President Trump called on China on Thursday to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter in relation to the younger Biden’s business dealings during the tenure of the former vice president.
Trump’s comments came as Democrats accelerated an impeachment inquiry that was sparked by a whistleblower’s complaint that Trump had pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a similar investigation. Some Democrats said Trump’s latest comments had generated another potential article of impeachment.
As Trump spoke to reporters at the White House, Kurt D. Volker, who resigned last week as Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine, was being interviewed behind closed doors in front of three House committees. Volker was among the officials mentioned by name in the whistleblower’s complaint.
In a television interview that aired earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused her Republican colleagues of being loyal to Trump and not the Constitution.
●Trump involved Vice President Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, though officials say that Pence was unaware of allegations in the whistleblower complaint
●Odd markings, ellipses fuel doubts about the “rough transcript” of Trump’s Ukraine call
●Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani consulted on Ukraine with imprisoned Paul Manafort via a lawyer
4:30 p.m.: IRS whistleblower said to report that Treasury political appointee might have tried to interfere in audit of Trump or Pence
An Internal Revenue Service official has filed a whistleblower complaint reporting that he was told at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the president or vice president’s tax returns, according to multiple people familiar with the document.
Trump administration officials dismissed the whistleblower’s complaint as flimsy because it is based on conversations with other government officials. But congressional Democrats were alarmed by the complaint, now circulating on Capitol Hill, and flagged it to a federal judge. They are also discussing whether to make it public.
The details of the IRS complaint follow news of a separate, explosive whistleblower complaint filed in August by a member of the intelligence community. That complaint revealed Trump’s request to the Ukrainian president for an investigation of Biden and his son, which has spurred an impeachment probe on Capitol Hill.
Read more here.
— Jeff Stein, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey
4:05 p.m.: Trump bizarrely suggests Big Pharma is pushing his impeachment
Trump accused pharmaceutical companies of being behind the House Democrats’ push for impeachment because of his administration’s work to lower drug prices.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the hoax didn’t come a little bit from some of the people that we’re taking on,” Trump said during an event on Medicare in Florida. “They’re very powerful, they spend a lot of money, spend I think more money than any other group in the world actually in terms of lobbying and lobbying abilities.”
“And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the nonsense that we all have to go through, but that I go through, wouldn’t be surprised if it was from some of these industries like pharmaceuticals that we take on,” he continued.
Trump did not provide any evidence for his claim.
Holly Campbell, spokeswoman for PhRMA did not immediately respond to request for comment, but she told Politico that it was “a ridiculous question.”
3:45 p.m.: Pelosi swats down McCarthy’s call to cease impeachment inquiry
Pelosi began a letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) telling him that as members of Congress “we take a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and thus that is what the House is doing with its impeachment investigation.
“As you know, our Founders were specifically intent on ensuring that foreign entities did not undermine the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi wrote. “I received your letter this morning shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections. We hope you and other Republicans share our commitment to following the facts, upholding the Constitution, protecting our national security, and defending the integrity of our elections at such a serious moment in our nation’s history.”
Pelosi was responding to a letter Thursday morning from McCarthy asking that she suspend the inquiry until she fully explained how she intended the proceedings to go. McCarthy has complained that Pelosi decided to launch the probe without input from Republicans.
3 p.m.: Letter shows GOP senators in 2016 supported Biden’s efforts to oust Ukrainian prosecutor
A bipartisan letter dated Feb. 12, 2016, signed by Republican Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Mark Kirk (Ill.) and sent to Ukraine’s then-president Petro Poroshenko, asks him to make changes in the office of the top prosecutor.
The letter, first unearthed by CNN, shows that then-vice president Joe Biden was not alone in wanting Ukraine to oust its prosecutor over concerns about the corruption pervasive in the country.
The senators wrote to the Ukrainian president that they “urge you to press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and judiciary.”
Trump has said that Biden wanted the prosecutor ousted because he’d investigated a Ukrainian natural gas company that employed Biden’s son, Hunter. There has been no evidence found to support this accusation, and the letter shows that concerns about the prosecutor were widespread and bipartisan.
Notably, since it was revealed that Trump asked the Ukrainian president for help getting information about Biden and his son, Johnson has said he would consider opening a congressional investigation into Biden’s engagements with Ukraine.
