Report: Mike Pompeo Planning to Resign as Secretary of State

H8 mike pompeo secretary state time magazine resigning senate kansas

Time magazine is reporting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to resign from the Trump administration and run for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas next year. Pompeo has come under fire during the ongoing impeachment hearings against President Trump, with many criticizing him for failing to defend State Department officials and protect U.S. policies against Trump’s efforts to politicize foreign affairs. Pompeo has not publicly confirmed his planned resignation.

Trump backers Jon Voight and James Patterson honoured with national medal

Voight is one of Trump’s few vocal Hollywood supporters, and has hailed him as ‘the greatest president of this century’.

Jon Voight poses before the premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in Los Angeles [File: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters]
Jon Voight poses before the premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in Los Angeles

Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, singer and musician Alison Krauss and mystery writer James Patterson are among the artists and philanthropists being honoured by President Donald Trump for their contributions to the arts or the humanities, the first recipients of prestigious national medals since Trump took office.

The White House announced four recipients of the National Medal of Arts and four of the National Humanities Medal in a statement on Sunday night.

Voight is one of Trump’s few vocal Hollywood backers, and has hailed him as “the greatest president of this century”.

Trump is also honouring the musicians of the US military, who frequently entertain at White House events.

He will award the medals during a ceremony at the White House on Thursday.

While the honours had been an annual affair during past administrations, they have not been awarded since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

The most recent arts or humanities medals were bestowed by President Barack Obama in September 2016.

The recipients of the National Medal of Arts are:

  • Alison Krauss, the bluegrass-country singer and musician, “for making extraordinary contributions to American music”. The White House misspelled her name in its release.
  • Sharon Percy Rockefeller “for being a renowned champion of the arts, generous supporter of charity, and a pioneer of new ideas and approaches in the field of public policy”.
  • The Musicians of the United States Military “for personifying excellence in music and service to country”.
  • Jon Voight “for his exceptional capacity as an actor to portray deeply complex characters”. He starred in Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 film that won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and he won the Best Actor Oscar for 1978’s Coming Home. He appears in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

The recipients of the National Humanities Medal are:

  • The Claremont Institute “for championing the Nation’s founding principles and enriching American minds”.
  • Teresa Lozano Long “for supporting the arts and improving educational opportunities” through scholarships and philanthropy.
  • Patrick O’Connell, the chef at The Inn at Little Washington, “for being one of the greatest chefs of our time”.
  • James Patterson “for being one of the most successful American authors of our time”. He wrote a book about Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier who killed himself while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls. The book includes several references to Trump, including an account of the men’s falling out.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities solicit candidates for the medals and compile proposed winners.

The White House, which sometimes adds its own nominees, traditionally approves and announces them before a presidential ceremony.

Trump has had an uneasy if not hostile relationship with many in the arts and the humanities who oppose his policies and have denounced his presidency.

He has been largely shunned by Hollywood and has skipped events like the annual Kennedy Center gala that is one of Washington’s premier social gatherings after some honourees said they would not attend if Trump was part of the ceremony.

Trump may be Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ biggest re-election hurdle

Add in the impeachment inquiry, and the Republican has more to worry about than just her Democratic challengers

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, hands out candy to children outside her office during an Oct. 25 trick-or-treat event hosted by the local chamber of commerce in Lewiston. Associated Press/David Sharp

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, hands out candy to children outside her office during an Oct. 25 trick-or-treat event hosted by the local chamber of commerce in Lewiston.

LEWISTON — Republican Sen. Susan Collins has a well-funded Democrat prepping to challenge her next year. She has national women’s groups ready to attack her over her vote for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And she’s a moderate facing an electorate that increasingly prioritizes purity.

Still, the four-term Maine senator’s biggest hurdle to re-election may be the president of her own party.

President Trump’s potential impeachment in the House and subsequent trial in the Senate presents a distinct dilemma for Collins. Of the handful of Republicans senators facing re-election next year, she has done perhaps the most to keep a clear distance from Trump. But as Democrats charge ahead toward impeachment, it looks increasingly likely that Collins will be forced to take sides in dramatic fashion. The senator, who has acknowledged she didn’t vote for the president in 2016 and still won’t say whether she will next year, may have to vote for him on the Senate floor.

