Two State Department Officials to Testify: Impeachment Update


Two State Department Officials to Testify: Impeachment Update(Bloomberg) — House Democrats interviewed Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in a private deposition Friday, as part of their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. The three committees leading the probe are schedule to hear from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on Oct. 17.Here are the latest developments:Two State Department Officials Are to Testify (8:55 p.m.)House impeachment investigators have doubled to four the number of witnesses to be interviewed in planned closed-door sessions next week in the ongoing investigation of President Donald Trump and his interactions with Ukraine officials.Fiona Hill, who was until recently Trump’s top aide on Russia and Europe, was previously known to be appearing on Monday for questioning. And Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, will testify Thursday.Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Friday night said the number had grown to four. Officials familiar with the committee’s plans say the two others expected to testify will be Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent on Tuesday; and State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, on Thursday.Members of the three committees — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Reform, have not been told how it is that Sondland and Brechbuhl are scheduled to come in for testimony the same morning.Read the opening statement from Marie Yovanovitch.Pelosi Skips Discussion of Impeachment Vote (7 p.m.)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t discuss the possibility of a full House vote authorizing an impeachment investigation during a conference call with Democratic lawmakers Friday.She indicated instead that Democrats will proceed for now with their inquiry led by the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, without such a vote, according officials on the call.Trump and House Republicans have called the impeachment probe invalid without a vote by the full House. But Pelosi has rejected that as unnecessary at this point. One Democratic official who was on the call said the party doesn’t need to respond to the calls by Trump and the GOP.In a letter to his Democratic colleagues Friday, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the White House has offered “no meaningful legal arguments” for refusing to cooperate with the inquiry. The probe will pick up again Monday with testimony scheduled from Fiona Hill, who was a top Russia and Europe adviser on National Security Council until she stepped down in August.A few lawmakers have advocated calling Trump’s bluff by holding a vote, which would likely pass with more than 230 Democrats publicly supporting an impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers return from a two-week break next week and Democrats are set to discuss the impeachment probe again at a meeting on Wednesday.Trump Not Sure Giuliani Is Still His Lawyer (4:53 p.m.)Trump said he doesn’t know if Rudy Giuliani is still his personal attorney.“I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to Rudy,” Trump said at the White House Friday in response to a reporter’s question. “I spoke to him yesterday briefly. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney.”Giuliani is being scrutinized by federal investigators for his financial dealings, following the indictment of two of his associates on charges of violating campaign finance laws, according to a law enforcement official.Trump Says He Didn’t Ask China About Biden (4:03 p.m.)Trump said he didn’t ask China to investigate Democrat Joe Biden during trade talks in Washington after publicly calling on Beijing to begin a probe earlier this month.“I have not brought up Joe Biden,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.Speaking to the media earlier this month, Trump said “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” The president added, “Because what happened in China was just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.”Biden’s presidential campaign has dismissed Trump’s allegations as meritless.Pelosi Call Will Discuss Formal Inquiry Vote (2:47 p.m.)House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi will use a private conference call Friday to discuss whether to hold a floor vote formally authorizing the ongoing impeachment investigation.Pelosi has been saying that such a vote is not needed or required. But Trump and congressional Republicans have dismissed the impeachment inquiry as illegitimate until it is formalized with a full House vote.This potential vote and Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria are to be the main topics of the Democratic caucus conference call Friday afternoon, according to a House official. Most House members are away from Washington for a two-week district work period, set to return on Tuesday.No final decisions are expected during the call. But the discussions could set the tone for what might be decided when House Democrats hold their weekly caucus meeting on Wednesday. — Billy HouseChairmen Say Envoy Was Ordered Not to Testify (2:18 p.m.)The chairmen of three House committees say the State Department, under orders from the White House, ordered Yovanovitch not to appear for her interview Friday. They said they issued a subpoena to compel her testimony, and Yovanovitch is complying.“The illegitimate order from the Trump administration not to cooperate has no force,” the chairmen said.