2:50 p.m.: Pascrell says Virginia, District bar associations should sanction Barr
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) sent letters Thursday to the District of Columbia and Virginia bar associations calling for sanctions on Attorney General William P. Barr, accusing Barr of having “repeatedly violated” both bodies’ Rules of Professional Conduct.
“Mr. Barr’s pattern of lying and his corruption of the rule of law in America in service of one man is a betrayal of Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s warnings and unprecedented in our national life,” Pascrell said in the letters. “In carrying out that perversion, Mr. Barr has clearly violated [your] Rules of Professional Conduct he swore to uphold and should face the severest sanction your body can mete out: revocation of his law licensure.”
2:15 p.m.: Pence says Americans ‘have right to know’ about Biden and his son
Pence defended Trump when he was asked to respond to the president calling for China to investigate Biden and his family.
“I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position as vice president in the last administration,” Pence said during an event in Arizona. “That’s about looking backwards and understanding what really happened.”
The Post reported Wednesday that Trump had used Pence on several occasions to put pressure on Ukraine in an attempt to receive information about Biden.
2 p.m.: Trump mockingly admonishes supporter who yells, ‘Lock her up.’
On the same day that Trump invited another foreign country to help him gather information on Biden, the president invited cheers for a man who yelled, “Lock her up.”
Trump was speaking at an official government event ostensibly on Medicare, but it felt more like a political rally, with Trump going after his normal targets.
When a supporter yelled “lock her up” — the chant that originated in 2016 about Hillary Clinton — Trump smiled. Then he said the news media was going to attack him for smiling, so he invited the person who said it to stand.
The man waved his hand as the crowd cheered him.
“I’m admonishing you,” Trump said sarcastically as the crowd laughed. “Now the press can’t say I didn’t admonish.”
Later in his speech, when the crowd started chanting “four more years,” Trump encouraged them to drive the media “crazy” by saying, “eight more years or 12 more years. Sixteen would do it — you’d really drive them into the loony bin. And that’s why they do the impeachment crap, because they know they can’t beat us fairly.”
1:10 p.m.: FEC chair renews warning for candidates not to accept foreign election help
Trump’s remarks on China and Ukraine grabbed the attention of Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, who on Thursday retweeted a statement she had made in June warning candidates not to accept help from foreign governments.
“Is this thing on?” Weintraub tweeted, along with a microphone emoji.
Weintraub, a Democrat, had put out the statement in June, 24 hours after Trump told ABC News that he would not necessarily report to law enforcement if a foreign national offered him information on a political opponent.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office,” Weintraub wrote at the time. “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”
1:05 p.m.: Trump shares McCarthy’s call to suspend impeachment inquiry
After landing in Florida for an event on Medicare, Trump took to Twitter to share a letter from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) asking Pelosi to suspend the impeachment inquiry until she answers several questions about the process.
“Leader McCarthy, we look forward to you soon becoming Speaker of the House,” Trump wrote. “The Do Nothing Dems don’t have a chance!”
12:45 p.m.: Trump is counting on Republicans to look the other way, Amash says
Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a vocal Trump critic who left the Republican Party in July, said Thursday that Trump is counting on members of his party to turn a blind eye to his recent actions.
“He’s openly challenging our system of checks and balances,” Amash said of Trump in a tweet. “In plain sight, he’s using the powers of his public office for personal gain and counting on Republicans in Congress to look the other way.”
Before becoming an independent, Amash was the only Republican in Congress to have accused Trump of impeachable acts. He has not ruled out a 2020 presidential bid.
12:20 p.m.: McCarthy calls on Pelosi to suspend impeachment inquiry
As Democrats erupted over Trump’s latest comments, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Pelosi to suspend the impeachment inquiry until she answers questions about the process.
In a letter, McCarthy contended that Pelosi had “given no clear indication” as to whether the inquiry will follow historical precedents or offer due process to Trump.
“As you know, there have been only three prior instances in our nation’s history when the full House has moved to formally investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of a sitting President,” McCarthy wrote. “I should hope that if such an extraordinary step were to be contemplated a fourth time it would be conducted with an eye toward fairness, objectivity and impartiality.”
McCarthy listed 10 procedural questions, including whether Republicans would have “co-equal subpoena power” and whether Trump’s counsel would have the right to present evidence.
