Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower

Republicans discuss impeachment messaging

6:51 p.m.

House Republicans huddled for just under an hour at at a conference meeting that started at 5:30 p.m. to go over their impeachment messaging strategy.

Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertOvernight Health Care: New drug price hikes set stage for 2020 fight | Conservative group to spend M attacking Pelosi drug plan | Study finds Medicaid expansion improved health in Southern states Conservative group to spend M attacking Pelosi's drug pricing plan Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told The Hill the meeting provided members who don’t sit on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs or Oversight and Reform committees an opportunity to be brought up to speed. 

Schiff says impeachment is worth it even if Trump is not removed

6:09 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers Trump defenders argue president can't be removed for abuse of power MORE (D-Calif.) told NPR that the impeachment inquiry would be worth it regardless of whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' MORE is successfully removed from office.

"If [impeachment] deters further presidential misconduct, then it may provide some remedy, even in the absence of a conviction in the Senate,” Schiff told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in an interview scheduled to air Wednesday.

"I don't think any decision has been made on the ultimate question about whether articles of impeachment should be brought. That will be the purpose of these hearings and the subsequent work done in the Judiciary Committee,” Schiff said.

“But on the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors,” he added. “The basic allegations against the president are that he sought foreign interference in a U.S. election, that he conditioned official acts on the performance of these political favors.”

McConnell knocks House Dems for prioritizing impeachment

4:25 p.m.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial GOP senator 'open' to impeachment witnesses 'within the scope' of articles MORE (R-Ky.) knocked House Democrats during his opening speech from the Senate floor, arguing they are prioritizing the impeachment inquiry above other agenda items like President Trump’s trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

“House Democrats have enough time to continue their three-year-old obsession with impeaching the president, but they cannot find the time to pass a landmark trade deal that would create 176,000 new American jobs,” McConnell said.

He added that while House Democrats have appeared interested in USMCA “this happy talk has seemingly led to no tangible progress, just more heel-dragging.”

McConnell has repeatedly lashed out at House Democrats over the inquiry from the Senate floor. Republicans view passage of the USMCA as a top priority and worry that if it is delayed until 2020 it will be overshadowed by presidential politics.

Republicans conduct mock hearing to prepare for Wednesday

3:30 p.m.

Republicans conducted a mock hearing in the Capitol basement Tuesday afternoon to prepare for Wednesday’s event.

In addition to GOP committee members, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCalifornia sues Trump administration over fracking Trump: Impeachment timing intended to hurt Sanders Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' Republicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment trial a week away; debate night MORE (R-La.), House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders, Warren feud rattles Democrats The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial The Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate receives impeachment articles as trial opens MORE (R-Wyo.), Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinBoth sides of the aisle call for local, state, federal cooperation on homelessness Trump tweets American flag amid reports of strike against Iranian general House votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap MORE (R-N.Y.) attended the practice session.

Zeldin played Schiff and a staff attorney played William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, who is scheduled to testify Wednesday, a source in the room told The Hill. 

White House tries to undercut key witnesses' testimony

3:19 p.m.

The White House is seeking to undercut the accounts from three witnesses who have testified in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, attacking their claims about President Trump's contacts with Ukraine ahead of this week’s public hearings. 

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In an email sent Tuesday morning to GOP congressional offices, the White House claimed that the testimonies of top Defense official Laura Cooper, as well as Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, two former assistants to former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP chairmen seek interview with Obama officials as part of Biden-Ukraine probe Push to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary MORE "were filled with hearsay."

Democrats had released the transcripts of their testimonies on Monday.

Among the "topline takeaways," the White House claimed all three witnesses "based everything on second, third, and fourth hand information,” arguing that none of them were on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The White House in particular sought to challenge the claims made by Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, who expressed her dismay over the summer’s delay of nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine, painting a portrait of a Pentagon doing battle with the White House over the release of funding deemed “vital” to national security.

Cooper said she had a "very strong inference" that Kyiv knew the aid was being withheld after having conversations with Volker and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine who is slated to testify in Democrats' first public hearing on Wednesday.

"The conversation with Ambassador Volker because it related to the security assistance needing to be lifted and the importance of that, and he was relating conversations he had had with Ukraine officials. It could have been my inference, yes, a very strong inference that there was some knowledge on the part of the Ukrainians," Cooper testified.

But the White House is charactering her perspective as being unfounded.

"Cooper’s comments about when Ukraine knew about the aid being withheld were conjecture based on information she heard from others," the talking points memo reads. "Cooper’s conjecture about when Ukraine knew about the aid being withheld was based on hearsay — and even then she couldn’t recall specifics.”

Democrats warn State Dept. against punishing individuals who testify in impeachment hearings

2:40 p.m.

A group of Senate Democrats is urging top State Department officials to commit that individuals who testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry hearings into President Trump won't face retaliation over their remarks.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.), sent a letter on Tuesday to Deputy Secretary John Sullivan and Undersecretary Brian Bulatao urging them to publicly commit to protecting department officials who testify from any potential professional blowback.

"We call on you to emphatically and unequivocally support and protect these employees to your fullest abilities, including by issuing statements of support and ensuring they are not subject to any act of reprisal," the 10 senators wrote in the letter.

They added that the two officials should "do your part to show employees that the Department stands with them, and remains supportive of their sacrifices in the name of our national security."

