature of the Democrats’ investigation.
Some of the GOP lawmakers brought their cell phones into the secure room, known as a “SCIF,” in violation of security protocols .House rules stipulate that only committee members and authorized staff members are permitted to attend depositions like the one on Wednesday.
The members delayed the deposition of Laura Cooper, a Defense Department official who deals with Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, for more than five hours before it eventually got underway Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s finally reached the point where members just said they’re so frustrated at the idea that they can’t be a part of this and see what’s going on,” said Republican Representative Jim Jordan, the ranking member of the Oversight Committee. “So we’re at a standstill. We’ll see what happens with today’s deposition.”
Later in the day, CBS News obtained a letter from the Republican ranking members of the committees demanding the whistleblower testify in public.
The request was the first time Republicans formally asked Democrats to call witnesses, a possible indication they intend to pursue more traditional channels to counter the investigation even as members seek to disrupt the proceedings themselves.
“As the so-called impeachment inquiry gathers information that contradicts the employee’s allegations, we ask that you arrange for the committees to receive public testimony from the employee and all individuals he or she relied upon in formulating the complaint,” the lawmakers wrote. As members of the minority, House Republicans do not have the authority to call witnesses themselves, unless given the power to do so by the Democratic majority.
Trump attacks impeachment inquiry overnight
6:12 a.m. The president was up late overnight, tweeting and retweeting attacks of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
“Just a continuation of the Witch Hunt!” he tweeted at 12:29 a.m., using one of his favorite phrases for the Russia investigation.
The president also spoke of the inquiry as an extension of a “witch hunt” in a speech Wednesday in Pennsylvania.
“I have witch hunts every week. I say, ‘what’s the witch hunt this week?'” the president said at a shale conference in Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon.
House GOP aide lays out impeachment strategy
Wednesday, 7:46 p.m.: An aide to the Republican leadership in the House spoke to CBS News about the Republican strategy for handling the impeachment inquiry.
There are daily staff-level meetings with staff from House GOP leadership and relevant committees to coordinate strategy and messaging on the impeachment inquiry, and weekly membership discussions at the regular conference meetings.
The aide, who was granted anonymity to describe internal processes, confirmed reports that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sends out an email every morning to the entire GOP conference with talking points on impeachment. Asked about a reported daily list of talking points from House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney, the source pushed back, saying Cheney sends out a daily fact-based document with a recap of the day’s news for the full conference.
The aide said House GOP members have been clear about their message, which has also been the focus of McCarthy’s daily talking points: Democrats have been obsessed with impeaching the president from day one; they’re ignoring what the American people sent them here to do; and the process is unfair and not transparent, since hearings are being held behind closed doors.
The source also said Republican actions have backed up those talking points, citing an effort to censure Schiff, Wednesday’s storming of the SCIF and House GOP letters calling for a fair and open process.
The official touted the White House counsel’s October 8 letter saying the executive branch wouldn’t cooperate with the probe as one example of something the White House did that was helpful to members, as it gave them something to go on the offensive, particularly regarding the inquiry’s process. The source called the letter “very helpful.”
But 10 witnesses have testified as part of the impeachment inquiry despite the letter. Asked if Republicans are concerned about the effectiveness of their strategy, the aide was unconcerned, saying the letter was still a tool to prevent many current officials — such as acting budget director Russell Vought — from having to testify. And even though there are still some officials who are testifying, the letter serves another purpose, allowing House Republicans to make the case to the American people that the impeachment inquiry is a “scam.” — Sara Cook
Republicans demand Democrats call whistleblower to testify publicly
Wednesday, 6:34 p.m.: The top Republicans on the House committees pursuing the impeachment inquiry are demanding the public testimony of the whistleblower who reported concerns about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, as well as other officials referenced in the individual’s complaint, according to a letter obtained by CBS News.
The request is the first time Republican lawmakers involved in the impeachment probe have formally asked Democrats to call witnesses, a possible indication they intend to pursue more traditional channels to counter the investigation even as members seek to disrupt the proceedings themselves.
Republicans Jim Jordan, Devin Nunes and Michael McCaul wrote a letter on Wednesday to Democrat Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, demanding to hear from the whistleblower, an employee in the intelligence community whose identity remains unknown.
“As the so-called impeachment inquiry gathers information that contradicts the employee’s allegations, we ask that you arrange for the committees to receive public testimony from the employee and all individuals he or she relied upon in formulating the complaint,” the lawmakers wrote. As members of the minority, House Republicans do not have the authority to call witnesses themselves, unless given the power to do so by the Democratic majority. — Arden Farhi, Stefan Becket and Kathryn Watson
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Committee official says Republicans violated House rules
Wednesday, 2:36 p.m.: An Intelligence Committee official told CBS News that the House Parliamentarian ruled that the GOP lawmakers who entered the secure hearing room did so “in violation of House deposition rules.”
“After yesterday’s devastating testimony by Ambassador Taylor, over two dozen House Republican Members sought to prevent another witness from cooperating by forcing their way into the Intelligence Committee spaces in violation of house deposition rules. The stunt, in service of the President’s demand that they ‘fight harder’ to obstruct a legitimate impeachment inquiry, has meant that the witness has had to wait for hours for them to leave,” the official said.
“They engage in this circus-like behavior because they can’t defend the President’s egregious misconduct. The House Parliamentarian has ruled that these members are in violation of House deposition rules,” the official continued.
Several members brought cellphones into the SCIF, and the official said those who refused to remove their devices while in the room had committed a “major security breach.”
Separately, a staffer told CBS News that Cooper, the witness, is still in the room and Democrats would like her to testify if possible, considering she took the day off work and hired a lawyer. — Rebecca Kaplan and Grace Segers
Giuliani associates plead not guilty to campaign finance charges
Wednesday, 2:10 p.m.: Two business associates of Rudy Giuliani pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges they illegally funneled foreign donations to political committees supporting Mr. Trump and other Republicans.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, wearing dark suits and ties and flanked by their attorneys, were arraigned on the federal indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
“I look forward to defending myself in court,” Parnas said outside the courthouse following the arraignment. “I’m certain that in time the truth will be revealed and I will be vindicated. In the end I put my faith in God.”
Parnas was joined by his attorney Joseph Bondy who said he looks forward to defending Parnas “based on the evidence … not a smear campaign driven by misleading self serving leaks apparently from the highest levels of government.”
Parnas and Fruman were arrested earlier this month at Dulles International Airport as they were preparing to board oversees flights. They exchanged a few words together as they sat at the defense table with their attorneys. Fruman is represented by Todd Blanche, who is also representing Paul Manafort in a financial fraud case. — Pat Milton
Read the full story here.
House Democrats demand documents from State Department
Wednesday, 12:43 p.m.: The House committees conducting the impeachment investigation wrote a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan Wednesday saying they have identified specific documents as a result of their investigation that were withheld when the State Department refused to comply with a subpoena.
“Because the Committees have gathered evidence about the direct relevance of these documents, including highly significant information contained in these materials that pertain to allegations that the President abused the power of his office for personal political benefit, the Committees may draw the inference that their nonproduction indicates that these documents support the allegations against the President and others,” the chairs of three committees wrote in the letter.
The documents requested include write-ups of meetings related to the Ukraine investigation, as well as email correspondence, text messages, diplomatic cables and memoranda by State Department officials. — Rebecca Kaplan and Grace Segers