12:15 p.m.: Some Democrats say Trump ‘just created another article of impeachment’
As the dust settled on Trump’s South Lawn remarks, some House Democrats said his latest comments had generated another potential article of impeachment.
Many took to Twitter to voice disbelief at Trump’s call for China and Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens.
“@POTUS just created another article of impeachment by doing in public what he did in private,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) tweeted. “This time enlisting China to interfere in the 2020 election on behalf of his campaign. His disregard for the law is stunning. So much for his oath of office.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) referenced Trump’s remark during the 2016 campaign that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
“Trump didn’t shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. He shot himself in the foot on the White House South Lawn,” tweeted Yarmuth, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Shameful. Illegal. Dangerous.”
12:15 p.m.: Hillary Clinton weighs in
Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, took aim at the Republican who defeated her in an early afternoon tweet.
“Someone should inform the president that impeachable offenses committed on national television still count,” Clinton tweeted, referring to Trump’s call for China to investigate Biden and his son.
12:05 p.m.: Cheney ignores Trump comments, seeks to steer focus back to Biden
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, responded to Trump’s comments by ignoring them — and attempting to steer the focus back to Biden.
“If foreign entities attempted to influence US policy by paying Hunter Biden, the American people have a right to know,” Cheney said in a tweet. “Question for @SpeakerPelosi and @RepAdamSchiff — why do you think the Ukrainians and Chinese were paying Hunter Biden?”
Other Republicans continued to lash out at Schiff.
“Last week, @RepAdamSchiff did what he does best; mislead the American people,” Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) tweeted, adding that he’s a “proud co-sponsor” of a resolution “censuring him for his careless & deceitful remarks at last week’s impeachment hearing.”
11:55 a.m.: Biden, other Democratic White House hopefuls pounce on Trump’s comments
Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, pounced on Trump’s call for an investigation by China, calling it a further abuse of power.
“With his administration in free-fall, Donald Trump is flailing and melting down on national television, desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in a statement.
Several other candidates took to Twitter.
“Make no mistake: This is a threat. It’s an abuse of power. And it’s an impeachable offense,” tweeted former congressman Beto O’Rourke (Tex.).
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), meanwhile, pledged that Congress would hold Trump accountable.
“Mr. President, telling lies about Joe Biden won’t protect you from the truth,” she tweeted. “Joe has more patriotism in his pinky finger than you’ll ever have. You violate your oath and undermine American values when you urge foreign nations to do your dirty work. We will hold you accountable.”
11:45 a.m.: Schiff says Trump ‘cannot use the power of his office to pressure foreign leaders’ on investigations
Trump’s comments about China and Ukraine on Thursday prompted alarm among congressional Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who argued that the president was now openly inviting foreign interference in U.S. elections.
“The President cannot use the power of his office to pressure foreign leaders to investigate his political opponents,” Schiff said in a tweet. “His rant this morning reinforces the urgency of our work. America is a Republic, if we can keep it.”
Other House Democrats followed suit in voicing concern at the president’s statements.
“There it is,” Pascrell said in a tweet in which he shared video of Trump’s remarks. “My republican colleagues can lie and obfuscate all they want but their leader is now publicly calling on foreign governments to meddle in our elections.”
Another New Jersey Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., voiced similar sentiments. “Trump is now openly calling for foreign interference in our elections in a calculated effort to normalize his corruption,” Pallone tweeted. “This alone is impeachable. House Democrats will continue to investigate this president’s abuse of power.”
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) addressed Trump, tweeting, “I know this is a new concept for you, but in America, voters elect the president—not foreign countries.”
And Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) tweeted: “In democracies, presidents don’t dictate investigations into political rivals.”
11:15 a.m.: Intelligence community’s top lawyer offers assurances on not disclosing identity
The intelligence community’s top lawyer has assured the whistleblower’s legal team that “we will strenuously object to any attempts to disclose your client’s identity.”
That comes as Trump has demanded for days to meet the anonymous U.S. intelligence officer who brought the complaint against him.
In a Friday letter to the whistleblower’s lawyers obtained by The Washington Post, Office of the Director of National Intelligence General Counsel Jason Klitenic said, “Please know that we are coordinating with others to take protective measures designed to ensure your client’s safety and security.”
In a follow-up letter Monday to the whistleblower’s lead attorney, Andrew Bakaj, Klitenic reiterated that the protections apply not only to disclosures the whistleblower made to the intelligence community inspector general, but also to disclosures to Congress, as long as they are made to “cleared individuals in a secure facility.”
