Latest impeachment developments: Republicans huddle ahead of Friday's hearing

Republicans huddle ahead of Friday’s hearing
1:35 p.m.

Top Republicans and GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee gathered in the Capitol's basement on Thursday morning to hold a strategy meeting and mock hearing ahead of Friday's public impeachment hearing. The meeting lasted for roughly two hours.

Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse NY Democratic Party chair endorses Hochul bid for governor NY governor seeking to raise million ahead of next year's primary MORE (R-N.Y.) — who played a key role during closed-door impeachment hearings and has risen to be one of President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE's most vocal defenders — once again played House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party Bannon eyed as key link between White House, Jan. 6 riot MORE (D-Calif.) in the practice hearing while a staff counsel played former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, per a source inside the room. Yovanovitch is scheduled to appear Friday after two top diplomats testified in the impeachment inquiry's first public hearing Wednesday.

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"We're just comparing and making sure we understand the ambassador's transcript from the deposition. And of course, things that frustrate us quite honestly are the fact that there are other transcripts that have not yet been released, which has critical information to be compared to the ambassador's transcript. But we're barred from using it or talking about it so we're at a decided disadvantage here," one GOP lawmaker in the room on Friday told The Hill.

GOP lawmakers also said they are feeling strong and well prepared going into the second public hearing.

Zeldin said the hearings offer the opportunity for Republicans “to ask their questions" and show "that some dots that Adam Schiff tried to connect that aren't actually connected, people, are able to watch firsthand and learn that it's actually a spin in selling a particular narrative."

 

Second person heard Trump-Sondland call: AP
12:35 p.m.

A second official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine overheard U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Biden to mark Tuesday anniversary of George Floyd's death Trump impeachment witness suing Pompeo, State over legal fees America's practice of 'pay-to-play' ambassadors is no joke MORE's call with President Trump about the need for “investigations” by Ukraine, The Associated Press reported Thursday, citing an unidentified source.

Chargé d'affaires to Ukraine William Taylor testified Wednesday that an aide overheard a July 26 call between Trump and Sondland during which Trump asked Sondland “about the investigations.”

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Sondland replied that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward,” Taylor testified.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor said. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden which [Trump personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”

 

Conway: Trump reacted 'pretty well' to impeachment hearing 'because there was nothing new'
12:23 p.m.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne ConwayEthics watchdog accuses Psaki of violating Hatch Act Biden administration competency doubts increase Cook Political Report shifts Virginia governor's race to 'toss-up' MORE dismissed testimony from the first two witnesses to appear publicly in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, saying there was "nothing new" and that the revelations that emerged Wednesday would not hold up in a "real court of law."

“There was nothing new yesterday,” Conway told CNN on Thursday morning.

She also criticized the reaction to Taylor, who testified that one of his staffers overheard a phone call between Trump and Sondland in which the president asked about "the investigations."

Taylor also testified that Sondland said Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden" than Ukraine.

“You're calling that evidence? Respectfully, in a real court of law, we would not be referring to something as evidence. That is, somebody on my staff recalled overhearing a conversation between someone else and the president where they think they heard the president use the word 'investigations,' ” Conway said.

“This is not what due process and the rule of law and our great democracy allows,” she added.

 

Pelosi says Trump bribed Ukraine
11:51 a.m.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJudge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech GOP lawmaker calls for Meghan, Harry to lose royal titles over paid leave push MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday accused President Trump of "bribery" in his dealings with Ukrainian leaders, linking the president's actions to the Constitution's impeachment clause even while emphasizing that Democrats remain undecided on whether they'll draft impeachment articles.

"The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections," she told reporters in the Capitol. "That's bribery."

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Pelosi declined to say if the bribery charge would become an article of impeachment, insisting Democrats — even as they move ahead with their investigation — have not concluded Trump committed impeachable offenses.

 

Trump weighs in on 'star' impeachment witnesses
8:01 a.m.

President Trump in an early morning tweet on Thursday weighed in on the two "star" witnesses in the first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday.

".@RepRatcliffe asked the two 'star' witnesses, 'where is the impeachable event in that call?' Both stared straight ahead with a blank look on their face, remained silent, & were unable to answer the question," he said, referring to Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeSunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Sunday shows preview: US grapples with rising COVID-19 cases MORE (R-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

"That would be the end of a case run by normal people! - but not Shifty!" he added, using his nickname for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

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William Taylor, the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, testified for more than five hours before Schiff's panel.

Taylor offered an account of Trump’s “highly irregular” foreign policy in Kyiv.

Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry amid reports Trump pressured Ukraine's leader to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE and his son during a phone call in July.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has labeled the impeachment effort a "witch hunt."

 

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Top Ukrainian official: Sondland did not link aid to investigation of Bidens
7:44 a.m.

Ukraine's foreign minister told reporters on Thursday that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland did not link investigations into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son with military assistance.

"Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and did not tell me exactly, about the relation between the [military] assistance and the investigations," Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters, according to Interfax-Ukraine.

"I have never seen a direct link between investigations and security assistance. Yes, investigations were mentioned, you know, in a presidential conversation. But there was no clear connection between these events," Prystaiko added.