“Susan Collins is in a terrible position,” said David Farmer, a Democratic operative in Maine. “The position that she’s in where she will likely … take a vote on whether to remove the president from office is going to inflame either the Democratic or the Republican base.”

Collins has kept mum on the House inquiry into whether the president abused his power by trying to get the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter because of her potential role as an impeachment juror.

But she’s already shown a willingness to criticize the president on various issues. She said it was “completely inappropriate” for Trump to ask China to investigate the Bidens. And she said his decision to pull U.S. troops from the border in Syria and leave Kurds open to attack was “terribly unwise.”

Trump often lashes out at those who criticize him, even those in his own party, like Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

But he has not attacked Collins, yet.

Collins’ aides shrug off questions of how presidential politics could factor into her race, and the 66-year-old senator said she’s built her career on an independence valued by Mainers.

“I just have to run, should I decide to run, my own race. And that’s what I’ve always done regardless of who’s on the top of the ticket,” she told The Associated Press.

She has said she plans to formally announce whether she’s seeking re-election later this fall.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has thrown its support behind Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. The three other Democratic candidates are activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman and a late-comer, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse.

For her part, Gideon has been touting her progressive credentials in her fundraising, but she’s stopped shy of supporting Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, though she says climate change and universal health care are important to her.

She’s unequivocal on Trump.

She supports the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry – and accuses Collins of failing to stand up to Trump. “In the times that we’ve needed her the most, since (Trump) has become president, she’s not delivering for us,” Gideon told a gathering in Portland.

Gideon raised $1 million more than Collins in the most recent reporting cycle. But Collins has raised far more money – $8.6 million – the largest of any political candidate in Maine history. Pundits suggest upward of $80 million to $100 million could be spent on this race before Election Day 2020.

Democrats see an opportunity as Collins navigates a potentially precarious path in a fractured state where Trump is reviled in liberal, coastal communities and cheered in the conservative, heavily wooded north.

Try as she might, she won’t be able to avoid Trump, who’s expected to campaign in Maine, where he claimed one of the state’s four electoral votes in 2016.

Josh Tardy, a Bangor attorney and former Republican leader in the Maine House, said Mainers expect Collins to demonstrate “due diligence” on her constitutionally imposed obligations when it comes to impeachment.

But he downplayed the impact in her race.

“I think most people view this impeachment as partisan tit for tat. I don’t think that’s (going) to drive the election needle one way or the other,” he said.

In Lewiston, a former mill town on the Androscoggin River, the senator’s challenges were clear even at a recent event hosted by the local chamber of commerce.

Collins appeared at ease as she handed out Halloween candy to children, posed for selfies and chatted with the adults. But some voters were less so.

Hillary Dow said she was “troubled” by a key vote that incensed Democrats – Collins’ support of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault during the Supreme Court confirmation process. But she said she continues to back Collins because of the bigger picture – her moderate views, her bipartisanship, her track record.

“I appreciate that she’s honest and fair, and she focuses on what really matters. She’s a good person,” she said.

But one man who sought out Collins for a photo later acknowledged he might not vote at all because he’s so frustrated with national politics.

“I’m not sure if I trust anyone anymore, as far as the politicians go,” said restaurant worker Craig Aleo. “It’s a tough world right now.”

Collins conceded it’s a difficult time for a politician who has made a career trying to broker legislative deals.

“The current environment is very disturbing to me. There’s a lack of focus on what we need to do for the American people, and instead the focus is on power struggles over who’s going to control what,” she said.

Collins hails from Caribou, in the conservative 2nd Congressional District that voted for Trump. That’s where her parents served as mayor, and where her family still runs the S.W. Collins hardware store.

Ousting Collins from Maine politics, where her roots run deep, is no small task.

Cynthia Noyes, who describes herself as “liberal in Republican clothing,” fears that her friend from high school is more vulnerable this election cycle. But the Caribou flower shop owner still supports Collins, and she hopes other independent-minded voters will support her as they have in the past.

“Do what’s right and you’ll be OK. Mainers are like that. If they think you’re doing the right thing, then you’ll be OK,” she said.