The Democratic senators want an update within three business days on the steps the officials will take to support State Department personnel.

The letter comes ahead of the first public hearings as part of the House impeachment inquiry. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary, will testify on Wednesday. Former Ukraine ambassador Maria Yovanovitch will testify on Friday.

Senate Democrats said they have become "increasingly alarmed by the Department’s lack of support and utter silence for veteran diplomats and career public servants."

They noted they were not sending the letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCountries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo Trump Jr.: If 'weaker' Republicans only call for certain witnesses, 'they don't deserve to be in office' House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE "because his silence to date speaks volumes."

"We call on you to take all necessary steps to protect them, and other officials who come before Congress, including addressing any threats to their safety and ensuring they do not suffer any retaliation or reprisals," they added.

Pompeo, whom Democrats have accused of helping stonewall the impeachment inquiry, told a South Carolina publication on Monday that he hoped officials who testified "will go do so truthfully accurately."

“When they do, the oversight role will have been performed," he added.

GOP group presses Republican to take hearings seriously

12:55 p.m.

A Republican group is targeting House GOP lawmakers ahead of this week's public impeachment inquiry hearings, urging them to take the proceedings seriously.

The 60-second ad from Republicans for the Rule of Law includes footage from the House Judiciary Committee's debate on articles of impeachment against then-President Nixon and shows three Republicans explaining why they voted for some or all of the articles.

Rule of Law spokesman Chris Truax said in a statement that House Republicans should "study the lessons of Watergate very closely."

"The last time a Republican president faced impeachment, some House Republicans remembered that oath. They stood bravely to defend the Constitution and the American tradition of the Rule of Law. They’re remembered for their courage and integrity. History has not been kind to their colleagues who buried their heads in the sand and refused to acknowledge the facts," he added.

Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower

12:04 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in a memo to the panel's members on Tuesday warned Republicans not to discuss the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry into President Trump during public hearings, or face the chamber's Ethics Committee.

"As explained in my November 9, 2019, response to the Ranking Member, it is important to underscore that the House’s impeachment inquiry, and the Committee, will not serve as venues for any Member to further the same sham investigations into the Bidens or into debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to undertake for his personal political benefit. Nor will the Committee facilitate any efforts by President Trump or his allies to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously and lawfully raised concerns about the President’s conduct," Schiff wrote.

He also wrote that the committee "has a long, proud, and bipartisan history of protecting whistleblowers—including from efforts to threaten, intimidate, retaliate against, or undermine the confidentiality of whistleblowers."

"Among other authorities, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2010 and the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act include procedures for Intelligence Community personnel to make protected disclosures to inspectors general across the Intelligence Community and to the congressional intelligence committees. Among other things, Intelligence Community personnel are shielded from any action constituting reprisal or the threat of reprisal for making disclosures in accordance with these procedures," Schiff added.

"The statutory framework also prevents obstruction of lawful communications by federal employees with Congress, and of congressional proceedings. And, as mentioned above, the Code of Official Conduct for Members of Congress requires that every Member 'shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.' The Committee on Ethics has historically viewed this provision as 'encompassing violations of law and abuses of one’s official position.' "

Memo outlines process for first public hearing

11:18 a.m.

A memo has gone out to committee members outlining the process and timing of Wednesday's public hearing.

Mulvaney drops plans to file lawsuit on impeachment testimony

10:47 a.m.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyHouse Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Graham: Abuse of power 'poorly defined' in articles of impeachment Democrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' MORE on Tuesday reversed plans to file a lawsuit regarding his compliance with a subpoena for congressional testimony in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

His attorneys notified a federal court that Mulvaney “does not intend to pursue litigation regarding the deposition subpoena issued to him by the U.S. House of Representatives” and will instead obey directions from Trump to ignore the subpoena altogether.

Republicans to huddle on strategy

10:45 a.m.

House Republicans are slated to hold a conference meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday when they are expected to focus on impeachment ahead of Wednesday's public hearing, two senior aides told The Hill.

Republicans unveil defense strategy ahead of public impeachment hearings

7:55 a.m.

Republicans on the House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Trump outlined their strategy for defending him in a new memo focused on "four key pieces of evidence" they say are "fatal" to Democrats' allegations about Trump's dealings with Ukraine's president. 

Trump rips 'No Due Process Scam' as public impeachment hearings loom

7 a.m.

President Trump early Tuesday ripped “2nd and 3rd hand witnesses” one day before the start of public impeachment hearings, labeling the Democratic effort a “No Due Process Scam!”

“Why is such a focus put on 2nd and 3rd hand witnesses, many of whom are Never Trumpers, or whose lawyers are Never Trumpers, when all you have to do is read the phone call (transcript) with the Ukrainian President and see first hand?” Trump asked.

“He and others also stated that there was ‘no pressure’ put on him to investigate Sleepy Joe BidenJoe BidenNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina MORE even though, as President, I have an 'obligation' to look into corruption, and Biden’s actions, on tape, about firing the prosecutor, and his son’s taking millions of dollars, with no knowledge or talent, from a Ukrainian energy company, and more millions taken from China, and now reports of other companies and countries also giving him big money, are certainly looking very corrupt (to put it mildly!) to me,” he added.

“Both Bidens should be forced to testify in this No Due Process Scam!”