“We applaud the DNI’s support for protecting this and all other whistleblowers,” said Mark Zaid, another member of the legal team. “These letters reflect the sentiments of someone committed to the rule of law rather than politics.”
— Ellen Nakashima
10:30 a.m.: Trump calls for China to investigate the Bidens
Trump suggested Thursday that another foreign country should investigate Biden and his son Hunter, even though House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry against him over his request that the Ukrainian president do the same.
Biden is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters.
Trump’s allegations regarding Hunter Biden and China center on him joining the board of an investment firm whose partners included Chinese entities while his father was vice president. The president and his allies have provided no evidence to back up their claims of wrongdoing.
Trump made his comments to reporters as he prepared to depart the White House.
Asked what he wanted from Zelensky, Trump said, “I would think if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens.”
Trump added: “Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
Asked whether he had requested Chinese President Xi Jinping to help investigate the Bidens, Trump replied: “I haven’t, but it’s certainly something we can start thinking about, because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being under that kind of scrutiny.”
Trump also told reporters he had fired former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch because he “heard very bad things about her.”
Yovanovitch was recalled from her position in Ukraine this year amid political attacks by conservative media and other allies of Trump, including Giuliani, who targeted her with unsubstantiated accusations and argued that she “should be part of the investigation as part of the collusion.”
Yovanovitch is scheduled to appear before three House committees on Oct. 11 as part of the impeachment inquiry.
9:30 a.m. Giuliani accuses Democrats of running a ‘Star Chamber’
As Volker was scheduled to begin his deposition, Giuliani took to Twitter to accuse the Democratic-led committees of conducting a “Star Chamber” and shared a text exchange with Volker.
In his tweet, Giuliani echoed complaints of Republican lawmakers about their more limited role in the proceedings.
“This is a Star Chamber, illicit and part of their conspiracy to violate constitutional rights condoned by their media lamb dogs,” Giuliani added. “Kurt did nothing wrong.”
He included a text exchange with Volker in which Volker asked Giuliani if he were “back stateside” and suggested they “get together.”
In subsequent tweets, Giuliani shared other text messages about arranging meetings.
On Thursday, the committees are expected to examine Volker’s role in facilitating contacts between Giuliani and officials of the Ukrainian government in the summer.
9:15 a.m.: Former Ukraine envoy arrives on Capitol Hill for a deposition behind closed doors
Volker is scheduled to testify behind closed doors on Capitol Hill at 9:30 a.m. to the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees.
He resigned Friday from his position as U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, and has agreed to testify before the three congressional committees on Thursday despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s refusal to make current State Department officials available to lawmakers.
Volker tendered his resignation to Pompeo on Friday, within hours of an announcement that the veteran diplomat was among State Department officials who would be compelled to testify.
Volker, who heads the McCain Institute at Arizona State University, had held the Ukraine job part time for the past two years.
He worked for months to facilitate a meeting between Trump and Zelensky, a young anti-corruption reformer elected in April. That meeting may have been held up as part of Trump’s pressure campaign. The two met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last week.
8:15 a.m.: Trump takes renewed aim at Schiff, highlights prankster episode
Trump renewed his attacks Thursday on Schiff, calling him a “lowlife” in a tweet that also shared a Breitbart report about pranksters once offering Schiff nude photos of Trump.
“Schiff is a lowlife who should resign (at least!),” Trump said in his tweet.
In 2018, the Atlantic reported that two Russian pranksters posing as members of Ukraine’s parliament called Schiff claiming to have “pictures of naked Trump” from a purported encounter with a Russian woman, among other information.
Schiff’s staff told the Atlantic in a statement that they had alerted law enforcement before and after the call that the claim was “probably bogus.”
In recent days, some House Republicans, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), have sought to focus renewed attention on the episode, arguing that Schiff is a hypocrite for criticizing Trump for seeking dirt on a political opponent.
Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, also referred to the episode during a hearing last week.
7:15 a.m.: Pelosi says Republicans are loyal to Trump, not the Constitution
Pelosi accused Republicans of being loyal to Trump and not the Constitution during a television interview that aired Thursday in which she discussed the impeachment inquiry.
Speaking to ABC News, she derided her GOP colleagues for attacks on the inquiry that she launched last week.