Trump defends Biden over North Korea’s ‘rabid dog’ jibe

Joe Biden and Donald TrumpJoe Biden is seen as Donald Trump’s biggest rival in the Democratic race for the 2020 presidential election nomination

As the race for the 2020 presidential election gathers pace, the bitter war of words between US President Donald Trump and his main political rival Joe Biden is expected to escalate.

Seen as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Mr Biden has been the main target of Mr Trump’s verbal broadsides so far.

But some insults, it seems, go too far, even for President Trump.

On Sunday Mr Trump tweeted a rare, albeit backhanded, defence of Mr Biden in response to a vicious verbal attack by North Korea.

The surprising tweet was addressed to “Mr Chairman”, an apparent reference to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

In the tweet, Mr Trump said although Mr Biden was “sleepy and very slow”, he was “not a rabid dog”, as North Korea had called him.

The president’s comments were included in a retweet of a conservative commentator’s post about North Korea’s attack on Mr Biden.

North Korea had lambasted Mr Biden for having the “temerity to dare slander the dignity” of its leader, Mr Kim.

“Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about,” a statement, carried North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, said on Thursday. “They must be beaten to death with a stick.”

Watch the moment Donald Trump met King Jong-un and stepped foot inside North Korea

It is not clear what drew the ire of North Korea, though Mr Biden has been critical of the Trump-Kim summits this year and last.

In response to the North Korean jibe, Mr Biden said he saw such insults “as a badge of honour”.

In contrast, Mr Trump’s relationship with Mr Kim has been more amicable as he seeks to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons through summitry rather than threats.

Mr Trump has lavished Mr Kim with compliments, describing him as “very sharp” and a “real leader”.

Mr Biden, on the other hand, has frequently been on the receiving end of Mr Trump’s jibes.

The impeachment inquiry, which centres on whether Mr Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Mr Biden and his son, has intensified their long-running feud.

US election 2020: Democrats respond to Obama’s warning

Bernie Sanders: “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.”

Elizabeth Warren (L), Bernie Sanders (C) and Julian Castro (R) are all contending for the Democratic presidential nomination

Elizabeth Warren (L), Bernie Sanders (C) and Julián Castro (R) are all contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination

Democratic presidential candidates have given their reaction to a warning by former President Barack Obama against moving too far left in politics.

Mr Obama’s rare intervention into the Democratic race was a talking point at campaign events on Saturday.

Some Democrats called for unity, while others defended their policy agenda.

Nearly 20 candidates remain in the running and there is much debate over the best approach to taking on President Trump next year.

Speaking at a fundraising forum in Washington, the former president – considered a moderate – cautioned candidates against pursuing polices that were not “rooted in reality”.

Mr Obama, who was in office from 2009 to 2017, said “ordinary Americans” didn’t want to “completely tear down the system”.

“This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” Mr Obama said to an audience of wealthy donors on Friday.

Watch former US President Barack Obama talk about “woke” culture

The remarks represented Mr Obama’s most pointed intervention yet in a crowded race featuring 18 candidates.

Former vice-president Joe Biden and senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are leading the pack, but Mr Obama is yet to publicly back a candidate.

How did candidates respond to Mr Obama?

Although none of the Democratic candidates explicitly rebuked Mr Obama’s comments, Mr Sanders mounted the strongest defence of his policy platform.

Answering questions on a forum aired by Univision, a Spanish-language TV network, he was asked whether Mr Obama was “right” to say voters didn’t want systemic change.

Mr Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist and progressive, laughed and said: “Well, it depends on what you mean by tear down the system.”

Democratic presidential hopeful, Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders speaks at the California Democratic Party 2019 Senator Bernie Sanders insisted that he was “fighting for justice”, not seeking to tear down the system

“The agenda that we have is an agenda supported by the vast majority of working people,” he said. “When I talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, I’m not tearing down the system. We’re fighting for justice.”

Elizabeth Warren, another left-leaning frontrunner, struck a more conciliatory tone, choosing to praise Mr Obama’s trademark health care policy, the Affordable Care Act.

“I so admire what President Obama did,” Ms Warren said at a campaign event in Iowa, the New York Times reported.

“He is the one who led the way on health care and got health care coverage for tens of millions of Americans when nobody thought that was possible.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the Holiday Inn in Concord, New HampshireElizabeth Warren said she admired Barack Obama’s health care achievements

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said the party ought to be focusing its energy on defeating Republican President Donald Trump, not internal political squabbles.

