Impeachment inquiry latest: E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland says Trump told diplomats to work with Giuliani — live updates – CBS News

Trump defends Giuliani amid impeachment inquiry

Key facts and latest news

  • Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, planned to tell lawmakers he was “disappointed” by President Trump’s directive to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine.
  • The acting White House chief of staff said a delay in aid to Ukraine was due to concerns about corruption in the country.
  • Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified on October 3 that the president’s personal attorney “was amplifying a negative narrative about Ukraine” that hurt the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, sources said.
  • Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry, has died.
  • On a July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

Washington — The U.S. ambassador to the European Union planned to tell lawmakers he was “disappointed” that President Trump directed him and other diplomats managing U.S. policy toward Ukraine to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney.

“Please know that I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters,” Sondland said in a statement prepared for his congressional testimony Thursday. “However, given the President’s explicit direction, as well as the importance we attached to arranging a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, we agreed to do as President Trump directed.”

Sondland’s testimony comes as Washington grapples with the death of Congressman Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee and a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. The congressman, 68, had often clashed with Mr. Trump.

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.


Mulvaney links delay in Ukraine aid to 2016 investigation

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White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney answers questions from reporters during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 17, 2019.

JIM WATSON


1:38 p.m.: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine was delayed because of concerns about corruption, including supposed Ukrainian collaboration with Democrats in the 2016 election that’s part of an internal Justice Department investigation.

Mulvaney, who was involved in delaying the aid package in July shortly before the president’s call with the leader of Ukraine, told reporters at the White House that the aid was contingent on Ukraine ensuring the money wouldn’t be squandered by corruption and said the president had raised a conspiracy theory about a DNC email server. He also said the U.S. wanted other European countries to contribute more to Ukraine’s security.

“President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Never has been, still isn’t. Doesn’t like spending money overseas, especially when it’s poorly spent,” Mulvaney said. “And that is exactly what drove this decision.”

He described conversations with Mr. Trump, paraphrasing the president as saying, “Look, this is a corrupt place. I don’t want to send them a bunch of money, and have them waste it, have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets. Plus, I’m not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either.”

“Did he also mention to me in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said.

Asked by ABC News’ Jon Karl to clarify whether the demand to investigate 2016 activities was part of the reason for withholding the aid, Mulvaney said, “the look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.”

“What you just described is a quid pro quo,” Karl replied. “It is, funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.”

“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said, adding, “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy … That is going to happen. Elections have consequences.” — Stefan Becket

​Pelosi says impeachment process is separate from the campaign

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gestures while speaking during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP


11:30 a.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her weekly press conference that she believed the impeachment process should be separate from the campaign.

“Impeachment is about the truth and the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi said, adding that she disagreed with the assessment that voters should decide whether or not to remove Mr. Trump from office in the 2020 election.

“Voters are not going to decide whether we honor our oath of office,” Pelosi said. She said she does not know the timeline for the impeachment inquiry, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s prediction that the process would conclude by the end of the year.

She also said she did not believe Mr. Trump’s policy decisions in Syria were impeachable offenses, noting that she declined to begin an impeachment inquiry against President George W. Bush over the war in Iraq.

“That’s a policy matter. That isn’t, in my view, an impeachment matter,” Pelosi said. — Grace Segers

​Next week’s interviews in the impeachment inquiry

11:06 a.m.: The committees leading the impeachment inquiry have a packed schedule of interviews next week. Here is their plan, according to a source familiar with the inquiry.

  • Tuesday, October 22: William Taylor, charge d’affaires in Ukrainian embassy
  • Wednesday, October 23: Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs
  • Thursday, October 24: Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs for the National Security Council
  • Friday, October 25: Suriya Jayanti, foreign service officer in Kiev, and Timothy Morrison, top Russia adviser for the National Security Council — Rebecca Kaplan

​Pelosi holds weekly press conference

11:00 a.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill. Watch live here.


Sondland claims he barely interacted with Giuliani

9:30 a.m.: In his opening statement before the joint House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, Sondland is expected to say that he barely interacted with Giuliani, according to a copy of the testimony obtained by CBS News. Sondland will also claim that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker were “disappointed” by Mr. Trump’s directive to work with Giuliani.

“Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and I were disappointed by our May 23, 2019 White House debriefing. We strongly believed that a call and White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky was important and that these should be scheduled promptly and without any pre-conditions. We were also disappointed by the President’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland says in his opening statement.

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U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, center, arrives for a joint interview on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP


“Please know that I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters. However, given the President’s explicit direction, as well as the importance we attached to arranging a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, we agreed to do as President Trump directed,” Sondland continues.

Sondland also says that he did not know about Giuliani’s desire for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and Burisma until recently.

Sondland says that he feels maligned by former Russia adviser Fiona Hill and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, saying: “If Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, or others harbored any misgivings about the propriety of what we were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me, then or later.”

However, a source familiar tells CBS News that Hill raised concerns to Sondland “to his face.” — Grace Segers and Margaret Brennan

Read Sondland’s full opening statement here.


Sondland arrives on Capitol Hill for closed-door deposition

9:06 a.m. Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., arrived on Capitol Hill at 9:05 a.m. for his closed-door deposition with the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

It’s unclear how long the deposition will last.


Former Russia adviser says she heard Sondland offer a quid pro quo

7:54 a.m.: Mr. Trump’s former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, flagged to the White House counsel that she heard Sondland say to Ukrainian officials at the White House that he had a deal to get Zelensky a meeting with Mr. Trump if the Ukrainians opened an investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm with ties to Hunter Biden. A source familiar told CBS News that the name Burisma was expressly mentioned.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton directed Hill to report it to White House lawyers. A source familiar with the matter told CBS News that she raised the issue with Sondland it “to his face” on July 10 in the basement of the White House, a detail first reported by NBC News. — Margaret Brennan


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

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings has died


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