“This is the latest example of the administration’s efforts to conceal the facts from the American people and obstruct our lawful and constitutionally authorized impeachment inquiry,” said the chairmen of the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees in a statement.Envoy Cites ‘Concerted Campaign’ to Oust Her (12:22 p.m.)Yovanovitch said in her opening statement that she was told there was a “concerted campaign” against her and that the State Department had been “under pressure” from Trump to remove her as ambassador to Ukraine.She said in her prepared remarks that she was not disloyal to Trump.“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached,’” she said in the statement. “That allegation is false.”She said she had never been asked by President Barack Obama’s administration to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign or harm the Trump campaign.Yovanovitch said she was “incredulous” that she was removed “based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”“Today, we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,” Yovanovitch’s statement said. “State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.” — Billy HouseFormer Envoy Received ‘Friendly’ Subpoena (11:37 a.m.)Yovanovitch was issued a “friendly subpoena” prior to her closed-door testimony Friday, according to a House official.Yovanovitch, who remains a State Department employee, had been scheduled to testify for more than a week. But on Tuesday, the White House said the administration will not cooperate with the congressional impeachment probe focusing on Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.The committee’s response, in consultation with Yovanovitch’s lawyers, was to issue the subpoena late Thursday or Friday morning, the official said. A so-called friendly subpoena can be used when an attorney and or witness expressly agrees in writing to provide the information or testimony sought in return for the formality of a subpoena to protectively reflect that the response is being legally compelled.Depositions under subpoena are also subject to more stringent House rules on the public release of information. The testimony from former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, on the other hand, was taken in a transcribed interview. — Billy HouseFormer Ukraine Ambassador Arrives to Testify (10:15 a.m.)Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, arrived on Capitol Hill to give a private deposition to three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine this year after Trump allies questioned her work, and she remains a member of the foreign service. It’s unclear if she was cleared by the State Department to testify Friday.She did not speak to reporters before entering the offices where the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight panels expect to question her about the interactions of Trump and his allies with Ukrainian officials. — Billy HouseEU Envoy Sondland to Testify Oct. 17 (10:10 a.m.)Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, will testify Oct. 17 to House impeachment investigators despite the State Department’s “current direction not to testify,” his lawyers said.Sondland initially had been scheduled to testify on Tuesday to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees, but the State Department blocked him from appearing.Sondland, a hotel executive who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, was subpoenaed by the panels on Wednesday.“Notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees’ subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday,” attorneys Robert Luskin and Kwame Manley said in an emailed statement.As for documents sought by the three committees, they said, Sondland “does not control the disposition of his documents. By federal law and regulation, the State Department has sole authority to produce such documents, and Ambassador Sondland hopes the materials will be shared with the Committees in advance of his Thursday testimony.”Former Ukraine Envoy Set to Testify Friday (6:30 a.m.)Three House committees leading the Trump impeachment inquiry are set to hear a private deposition Friday from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.The panels are still planning for Yovanovitch to testify, even though the White House has pledged not to cooperate with the investigation. Canceling another witness at the last minute would add fuel to Democrats’ threat to include obstruction of Congress as an article of impeachment.The State Department on Tuesday blocked Sondland from appearing for his scheduled deposition less than an hour before it was set to start. The committee chairmen issued a subpoena for Sondland and could do the same for Yovanovitch if she doesn’t show up. Sondland’s attorney said he would testify Oct. 17.Key EventsPerry was subpoenaed to provide documents to help House Democrats determine whether he played a role in Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate 2020 political rival Joe Biden.Two associates of Rudy Giuliani were arrested on federal charges of violating campaign finance limits as part of a plot to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington as they were about to leave the country with one-way tickets.The two men had been subpoenaed by House committees in the impeachment inquiry. Their lawyer, John Dowd, told lawmakers in a letter they “assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump.” Trump said he didn’t know Parnas and Fruman. “Maybe they were clients of Rudy,” he said.Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his country is “ready to investigate” whether previous authorities meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections. At an all-day news conference in Kyiv, Zelenskiy said he hasn’t received any information yet about allegations of meddling from Trump’s administration.(An earlier version corrected the spelling of Sondland’s first name.)–With assistance from Josh Wingrove.To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.