“Let’s stop tearing each other down, let’s stop drawing artificial lines,” he said.

Unlike Mr Obama, Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said he was confident any Democratic candidate would beat President Trump, regardless of their political persuasion.

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks at the Liberty and Justice Celebration at the Wells Fargo ArenaJulián Castro said he was confident any Democratic candidate would beat Donald Trump

“Their vision for the future of the country is much better and will be more popular than Donald Trump’s,” Mr Castro, former housing secretary in the Obama administration, said.

Trump ally Roger Stone guilty of lying to Congress

A US jury also convicts the former Trump adviser of obstruction and witness tampering.

Roger Stone, longtime political ally of US President Donald Trump, arrives for his arraignment at US District Court in Washington, DC [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]
Roger Stone, longtime political ally of US President Donald Trump, arrives for his arraignment at US District Court in Washington, DC

United States jury convicted President Donald Trump‘s former adviser Roger Stone on Friday, finding the longtime Republican operative and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” guilty on seven criminal counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

The verdict, in a trial arising from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, is not only a blow to Stone but renews scrutiny on then-candidate Trump’s activities at a time when he faces an impeachment inquiry that could derail his presidency.

The 67-year-old veteran Republican political operative – a self-described “agent provocateur” – was charged earlier this year with obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee during its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump almost immediately reacted to the news, tweeting: “So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself?”

He added: “A double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?”

Colourful trial

Stone’s colourful trial in federal court in Washington, DC, was as much about the rough-and-tumble world of politics, as it was about hair-splitting legal arguments, such as whether Stone truly lied about WikiLeaks since that website was never explicitly mentioned in the intelligence committee’s publicly-stated parameters of its investigation.

The trial featured testimony by political heavyweights including former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon and former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates, each of whom said they believed Stone had inside information about when WikiLeaks might release more damaging emails about then-Republican candidate Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Roger Stone
Roger Stone, former adviser to President Donald Trump, and his wife Nydia Stone arrive at the court [Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP]

Prosecutors accused Stone of telling politicians five different lies related to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, which in 2016 dumped a series of damaging emails about Clinton that US intelligence officials and then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller later concluded had been stolen by Russian hackers.

Some of those lies relate to the existence of certain texts or emails, while others pertain to Stone’s conversations with Trump campaign officials and a supposed “intermediary” with WikiLeaks in early August 2016 whom Stone identified to politicians as being comedian Randy Credico.

Prosecutors said Stone did not actually start talking to Credico about WikiLeaks until later that month, and the actual person to whom he was referring in testimony as an “intermediary” was conservative author Jerome Corsi whom Stone dispatched in an email to “Get to Assange!” and get the emails.

Corsi was not called as a witness in the trial.

Trump ally Roger Stone charged with lying in Russia investigation

Stone, a close Trump ally who famously has the face of former president Richard Nixon tattooed on his back, was also accused of tampering with a witness, Credico, when Credico was summoned to testify before Congress and speak with the FBI.

Stone and Credico, who took the stand in the case, have since said that Credico did not act as a WikiLeaks backchannel.

In emails and texts, the jury saw messages that Stone had sent Credico that included comments like “Prepare to die”, “You’re a rat. A stoolie”, and “Stonewall it. Plead the Fifth. Anything to save the plan”, in a reference to a famous Nixon Watergate quote.

He also repeatedly urged Credico to “do a Frank Pentangeli” – a reference to a “Godfather II” character who recants his congressional testimony against a mobster amid intimidation.

A lawyer for Stone dismissed the Pentangeli reference, saying Credico had done impressions of the character in the past, and said the “odious language” they used was just part of how they interacted.

A federal judge scheduled Stone’s sentenced for February 2020.

Trump impeachment inquiry: 10 developments you may have missed

Transcripts, scheduled public hearings and more depositions: What happened this week in the Trump impeachment inquiry?

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Trump’s charitable foundation reached a deal on Tuesday, Dec. 18 to dissolve the foundation and distribute its remaining assets to other nonprofit groups. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) [The Associated Press]

FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Trump’s charitable foundation reached a deal on Tuesday, Dec. 18 to dissolve the foundation and distribute its remaining assets to other nonprofit groups. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) [The Associated Press]

Democrats leading the House of Representatives’s impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump took a significant step this week, announcing the first public hearings of the probe.

