Congress set to return as impeachment inquiry heats up — live updates

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Key facts and latest news

  • Lawmakers return this week after a two-week recess, with four depositions scheduled for administration officials before the House committees leading the impeachment probe.
  • Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers Friday she was “incredulous” that the government had cut short her term as ambassador, “based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
  • On a July call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.

Washington— Members of Congress are set to return to Washington this week as the committees leading the impeachment inquiry prepare to hear testimony from four officials about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia at the National Security Council, is set to be deposed by the committees behind closed doors at 10 a.m. Monday. Three other State Department officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, also have testimony scheduled for this week, but it remains unclear if they will appear. Several other deadlines for document requests occur this week.

The full House is set to convene on Tuesday, after the Columbus Day holiday. The impeachment committees — House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform — have worked through the two-week recess.

On Friday, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she had done nothing wrong and refuted each of the accusations against her leveled by the president’s allies and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

According to her prepared remarks, obtained by the Washington Post, Yovanovitch denied allegations that she had directed a Ukrainian official to refrain from investigating corruption, and she defended her record against attacks by President Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. She said she had never called on any official in Ukraine not to investigate “actual corruption” and denied she had ever created a “‘do not prosecute'” list.

She also denied she had ever been “disloyal” to Mr. Trump and added that the Obama administration never asked her to help with the Clinton campaign or work against the Trump campaign.

Yovanovitch also said her ouster as ambassador came as a surprise, and said that the deputy secretary of state explained to her that there had been a “concerted campaign against” her, and the State Department had been under pressure to remove her since 2018.

Fiona Hill arrives on Capitol Hill

Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Russia has arrived at the House Intelligence Committee for her closed-door deposition in front of congressional investigators. Her attorney said his client has received a subpoena and will comply.

“Our client, Dr. Fiona Hill, former Dep Asst to Pres, received a congressional subpoena, will comply and answer questions from Members this morning starting at 10 AM,” Hill’s attorney Lee Wolosky tweeted.

— Rebecca Kaplan

Trump urges whistleblower’s testimony and identity

8:20 a.m. President Trump kicked off his Columbus Day holiday by tweeting that the whistleblower “must testify to explain why he got my Ukraine conversation sooo wrong, not even close. “

He added, “We must determine the Whistleblower’s identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA.”

Mr. Trump took issue with Rep. Adam Schiff’s claim on “Face the Nation” Sunday that the whistleblower’s testimony may not be necessary in the ongoing impeachment probe.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower, who wasn’t on the call, to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff said on “Face the Nation” Sunday, referring to the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president. “We have the best evidence of that.”

Where do Republican senators up for re-election stand on impeachment

7:50 a.m.: 19 GOP senators are currently up for re-election in 2020. Where exactly they stand on the impeachment inquiry will be a hot-button issue for their constituencies heading into the election cycle.

CBS News’ Ellee Watson took a look at just where they stand how it might impact their political future, as well as the president’s.

Read more here

Who’s next to testify?

6:20 a.m. Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill is expected to appear for a closed deposition Monday. Hill, until this past August, served as the Senior Director on the National Security Council for European and Russian Affairs.

CBS News’ Margaret Brennan reports that Hill is expected to tell lawmakers that President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland actively avoided her and the NSC process and ran their own Ukraine policy, according to a source familiar with Hill.

Hill, who is testifying voluntarily, does not intend to hand over documents or texts. She officially left the White House in July, but before the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky took place. Hill is an authority on Russia and has written a book on the Russian president, called “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”

Schiff says whistleblower might not need to testify

Schiff says whistleblower testimony “might not be necessary” in impeachment probe

6:00 a.m.: California Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said congressional investigators leading the impeachment inquiry might not pursue testimony from the intelligence community whistleblower if doing so risks exposing the person’s identity.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower, who wasn’t on the call, to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff said on “Face the Nation” Sunday, referring to the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president. “We have the best evidence of that.”

Schiff said his committee, one of three panels leading the impeachment probe, was initially interested in speaking to the whistleblower. Lawmakers had discussed taking great lengths to protect the whistleblower’s identity during possible testimony, including obscuring the person’s voice and appearance and conducting the interview somewhere other than Capitol Hill. But the chairman said his position changed when Mr. Trump sought to denigrate the credibility of the whistleblower and call for the person’s identity to be exposed.

“The president started threatening the whistleblower, threatening others, calling them traitors and spies and suggesting that, you know, we used to give the death penalty to traitors and spies and maybe we should think about that again,” Schiff said.

Read more here.

Was Trump asking China to investigate Biden appropriate? “Of course not,” Cruz says

Cruz says Trump should release transcripts of Biden’s talks with Ukraine

5:30 a.m.: Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said the president urging China to investigate the Bidens was out of bounds.

“Of course not,” Cruz said on “Face the Nation” Sunday when asked whether the request was appropriate. “Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it’s not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections.”

Cruz spoke from Hong Kong, where he is traveling to express support for protesters who are fighting efforts by China to gain further control of the city.

“Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections. That’s true for Russia. That’s true for Ukraine. That’s true for China. That’s true for all of them,” Cruz said. “It should be the American people deciding elections.”

Cruz also said it would “make a lot of sense” for Rudy Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. — Stefan Becket

Defense secretary says Pentagon will comply with subpoena

U.S. “preparing to evacuate” remaining troops from northern Syria, defense secretary says

5:00 a.m.: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon is planning to comply with oversight requests made by congressional committees leading the impeachment inquiry, including a subpoena for documents about a delay of hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine over the summer.

“We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress,” Esper said on “Face the Nation” Sunday. “Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained.”

Asked to confirm that his department intends to comply with the specific subpoena for documents related to the $250 million military aid package to the Ukrainian government, Esper responded in the affirmative.

“That’s a yes,” he said. “We will do everything we can to comply.”

Read more here.

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