There were some extraordinary developments in the impeachment inquiry this week. Grab some coffee and we’ll catch you up.
A House divided votes on the Impeachment Inquiry
A bitterly split House of Representatives voted Thursday to endorse the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The vote was 232 to 196. Two Democrats joined Republicans to vote against the resolution, which sets out rules for an impeachment process that promises to consume the country a little more than a year before the 2020 presidential election.
The vote removed almost any doubt that Democrats would bring a full-fledged impeachment case against Mr. Trump for his apparent efforts to pressure a foreign power into investigating his domestic political rivals.
The resolution outlines the rights and procedures that will guide the process, including the public presentation of evidence and how Mr. Trump and his legal team will be able to eventually mount a defense. But it also demonstrates that an almost completely unified Democratic caucus, despite Republican opposition, now has enough confidence in the severity of the underlying facts about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine to start making its case for impeachment in public.
A Firsthand Account of the Ukraine Call
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the White House transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president omitted an assertion by Mr. Trump that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption. He said it also left out an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.
Colonel Vindman, who fled Ukraine at age 3 and became a soldier and a scholar, appeared on Capitol Hill wearing his dark blue Army dress uniform and military ribbons. He told House impeachment investigators that he tried to change a reconstructed transcript made by the White House staff to reflect the omissions. But while some of his edits appeared to have been successful, he said, those two corrections were not made.
In other testimony, a senior National Security Council aide on Thursday confirmed a key episode at the center of the impeachment inquiry, testifying that a top diplomat working with Mr. Trump told him that a package of military assistance for Ukraine would not be released until the country committed to investigations the president sought.
In a closed-door deposition, the aide, Timothy Morrison, also said he had been told of a September call between Mr. Trump and the diplomat, Gordon D. Sondland. In that conversation, the president said he was not looking for a quid pro quo, but then went on to “insist” that Ukraine’s president publicly announce investigations into Mr. Biden, his son and other Democrats.
Mr. Morrison, a Trump political appointee and a former longtime Republican congressional aide, said in his opening remarks that he did not draw conclusions about Mr. Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine. In subsequent testimony, he said he did not view the July phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky as illegal or improper, but he found it striking enough to ask the National Security Council’s chief lawyer, John Eisenberg, to review it.
John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, and two top White House lawyers have been summed to testify next week.
But Mr. Bolton’s lawyer said he was “not willing to appear voluntarily,” declining to specify what his client would do should he be subpoenaed. Mr. Bolton left the White House in September after a series of disagreements with the president.
Mr. Bolton’s deputies have testified that he was angry about efforts to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was leading the charge, Mr. Bolton had warned, was a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”
The White House lawyers, John A. Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, are supposed to testify next week, reports Noah Weiland, who writes the daily impeachment briefing (sign up here), and fills us in on what’s ahead for next week.