The hearings, scheduled for next week, come after House investigators released the transcripts from closed-door sessions with a number of key witnesses.

More:

This week’s developments also included a witness revising his testimony after his memory was “refreshed”, and a report that Trump sought a public declaration from the Department of Justice clearing him of any wrongdoing – a report the US president denied.

The impeachment investigation is focused on a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate former Vice President Biden, a leading Democratic rival, and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that had been investigated for corruption. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Trump froze nearly $400m in US military assistance to Ukraine shortly before speaking to Zelenskyy, prompting accusations from Democrats that he had misused taxpayer dollars destined for a vulnerable US ally for personal gain.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no “quid pro quo” (Latin for a “favour for a favour”) and labelled the inquiry a “witch-hunt”.

As the impeachment probe prepares to enter the public hearing phase, here are 10 key developments related to the probe from this week.

1. Public hearing schedule

Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment investigation, said the committee will hear from top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor and career department official George Kent next Wednesday and from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch next Friday.

All three state department officials had previously appeared in the closed-door sessions.

Stay up-to-date on the public hearing schedule here.

2. Gordon Sondland: A ‘refreshed’ memory

Gordon Sondland, a top ally of Trump and the US ambassador to the EU, had initially denied knowledge of any link between the Ukraine military aid and Trump’s request that the Eastern European country investigate the Bidens. But he revised his testimony this week, saying that “in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement”.

The details appeared to bolster the initial whistle-blower complaint that led to the investigation by three US House of Representatives committees. The testimony also corroborated other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into conducting investigations that appeared to be aimed at helping his re-election campaign.

sondland
Sondland, arrives for a joint interview with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill [File: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo]

The White House said the Sondland transcript undermined the impeachment inquiry. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham pointed to Sondland’s inability to say who ordered the aid to Ukraine be withheld and that he admitted he “presumed” there was a link between the demand for a statement from the Ukrainians and releasing the aid.

Trump ally Sondland admits tying Ukraine aid to Biden probe

“No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the president has done nothing wrong,” Grisham said in a statement.

Sondland sent a text message in September in which he said Trump insisted there was “no quid pro quos”.

But according to his testimony, he told a Ukrainian presidential adviser that the “resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks”.

Read more about Sondland’s testimony here.

3. Transcripts, transcripts and more transcripts

The transcripts of Kurt Volker, Michael McKinely, Marie Yovanovitch, William Taylor, George Kent, Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman were also released this week.

Kurt Volker

Volker, Trump’s former special representative for Ukraine negotiations, detailed what he described as the role of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as a conduit between Washington and Kyiv.

Volker and Sondland, with Trump’s secretary of energy, Rick Perry, were known as the “three amigos”, responsible for Trump’s unofficial channel to Ukrainian government officials, witnesses testified.

Volker
Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives for a closed-door interview with House investigators, as House Democrats proceed with the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump [File: Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Volker said his decision to resign on September 27 was because of the impeachment inquiry.

“I didn’t think I would be able to go to Ukraine or meet with Russians and be able to carry out those duties in that way anymore,” he said. He also said he wanted to provide testimony “with as much candour and integrity as I possibly could”.

Marie Yovanvitch

Yovanovitch, who was abruptly removed from her post as the US ambassador to Ukraine in May, told the inquiry on October 11 that she felt threatened by Trump describing her on the call to Zelenskyy as “bad news” a transcript showed.

“I was very concerned,” she said. “I still am.”

Yovanovitch
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

A previously released White House summary of the call showed that Trump told Zelenskyy that the ambassador was “bad news” and was going to “go through some things”.

Trump impeachment inquiry: What do the first transcripts show?

Yovanovitch also told investigators she had been told to “watch my back” and that people were “looking to hurt” her.

Michael McKinley

McKinley told the inquiry last month that he recommended a statement of support for the now-removed US ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch, but was told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided “better not to … at this time”.

“The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry; and, second, by what appears to be the utilisation of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives,” McKinley said, according to the transcript released by House committees.

