Live updates: Top Democrat warns White House ‘we’re not fooling around’ on impeachment inquiry – The Washington Post
Trump tweeted insults at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schiff as they held a late-morning news conference, then lashed out at them again during an event in the Oval Office. Pelosi said in a television interview that she believes Trump is “scared” of the inquiry.
3 p.m.: With no evidence, Trump accuses Schiff of having helped write whistleblower complaint
At a fiery joint news conference late Wednesday afternoon with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Trump continued to lash out at Schiff, accusing him, with no evidence, of having helped write the whistleblower’s complaint.
Trump made the comment in response to a question about a New York Times report stating that Schiff had learned the outlines of the whistleblower’s concerns days before the individual filed a formal complaint.
“Well, I think it’s a scandal that he knew before,” Trump said of Schiff. “I’d go a step further. I think he probably helped write it, okay? That’s what the word is. … He knew long before, and he helped write it, too. It’s a scam. It’s a scam.”
Schiff said in a statement ahead of the news conference that “at no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance,” and that his panel did not receive the complaint until the night before acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified last Thursday.
The whistleblower first contacted the Intelligence Committee “for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,” Schiff said.
“This is a regular occurrence, given the Committee’s unique oversight role and responsibilities,” he said, adding that “consistent with the Committee’s long-standing procedures, Committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel.”
2:10 p.m.: Pelosi said Trump ‘scared’ of impeachment inquiry
Pelosi said during a television interview Wednesday that she believes Trump is “scared” of the impeachment inquiry being led by House Democrats.
“I think the president knows the argument that can be made against him, and he’s scared,” Pelosi said in an interview with ABC News, excerpts of which were released Wednesday afternoon. “And so he’s trying to divert attention from that to where [he’s] standing in the way of legislation.”
ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi whether Trump had fear in his voice when the two spoke last week before her announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry in response to the whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s call with Zelensky.
“I saw the surprise in his voice that he didn’t understand that I thought what he did was wrong,” Pelosi said. “That he was undermining our national security, that he was undermining our Constitution by his actions, and he was undermining the integrity of our elections. He just didn’t see it.”
1:30 p.m.: California’s governor offers a rejoinder to Trump
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) took to Twitter to respond to Trump’s comments about him during a 13-minute stretch of Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Niinistö in which they fielded questions from reporters.
In the midst of insults directed at Pelosi and Schiff, Trump also derided Newsom as “a do-nothing” as he complained about a California law that would keep him off the primary ballot in the state next year if he doesn’t publicly release his taxes.
“Hello @realDonaldTrump…heard you just gave me a shout out in the Oval Office,” Newson tweeted. “Actually watched your press conference — mainly just feel bad for the poor President of Finland who had to endure that. Today, we are all Sauli Niinistö.”
12:50 p.m.: Trump says identity of the whistleblower’s sources should be public
Trump, during an event in the Oval Office, called for the identity of those who provided information to the whistleblower to be publicly disclosed.
“This country has to find out who that person was, because that person’s a spy, in my opinion,” Trump told reporters while visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö looked on.
The whistleblower said his complaint was based on conversations with more than a half dozen U.S. officials.
In his remarks Wednesday, Trump acknowledged that there is value in protecting the identity of whistleblowers in some cases.
“I think a whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower’s legitimate,” he said.
Trump also expanded on grievances aired earlier Wednesday on Twitter and took repeated shots at Schiff and Pelosi.
The president called Schiff “a low life” and a “shifty dishonest guy” and again called for him to resign.
Among other things, Trump took issue with Schiff having criticized Pompeo, saying “that guy couldn’t carry his blank strap.” Trump said he was trying to sanitize a common phrase about carrying a jock strap.
Trump suggested Pelosi should focus on her San Francisco-area congressional district, where he said there are people living in tents and “people dying in squalor.”
12:15 p.m.: State Department employees feel caught in the middle, diplomat says
Many State Department employees feel that they are caught in the middle of a political battle between the agency and House committees, said a U.S. diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity to comment frankly about the adverse impact on morale.
Career Foreign Service officers are expected to follow the direction of State Department leadership and respond to congressional requests. It may not be possible to do both now.
“People are not politicized, and they’re very anxious not to be,” the diplomat said, referring to a number of clashes, including the impeachment inquiry, the pressure on Ukraine that led to the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Kiev and a reopened investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. “They want to do their jobs, serve their country and not be pulled into this.”
The diplomat has not spoken to anyone who feels bullied and intimidated, as Pompeo characterized the reaction to congressional outreach.
But the diplomat said employees expect Pompeo to defend them more vociferously than he has so far. The gold standard, still recalled with admiration in Foggy Bottom, the diplomat said, was set by George Shultz when he was secretary of state. In 1985, he threatened to resign over a Reagan administration proposal to require lie detector tests for all employees with access to highly classified information.
“The idea is that the secretary of state should stand up for them,” the diplomat said. Of Pompeo, he added: “There have been some generic comments, but nothing specific. The expectation is he should say more, and do more.”
