Top diplomat testified Giuliani was “impeding” Ukraine mission — live updates

Trump defends Giuliani amid impeachment inquiry

Key facts and latest news

  • Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified on October 3 that he was “never asked to do anything” he thought was wrong, “including by the president,” sources said.
  • Volker also said Rudy Giuliani “was amplifying a negative narrative about Ukraine” that hurt the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
  • Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is set to testify before the impeachment committees on Thursday.
  • On a July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
  • Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry, has died.

Washington— Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry, died on Thursday morning. The congressman, 68, had often clashed with Mr. Trump.

Meanwhile, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, returned to Capitol Hill Wednesday to review testimony he gave the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees in a private session on October 3.

In that testimony, Volker depicted Rudy Giuliani as the driving force behind an effort to get Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and 2016 election interference, according to sources familiar with the testimony. He also expressed misgivings about Giuliani’s influence on the president’s view of Ukraine.

But Volker said he was “never asked to do anything” he thought was wrong, “including by the president,” sources said.

Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, “was amplifying a negative narrative about Ukraine that was impeding our ability to advance the bilateral relationship the way we wanted,” Volker told lawmakers, the sources said. Volker said the president held a “deeply rooted negative view” of the country and its leadership, and bought into Giuliani’s characterization of Ukraine as a country rife with corrupt politicians and businessmen.

On Wednesday, Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified before the committees. He told lawmakers he resigned over the department’s treatment of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post earlier this year, a source familiar with the testimony said.

McKinley, who resigned last week, is no longer a State Department employee. According to an official working on the impeachment inquiry, he agreed to appear voluntarily for a closed transcribed interview.

Elijah Cummings, key figure in the impeachment inquiry, dies at 68

6:07 a.m.: House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings died early Thursday morning due to ongoing health complications. Cummings was one of the key figures in Democratic efforts to conduct an impeachment inquiry.

Cummings led multiple investigations of Mr. Trump’s dealings, including ones relating to the president’s family members serving in the White House.

The president responded by criticizing Cummings’ district as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live” over the summer

Volker said diplomats were “uncomfortable” with Giuliani’s work

6:00 a.m.: In his October 3 testimony, Volker told the committees that longtime State Department officials were “uncomfortable with [Giuliani] being active” in Kiev, and said he made it clear to his Ukrainian counterparts that Giuliani did not represent the U.S. government, sources said. He testified he did not have the impression that Giuliani was relaying messages from the president to the Ukrainians.

“I believed he was doing his own communication about what he believed and was interested in,” Volker said, according to sources. Giuliani had given interviews raising questions about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. election and Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

Much of Volker’s testimony focused on a proposed statement from the Ukrainian government that was never sent. Volker said Giuliani wanted Zelensky to release a statement specifically mentioning Ukraine’s commitment to investigating 2016 election interference and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm that appointed Hunter Biden to its board.

“I wouldn’t say I thought it was necessary to have it in there because I thought the target here is not the specific investigations,” Volker testified. “The target is getting Ukraine to be seen as credible in changing the country, fighting corruption, introducing reform, and that Zelensky is the real deal.” — Arden Farhi


​Schiff says he’ll release transcripts of closed-door interviews

Wednesday, 6:48 p.m.: Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, wrote a letter to his Democratic colleagues with an update on the impeachment inquiry.

“While we have a great many interviews to come, it is worth taking stock of what we already know,” Schiff wrote. “We are already in possession of the call record which lays plain the President’s efforts to abuse his office for political gain, as well as text messages among State Department employees that show the degree to which the apparatus of the Department was pressed into the service of the President’s illicit aim of digging up dirt on his political opponent.”

He said the committees will release transcripts of their closed-door interviews “at a time that it will not jeopardize investigative equities” and with appropriate redactions.

“We also anticipate that at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public, so that the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand,” Schiff said. — Stefan Becket

​Pelosi says impeachment didn’t come up at heated White House meeting

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer walk out of the White House after meeting with President Trump on October 16, 2019. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP

Wednesday, 4:39 p.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the topic of impeachment didn’t come up at a meeting of congressional leaders and administration officials at the White House on the situation in Syria.

Pelosi and Democratic leaders said the meeting devolved into chaos, with the president insulting them and calling Pelosi a “third-grade politician.”

“What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown, sad to say,” Pelosi told reporters on the White House driveway after the meeting.

Read more here.


​Ex-Pompeo adviser resigned over treatment of former Ukraine ambassador

Former Pompeo Advisor P. Michael McKinley Interviewed Amid Impeachment Inquiry
Michael McKinley arrives on Capitol Hill for a closed-door hearing at the Capitol on October 16, 2019. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Wednesday, 2:24 p.m.: McKinley, the former senior adviser to Pompeo, told lawmakers he resigned over the department’s failure to defend Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post early.

A source familiar with McKinley’s testimony said he testified that he was upset there was no statement or letter supporting Yovanovitch, a respected career diplomat. Another source said McKinley also testified McKinley testified about political targeting at the State Department and the mistreatment of career diplomats beyond Yovanovitch. — Rebecca Kaplan and Margaret Brennan


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