William Taylor

Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, told the investigators he understood that the security assistance, and not just a White House meeting for Ukraine’s new president, was conditioned on the country committing to investigations of Joe Biden and the 2016 election.

“That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president committed to pursue the investigation,” Taylor said.

Amassador impeach
Ambassador William Taylor is escorted by US Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees [File: J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Politicians asked if he was aware that “quid pro quo” meant “this for that”.

US diplomat had ‘clear understanding’ of Ukraine quid pro quo

“I am,” Taylor replied.

George Kent

Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told the Trump impeachment inquiry that he was subject to attacks by Giuliani but was told to “keep my head down” by a senior State Department official.

Giuliani is central to the inquiry and has been mentioned frequently in testimony by State Department diplomats who have painted a picture of the former New York City mayor running a shadow US policy toward Ukraine to pressure it to carry out a corruption investigation into Biden and his son.

George Kent
George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, arrives to testify at a closed-door deposition as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Kent mentioned Giuliani 73 times.

“His assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period,” Kent testified, referring to the Trump lawyer.

“Mr Giuliani, at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies,” Kent said.

Giuliani has not commented on Kent’s testimony, but has said he played a role in the effort to remove Yovanovitch.

Kent said Ukrainian officials understood when they met Giuliani that he was not a regular private citizen and understood he represented Trump.

“Giuliani was not consulting with the State Department about what he was doing in the first half of 2019. And to the best of my knowledge, he’s never suggested that he was promoting US policy,” Kent said.

Kent also said that “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelenskyy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton”.

According to the transcripts, he added: “That was the message … Zelenskyy needed to go to a microphone and basically, there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”

Fiona Hill

Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, said that during a White House meeting, Trump’s then-National Security Adviser John Bolton “immediately stiffened” as Sondland “blurted out: Well, we will have an agreement” with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, “for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start” – a reference to the firm, Burisma, where Biden’s son was on a board.

Hill said then Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.

Alexander Vindman

Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, said he alerted superiors on two occasions, including after he listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskyy.

He also said there was “no ambiguity” that Sondland told Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens.

“There was no ambiguity. I guess, in my mind. He was calling for something, calling for an investigation that didn’t exist into the Bidens,” Vindman said.

He added that the US-Ukraine relations “is damaged” and “will continue to be damaged and undercut”.

4. More no-shows

A number of current and former Trump administration officials did not show up for their scheduled testimony this week, heeding to White House instructions to not comply with the investigation.

Among them was John Bolton, the former national security adviser who was forced out by Trump earlier this year.

A US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee official said that Bolton has threatened to take the committee to court if it subpoenas him. A congressional source to Reuters news agency said the inquiry is unlikely to go down that route.

The Washington Post, citing people familiar with Bolton’s views, said although he is willing, he wants to see how a court battle between Congress and the White House over the constitutionality of the subpoenas shakes out first. The battle is likely to go to the Supreme Court and could spill into next year.

President Donald  J. Trump (L) speaks as National security advisor John Bolton (R) listens during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
rump speaks as then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens during a meeting [File: Oliver Contreras/EPA-EFE]

Members of the committees conducting the inquiry have said they want to see if Bolton will corroborate previous witnesses’ testimony that he was alarmed at Trump asking a foreign government to get involved in domestic politics.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that Bolton’s lawyer said that his client was “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” pertaining the the impeachment inquiry.

Charles Cooper made the revelation in a letter that suggests Bolton will appear before Congress only if a judge orders him to do so.

The letter, addressed to the top lawyer for the House of Representatives, seeks to distinguish Bolton and former deputy Charles Kupperman from other current and former White House officials who have testified so far to impeachment investigators. The letter said that Bolton and Kupperman, unlike the other witnesses, provided direct advice to Trump regularly and would be asked during any congressional appearance to disclose sensitive foreign policy and national security information.

“As I emphasised in my previous responses to letters from the House Chairs, Dr Kupperman stands ready, as does Ambassador Bolton, to testify if the Judiciary resolves the conflict in favour of the legislative branch’s position respecting such testimony,” Cooper wrote.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, also failed to appear for a scheduled deposition.

Democrats subpoenaed Mulvaney late on Thursday as the White House signalled that he would not appear.