“When I took the oath of office to support and defend the Constitution, as my colleagues have done as well, I did not say I will do this as long as the Republicans can understand the Constitution,” Pelosi said. “So the fact that their loyalty is to Trump and not to the Constitution is not going to slow down or impair our ability to keep the republic.”
During the interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Pelosi also pushed back on a Republican argument that Trump’s call with Zelensky was not problematic because there was no explicit “quid pro quo” between providing U.S. military aid to Ukraine and investigating the Bidens.
Trump’s call in which he asked Zelensky for a “favor” came shortly after the Trump administration suspended congressionally approved aid.
“First of all, it’s not necessary,” Pelosi said of a “quid pro quo.”
“But second of all, there is a quid pro quo if you’re only a couple of days apart in granting or withholding and then asking for a favor to create dirt on your political opponent,” she continued. “The president did engage in the leverage of our national security, legislation that was passed by the House and the Senate, in the interest of our national security to give military assistance to Ukraine.”
7 a.m.: White House officials weigh appeal to Democrats in GOP districts to stop impeachment of Trump
White House officials intent on stopping the House from impeaching Trump are considering appealing to moderate Democrats in Republican districts to stand with the president, a pursuit at odds with fresh political attacks from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.
The nascent outreach campaign would target some of the 31 Democrats from congressional districts Trump won in 2016, many of whom ran on rebuilding infrastructure, improving trade deals and lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to multiple officials familiar with the strategy.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said the appeal would be based on these Democrats’ 2018 election promises to work with the president — accompanied with a warning that impeachment would hamper possible legislative victories.
Read more here.
— Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey
6:45 a.m.: Trump shares Franklin Graham’s prayer for Democrats
Amid a spate of morning tweets and retweets, Trump shared an account of evangelist Franklin Graham praying that God would steer Democrats away from impeachment.
“The socialist Democrats’ message to the United States of America is: 1. We’re going to take your guns, and 2. We’re going to impeach your president,” Graham wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post.
“Pray that God would change the hearts of Democratic leaders in Washington and that they would see the dangerous road that we’re on,” he added.
6:35 a.m.: Wednesday’s White House news conference generates ridicule and some concern in Finland
Wednesday’s roller coaster news conference with Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö elicited ridicule and some concern in Finland, where many celebrated their leader on Thursday for enduring with dignity what they largely described as a Trump monologue.
Coming from a nation that ranks second on the World Press Freedom Index — compared to the United States, which ranks 48th — stunned Finnish reporters described to their readers back home a “circus” and parallel reality in the White House.
Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet offered a blunt summary of the meeting: “Niinisto’s visit was overshadowed by Circus Trump — President Niinisto asked Trump to safeguard US democracy.”
“It was a very typical Trump press conference with a foreign leader. [Trump talks] and the foreign leader is just a prop, who basically watches and tries to keep a straight face,” Jussi Hanhimaki, a Finnish researcher focusing on transatlantic relations, told The Washington Post.
Read more here.
6 a.m.: Biden, in fiery remarks, tells Trump: ‘I’m not going anywhere’
RENO, Nev. — Biden struck a defiant tone Wednesday night during a campaign speech in which he ripped Trump’s efforts to smear him and assured supporters that Trump won’t destroy him or his candidacy.
The top-polling 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has become inextricably intertwined with the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s behavior, which centers on Trump asking a foreign leader for dirt on Biden’s son.
Biden, who spent four decades in the Senate, has in the past sought to separate Trump and his base from the Republican Party that contains his friends and peers, including many he served with as a senator. But in his remarks here, Biden slammed the GOP and “hatchet men” who he said echo Trump’s words.
“He is repeatedly smearing me and my family. His party fans out to carry the smear,” Biden said.
Read more here.
— Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Colby Itkowitz
6 a.m.: Whistleblower drafted complaint ‘entirely on their own,’ lawyer says
A lawyer for the whistleblower said Wednesday that the whistleblower drafted the complaint “entirely on their own” and without input of Congress.
The statement came after Trump, at a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, accused Schiff, with no evidence, of having helped write the 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.
“The Whistleblower drafted the Complaint entirely on their own,” Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, said in a statement. “In fact, none of the legal team saw the Complaint until it was publicly released by Congress. To be unequivocally clear, no Member or congressional staff had any input into or reviewed the Complaint before it was submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General.”