— Carol Morello
11:50 a.m.: Trump insults Pelosi and Schiff, uses profanity to describe inquiry
Trump continued to hurl insults at Pelosi and Schiff as they conducted their news conference, and he later referred to the impeachment inquiry as “BULLSHIT.”
Writing on Twitter, Trump dismissed comments by Pelosi that House Democrats continue to want to work with the White House on trade and lowering prescription drug prices.
“She is incapable of working on either,” Trump said of Pelosi. “It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment. The Do Nothing Democrats are stuck in mud!”
Trump also sought to make the case that Schiff compares unfavorably to Pompeo.
“Adam B. Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honor and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” Trump tweeted. “For a lowlife like Schiff, who completely fabricated my words and read them to Congress as though they were said by me, to demean a First in Class at West Point, is SAD!”
At a hearing last week, Schiff presented an embellished version of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky. He later said it was meant as a parody and said that should have been apparent to Trump.
Shortly after the new conference wrapped up, Trump returned to Twitter.
“The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306,” he wrote, referring to the electoral college results in the election. “Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”
Trump’s tweet did not accurately convey the final electoral college results. Because of “faithless electors” who ended up voting for other persons, Clinton’s final electoral college tally was 227, reduced from 232, and Trump’s went from 306 to 304.
11:30 a.m.: Schiff says, ‘We’re not fooling around here’
Schiff warned the White House on Wednesday that stonewalling could lead to an additional article of impeachment on obstruction of justice.
“We’re not fooling around here,” Schiff said as he appeared with Pelosi at a news conference on Capitol Hill shortly after House Democrats announced that they would subpoena the White House for documents. The subpoena will go out this week or next, Schiff said.
Democrats, he added, “are deeply concerned about Secretary Pompeo’s effort now to potentially interfere with witnesses whose testimony is needed before our committee.”
Pelosi said Democrats “place ourselves in a time of urgency” and observed that the country’s founders never thought they would have a president “kick those guardrails” of checks and balances provided by the Constitution.
She noted that “we have to give the president the chance to exonerate himself,” but so far, he’s described his actions as “perfect.”
11:20 a.m.: Trump accuses Democrats of trying to hurt the country
Trump asserted Wednesday that the stock market was going down because of the impeachment inquiry and accused House Democrats of trying to deliberately hurt the county.
He latest tweet came as Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) held a news conference on Capitol Hill.
“All of this impeachment nonsense, which is going nowhere, is driving the Stock Market, and your 401K’s, down,” Trump tweeted. “But that is exactly what the Democrats want to do. They are willing to hurt the Country, with only the 2020 Election in mind!”
10:35 a.m.: Trump attacks Democrats ahead of Pelosi news conference
Trump went on Twitter to attack House Democrats shortly before Pelosi was scheduled to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
At a hearing last week, Schiff presented an embellished version of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky. He later said it was meant as a parody and said that should have been apparent to Trump.
“Congressman Adam Schiff should resign for the Crime of, after reading a transcript of my conversation with the President of Ukraine (it was perfect), fraudulently fabricating a statement of the President of the United States and reading it to Congress, as though mine! He is sick!” Trump tweeted.
He also shared a quote from Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College in New York state, who had appeared as a guest on Fox News.
“Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats haven’t met the standards of impeachment. They have to be very careful here,” read the quote.
10:30 a.m.: House Democrats to subpoena White House for documents in its impeachment inquiry focused on Ukraine
In a memo issued Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said that the White House’s “flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents — combined with stark and urgent warnings from the Inspector General about the gravity of these allegations — have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena.”
The subpoena will be issued Friday, according to Cummings’s memo.
The memo said the subpoena will seek documents that the committee first requested on Sept. 9.
9:30 a.m.: Eric Trump cites Republican fundraising as he taunts Democrats
The president’s son Eric Trump went on Twitter on Wednesday morning to taunt Democrats for their impeachment inquiry.
In a tweet, he attached an Associated Press news story about Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee having raised a record $125 million in the third quarter of the year.
“This is what happens when you manufacture nonsense… the American people see right through it. Keep it up @SpeakerPelosi,” Eric Trump wrote.
9:15 a.m.: State Department’s inspector general headed to Capitol Hill for afternoon meeting
Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, plans to meet with staffers of key House and Senate committees Wednesday at 3 p.m. at his request.
The committees were notified Tuesday that Linick wants “to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine,” according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.
The offer by Linick’s office, which operates mostly independently from the State Department and is responsible for investigating abuse and mismanagement, comes amid a standoff between Pompeo and House Democrats, who are demanding documents and testimony on Ukraine-related matters for their impeachment inquiry.
Linick’s office “obtained the documents from the acting legal adviser of the Department of State,” the letter said. The inspector general doesn’t have to seek Pompeo’s approval to approach Congress with information, especially if it is not classified.
It is unclear exactly what Linick will provide the committees, which include the panels in charge of foreign relations, intelligence, appropriations and oversight in the House and Senate. But the demand for any credible information related to Ukraine and the State Department is at a fever pitch as Democrats seek to build the case for Trump’s ouster based on his dealings with Ukraine’s leadership.
— Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson
9 a.m.: Trump focuses on other issues in first tweets of the day
Unlike previous days, impeachment did not dominate Trump’s early activity on Twitter on Wednesday.
He instead turned to other topics, including his promised border wall and a federal judge’s order to block a California law that would require Trump to release his tax returns for access to the state’s primary election ballot.
“I won the right to be a presidential candidate in California, in a major Court decision handed down yesterday,” Trump wrote. “It was filed against me by the Radical Left Governor of that State to tremendous Media hoopla. The VICTORY, however, was barely covered by the Fake News. No surprise!”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the state would appeal the ruling.
In early tweets, Trump also urged Louisiana voters to pick a Republican candidate in the state’s gubernatorial primary on Oct. 12. Candidates from both parties compete in the state’s “jungle primary.”
8:15 a.m.: Former staff members say it’s unusual for a secretary of state to listen in on a call with leader of small nation
Former staff members who worked on foreign leader calls said it is very unusual for a secretary of state to listen in on calls with leaders from a country as small as Ukraine.
Partly it is because the secretary of state’s schedule is very busy and rarely aligns with the president’s schedule of routine calls to heads of state, so they arrange only to be on major foreign leader conversations.
When Rex Tillerson was secretary of state, for example, he would coordinate plans to listen in on Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The former staffers on the National Security Council said Pompeo’s presence on this call suggests the subject or the purpose of the call had high importance to the president, and thus to him. The former staffers spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more candidly.
— Carol D. Leonnig
7:15 a.m.: Pompeo confirms he was on Trump’s July call with Zelensky
Pompeo acknowledged publicly for the first time Wednesday that he was on the July call between Trump and the leader of Ukraine.
Asked about the episode during a news conference in Rome, Pompeo said, “I was on the phone call.”
In response to a multipart question, he did not say whether he was comfortable with Trump’s pressing of Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.
Pompeo said the call focused on issues such as the threat that Russia poses to Ukraine and the need for Ukraine to root out corruption.
He said the United States would consider to pursue those issues “even while all this noise is going on.”
During a Sept. 22 appearance on ABC News’s “This Week,” Pompeo was asked what he knew about Trump’s conversation with Zelensky following an initial Wall Street Journal report that the call was part of a whistleblower complaint.
Pompeo responded by saying he hadn’t seen the whistleblower report. He later said he had seen a statement from the Ukrainian foreign minister that there was no pressure applied on Zelensky. Pompeo made no mention of being on the call.
During his news conference Wednesday, Pompeo also repeated his claims from a letter on Tuesday that House Democratic staffers have been seeking to intimidate State Department officials in their efforts to learn more about Trump’s call with Zelensky.
“We won’t tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying, intimidating State Department employees. That’s unacceptable, and it’s not something that I’m going to permit to happen.” Pompeo said.
6:30 a.m.: Country to hear directly from Trump, Pelosi on Wednesday
The country will hear directly from the two leading figures in the impeachment drama — Trump and Pelosi — at separately scheduled news conferences on Wednesday.
Pelosi plans to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill at 10:45 a.m. She will be accompanied by Schiff, who has become the public face for Democrats in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump, meanwhile, has a 2 p.m. joint news conference scheduled with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who is visiting the White House on Wednesday. Trump is certain to get questions from U.S. journalists about the impeachment drive.
6:15 a.m.: Critics blast Trump for calling his impeachment inquiry a ‘COUP’
Trump claimed he was a victim of a coup d’etat on Tuesday night, continuing his dramatic rhetoric that has drawn fierce pushback from legal scholars and Democrats since the House impeachment inquiry began last week.
“As I learn more and more each day,” he wrote on Twitter, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of the United States of America!”
Critics disputed the president’s tweet by pointing to basic definitions of a coup d’etat, a violent illegal overthrow of the government by an opposing group, and impeachment, a legal process laid out in the Constitution. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a presidential hopeful, even suggested Trump should not be allowed to make such a remark on Twitter, sharing his “COUP” tweet with CEO Jack Dorsey.
6 a.m.: Giuliani suggests suing Democrats over Ukraine probe
On Tuesday night, Rudolph W. Giuliani proposed an unusual legal strategy in response to the ongoing investigation into President Trump’s dealings in Ukraine: suing Democratic members of Congress.
Speaking on the Fox News show “The Ingraham Angle,” Trump’s personal attorney said that he “had a couple of talks” with attorneys amid the accelerating impeachment probe and a House subpoena for his own personal records concerning Ukraine. Their recommendation, Giuliani said, was “that we should bring a lawsuit on behalf of the president and several people in the administration, maybe even myself as a lawyer, against the members of Congress individually for violating constitutional rights, violating civil rights.”
Host Laura Ingraham noted that Giuliani’s suggestion was “novel,” and that congressional immunity prevents House members from being sued for anything they say on the floor. But outside those parameters, Giuliani argued, they could be held liable for forming a “conspiracy” to deprive the president of his constitutional rights.