An official working on the inquiry told the Associated Press that Mulvaney’s lawyer informed the committees leading the impeachment probe one minute before the deposition was supposed to start that Mulvaney had been directed not to comply with the subpoena. The person said Mulvaney’s lawyer said he has “absolute immunity”, a claim that Democrats have challenged in court for other administration witnesses.

Mick Mulvaney - White House
Trump listens as Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney delivers a report during a Cabinet meeting [Shawn Thew/EPA]

Mulvaney said in a news conference last month that the Trump administration’s decision to hold up military aid was linked to Trump’s demand for the investigations. He later walked back his remarks, but Democrats said that was tantamount to a confession and have cited it as evidence in their inquiry.

5. Who did appear?

Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for Europe and Russia, did testify in a closed-door hearing in front of members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees after receiving a subpoena to compel her testimony.

Williams was one of a handful of US officials who listened in on the call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader.

Williams told investigators she found Trump’s July call with Zelenskyy unusual because it was political, not diplomatic in nature, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source.

But she did not raise concerns about the call with her superiors and, when asked what Pence knew, said she never heard him mention anything about investigations of the 2016 elections, Burisma or the Bidens.

Pence aide
Jennifer Williams, special adviser for Europe and Russia in the Office of US Vice President Mike Pence arrives on Capitol Hill [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

The State Department’s third-ranking official also testified this week.

David Hale met with investigators for more than six hours. He was expected to tell the House committees that political considerations were behind the State Department’s refusal to deliver a robust defence of former Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch.

6. Lev Parnas will comply: Reuters

Lev Parnas, an indicted Ukrainian American businessman who has ties to President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, is now prepared to comply with requests for records and testimony from congressional impeachment investigators, his lawyer told Reuters News Agency this week.

Parnas helped Giuliani look for dirt on Biden.

Rudy Giuliani has coffee with  Lev Parnas
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has coffee with Ukrainian American businessman Lev Parnas at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC [File: Aram Roston/Reuters]

His apparent decision to work with the congressional committees represents a change of heart. Parnas rebuffed a request from three House of Representatives committees last month to provide documents and testimony.

“We will honour and not avoid the committee’s requests to the extent they are legally proper, while scrupulously protecting Mr Parnas’s privileges including that of the Fifth Amendment,” said the lawyer, Joseph Bondy, referring to his client’s constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

7. Trump may release summary of April call with Zelenskyy

Trump said on Friday that he is considering releasing the transcript of an April call he had with Zelenskyy.

He says that if House investigators want to see a summary of the April 21 call, he has “no problem” giving it to them.

That call came three months before the July 25 call that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

U.S. President Trump meets with Ukraine's President Zelenskiy in New York City, New York
Zelenskyy speaks during a bilateral meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Trump on Friday also dismissed the significance of the impeachment inquiry testimony that has been released so far.

He said, “No one seems to have any first-hand knowledge” and claims that, “Every one of those people cancelled themselves out.”

He’s criticised Democrats in the House for planning public hearings, even though the White House pushed for them to happen.

8. Did Trump ask DOJ to publicly clear him?

Trump on Thursday denied a report that he wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference to declare he broke no laws during a July phone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Democrats.

Trump denies he wanted Barr to publicly clear him

Trump tweeted just after midnight that the story, first reported by The Washington Post, “is totally untrue and just another FAKE NEWS story with anonymous sources that don’t exist”.

The Washington Post reported that Barr rebuffed the request, which came in September around the time the White House released a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call. The paper, citing unidentified people familiar with the effort, said the request was relayed from the president to White House officials, and then to the Justice Department.

Read more here.

9. White House adds aides to deal with impeachment investigation

The White House is beefing up its communications staff as it tries to grapple with the ongoing House impeachment investigation.

Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, and Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman, are expected to join the White House communications team to work on “proactive impeachment messaging” and other special projects, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal staffing, said that the roles would be temporary and that Bondi and Sayegh would be working as special government employees.

10. Whistle-blower offers to take written questions

The whistle-blower has offered to answer written questions submitted by House Republicans, his lawyers said.

The surprise offer on Sunday, made to Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the intelligence committee leading the inquiry, would allow Republicans to ask questions of the whistle-blower without having to go through the committee’s Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff.