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The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates

House impeachment investigators on Wednesday summoned John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, and two other top White House officials for depositions next week, according to a person familiar with the notices. The letters took the form of voluntary requests, rather than subpoenas.

Based on the accounts of witnesses who have already spoken with investigators, Mr. Bolton could be a marquee witness. They have described how he was alarmed in real time about the actions of Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and other administration officials close to Mr. Trump. Mr. Bolton left his position in September amid disagreements with Mr. Trump.

But it is unclear if Mr. Bolton will appear. As a senior aide to Mr. Trump, the White House could claim that he is absolutely immune from providing testimony from Congress and direct him not to show up. Mr. Bolton, a longtime Republican, would then have to decide whether to defy the White House’s wishes.

In addition to requesting Mr. Bolton to appear next Thursday, investigators dispatched notices for John Eisenberg, the top lawyer for the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, one of his deputies, to appear on Monday. They could face similar decisions about whether to satisfy the White House directives or congressional demands.
— Nicholas Fandos

On both sides of the Capitol Wednesday, lawmakers heard testimony related to the unorthodox ways in which Ukraine policy was shaped at the White House.

On the House side, impeachment investigators heard from Catherine M. Croft, who worked as an adviser to Kurt D. Volker, the United States’ special envoy to Ukraine, who resigned last month amid the controversy over President Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine.

Ms. Croft’s testimony shifts the timeline of when attacks on the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, started — as early as the summer of 2018. Ms. Croft said she fielded multiple calls from a former Republican representative-turned-lobbyist, Robert Livingston, who pushed a narrative suggesting the ambassador’s loyalty was to Democrats, an assertion for which there is no evidence. Ms. Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, was fired in May 2019.

Impeachment investigators were also scheduled to hear from Christopher J. Anderson, another foreign service officer whose opening statement describes a June 13 meeting at the White House with Mr. Volker and the national security adviser at the time, Mr. Bolton, in which concerns about the influence of Mr. Giuliani on United States foreign policy with Ukraine were raised. During the meeting, Mr. Anderson said Mr. Bolton cautioned that “Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine, which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement.”

Over in the Senate, John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next ambassador to Russia. Senate Democrats took the opportunity to also question him about his role in the Ukraine affair.

Mr. Sullivan emerged as a boldfaced name in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry after Ms. Yovanovitch testified about a conversation she had with Mr. Sullivan earlier this year about her dismissal. She recounted to House investigators that Mr. Sullivan told her “that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause” and that “there had been a concerted campaign against me.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Sullivan largely corroborated Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony, reaffirming that he told her she had served “capably and admirably” and that he was aware of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign to remove her.

Asked by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, whether he believed Mr. Giuliani was “seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch, or have her removed,” Mr. Sullivan replied: “I believed he was, yes.”

Pressed on whether he believed it was appropriate for the president to demand investigations into domestic political opponents, Mr. Sullivan said, “I don’t think that would be in accord with our values.”
Catie Edmondson

A former White House official on Tuesday who was on the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told impeachment investigators that crucial words and phrases were left out of the reconstructed transcript that was publicly released, raising questions about why they were not included. Mr. Trump has consistently pointed to the transcript of the call as evidence that he did nothing wrong.

The omitted phrases do not fundamentally change lawmakers’ understanding of the call, which was first reported by the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint set off the impeachment inquiry.

Among the omissions, according to the witness, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, was Mr. Trump’s comments that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Colonel Vindman also said at one point on the call, Mr. Zelensky specifically said the name of the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden, Burisma Holdings.

In mentioning the tapes of the former vice president, Mr. Trump appears to be referencing Mr. Biden’s comments at a January 2018 event at a New York-based think tank.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, implored the Army secretary on Wednesday to take steps to protect Colonel Vindman in light of his testimony to impeachment investigators about Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

“He is a patriot for being willing to do what we hope and expect every service member will do: to tell the truth when asked,” Mr. Schumer wrote in the letter to Ryan McCarthy, the Army secretary. “It is incumbent on the Army to ensure that he is afforded the same protections as whistle-blowers and protected from reprisal for testifying before Congress.”

Mr. Schumer asked to be briefed on what specific steps the Army would take to protect Colonel Vindman from internal retaliation and outside threats.

Colonel Vindman is a Ukrainian-American whose family fled to the United States when he was 3. Some of the president’s allies in the conservative news media have questioned the patriotism of Colonel Vindman, who was awarded a Purple Heart after he was wounded in Iraq by a roadside bomb.

“These attacks are outrageous and unacceptable, but more importantly, this vitriol toward LTC Vindman may result in professional reprisals and threats to his personal safety and that of his family,” Mr. Schumer wrote.
Nicholas Fandos

After publicly condemning commentators who had questioned the patriotism of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, privately went a step further Tuesday and returned a call from the colonel’s wife.

Colonel Vindman’s wife had called Ms. Cheney’s office Tuesday to thank her after the congresswoman, the No. 3 Republican in the House, told reporters that smears against Colonel Vindman were “shameful.” Ms. Cheney then reiterated that message on the private call, adding that she was upset by the smears and wanted the colonel’s family to know that she supported him, according to two people familiar with the call.

In the run-up to Colonel Vindman’s testimony on Tuesday, right-wing pundits and allies of Mr. Trump insinuated the colonel might be a spy for Ukraine, where he was born.

Ms. Cheney was part of a chorus of Republicans that quickly rebuked those insinuations Tuesday, reflecting an uneasiness among some Republicans that defenders of the president may be crossing lines in their zeal to defend him against a fast-moving impeachment inquiry.

— Danny Hakim and Nicholas Fandos

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said on Wednesday that he had filed a formal ethics complaint against Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, for mishandling the impeachment inquiry.

Mr. Gaetz, a prominent ally of the president and one of the Republicans who staged a protest last week in the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Mr. Schiff of having “fallen short of the ethical standards of the institution.”

One of Mr. Gaetz’s allegations is that Mr. Schiff, during a congressional hearing last month, distorted what Mr. Trump said to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a July 25 phone call, a charge that Mr. Trump has also made repeatedly. At issue is a speech Mr. Schiff gave in which he did not claim to be reciting verbatim from the reconstructed transcript of the call released by the White House and said he was conferring “the essence” of the conversation.

Mr. Gaetz also accused Mr. Schiff of violating House rules by barring him from entering the secure rooms where the closed door inquiry is being conducted. Dozens of Republicans have access to the hearings because they sit on the three committees conducting the inquiry — Oversight and Reform, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs — but Mr. Gaetz is not on any of the committees.

Like last week’s protests, the ethics complaint appeared intended in part to please Mr. Trump, who has complained publicly and privately that Republicans have not been tough enough in defending him.

Democrats have defended Mr. Schiff against conservative criticism, accusing Republicans of focusing on process and character attacks instead of the substance of the allegations against Mr. Trump.
Emily Cochrane

  • President Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.

  • A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.

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