It’s been a busy week in Washington, D.C.: their baseball team, the Washington Nationals, won the World Series for the first time ever; a Representative stepped down after being the victim of a revenge porn attack; the House of Representatives took a vote on impeachment; and it was Halloween! Spooky.
We’re going to zoom in on one of those — the impeachment inquiry — and fill you in on everything you might have missed.
To catch you up:
On July 25, President Donald Trump talked to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the phone and asked him to dig up dirt on his potential political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and also to investigate a company involved in the FBI inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Trump allegedly dangled $400 million in aid to the country and a personal meeting between the two leaders as leverage. The White House released a memorandum (read: not an exact transcript) of the call that confirmed this.
On August 12, a whistleblower sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and California Representative Adam Schiff detailing that call and the surrounding controversy.
On September 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would file a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
Since then, there’s been some mess. The House Intelligence Committee, which is comprised of both Republicans and Democrats, began investigating behind closed doors. That bipartisan presence didn’t stop some Republicans from trying to break into the hearings, or from complaining that having these hearings in private was a “sham.” Trump publicly asked Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens. His chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, confirmed that the President offered Ukraine quid pro quo assistance, but walked that one back pretty much immediately.
All the while, the Committee has continued interviewing folks about what, exactly, transpired between the Trump administration and Ukraine. Over the past few weeks, they’ve heard from plenty of witnesses, including Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine; Fiona Hill, Trump’s top Russia advisor, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
So what happened this week?
Monday, October 28
Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats saying they would take a final vote on Thursday to “affirm” the impeachment investigation after receiving heavy blowback from Republicans for not officially authorizing the proceedings. A formal vote is unnecessary, but Pelosi said she wanted to “eliminate any doubt” over the investigation. The resolution they’ll vote on will answer three big questions:
- Should Congress continue to formally investigate impeachment?
- What is the process going to be for holding public hearings?
- What should Congress do about the transcripts of the interviews they’ve already completed?
Charles Kupperman, the former deputy national security adviser, also ghosted his scheduled testimony. The White House says he’s immune from testifying, which may or may not be true. Kupperman, for his part, also seems confused — so he filed a lawsuit to clarify if he has to testify.
Tuesday, October 29
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a staffer and top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council, talked to House investigators in one of the wildest testimonies yet. Vindman was interesting not only because he’s still working at the White House — and is an active-duty military officer who received a Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq — but he was also the first person who was actually on the infamous July Ukraine call to talk to investigators.
He corroborated a lot of what has already been said, and also brought new information forward, including concerns about how the Trump administration was dealing with Ukraine on two separate occasions; that he tried to get military aid restored after Trump rescinded it in the aftermath of the fateful call; and he said that there were important words and phrases missing from the memorandum of the phone call that the Trump administration released. He said he tried to edit the memorandum, but wasn’t allowed. We know all of this because he released his opening statement. However, his complete testimony has not been publicly released.
Politico also reported that Sondland, Trump’s most favorable witness, may have perjured himself in his interview with investigators on October 17.
Wednesday, October 30
This was a busy day, so buckle in, y’all.
House investigators talked to Catherine Croft, who served as a director for the National Security Council covering Ukraine from July 2017 to July 2018. This past summer, she took a job as a State Department official, according to CNN. Like all testimonies at this point, hers was behind closed doors, so we don’t have much information on what she said. We do know that she was brought in because of the information she might have regarding Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was allegedly ousted amidst pressure from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer. Croft also potentially had information regarding the $400 million in military aid that was allegedly used as a bargaining chip between Trump and Zelensky, CNN reported. She was not on the July 25 phone call.
Christopher Anderson, a foreign service officer in the State Department, also testified before House investigators. According to a copy of his opening statement, which was obtained by NPR, Anderson said that Giuliani stood in the way of the U.S.’s relationship with Ukraine.
Also on Wednesday, House Democrats sent interview requests to John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser; and White House lawyers John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, the New York Times reported. Bolton’s lawyer said he isn’t going to show up voluntarily.
Tim Morrison, the top Russia expert on the National Security Council, resigned on Wednesday, the day before he was scheduled to testify, NPR reported.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, wrote a letter asking officials to protect Vindman against retaliation. Opponents to Vindman have questioned his patriotism, since Vindman was born in Ukraine; his family moved to the U.S. when he was three years old, following his mother’s death.
John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, said that Giuliani was involved in ousting Yovanovitch, further confirming what others have testified, according to the New York Times.
Thursday, October 31
Another busy day in Impeachment Land: The House voted 232-196 to endorse an impeachment inquiry into Trump. It was almost completely a party line vote, with the exception of two Democrats: Rep. Jeff Van Drew from New Jersey and Rep. Collin Peterson from Minnesota, who opposed the inquiry. Republicans unanimously opposed it. The resolution also set out the rules for the investigation, including a ruling that states there will be at least one public hearing that allows both Democrats and Republicans equal time to question witnesses. The rule also allows deposition transcripts to be published at the discretion of the House Intelligence Committee.
Timothy Morrison, a top National Security Council official who listened to the infamous July call, also testified in front of House investigators. According to CBS News, Morrison said he was concerned that details of the call would become public, but added that he didn’t think “anything illegal was discussed.”
Friday, November 1
There are no votes and the House Committee doesn’t appear to be hearing any testimony, because even politicians deserve downtime (though how liberally they take that downtime is up to them).