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.
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
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 Sept. 27 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, “If they were honest about it, they would 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 should start thinking about.”
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 House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), 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.”