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Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 14

Members to get more inside information from administration officials on Trump and his circle’s dealings with Ukraine

Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser, arrives at the Capitol on Monday to testify in the House's impeachment inquiry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser, arrives at the Capitol on Monday to testify in the House's impeachment inquiry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House committees will hear from more administration insiders this week on details of the delay of an aid deal to Ukraine as they continue their impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

Fiona Hill, Trump’s former Russia specialist on the National Security Council, testified Monday to members of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, who are looking for details of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and those of others connected to the president. 

The New York Times reported Hill testified about the removal of Marie Yovanovitch from her post as ambassador to Ukraine, which she saw as an abuse of the system by allies of the president.

A former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also scheduled to give a transcribed interview at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

On Friday, members heard Yovanovitch defend herself against “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives” related to her being recalled from her post in May. She singled out Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani as a key player in efforts to remove her because she was seen as a roadblock to getting the Ukrainians to investigate potential Trump 2020 opponent Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

On Thursday, members will hear from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, whose testimony last week was canceled late the night before he was supposed to appear before the committees. The ambassador acted as a middleman between the administration and the Ukrainians.

Congress returns from its two-week recess Tuesday. Here’s the latest in the investigation:

On the record: Michael McKinley, a former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is scheduled to appear before House impeachment investigators for a transcribed interview at 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to congressional sources.

McKinley resigned from his position at the State Department last week. It was not immediately clear Monday evening if McKinley’s closed-door testimony is prompted by a subpoena or his own volition.

Getting the boot: GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz was kicked out of Hill’s deposition by House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff. Gaetz sits on the Judiciary Committee, but is not on the House Intelligence, Oversight or Foreign Affairs committees, which have jurisdiction over the inquiry.

“Mr. Schiff told me I had to leave,” Gaetz told reporters, and criticized the chairman, calling the inquiry a “sham process.” Gaetz said he consulted with the House Parliamentarian, who ruled that he could not participate in Monday’s transcribed interview.

Gaetz said that Judiciary members should be allowed to participate in depositions focused on Ukraine — if articles of impeachment are eventually drafted, they would originate in the Judiciary Committee.

“It’s not like I’m on the Agriculture Committee,” he said.

Put a lid on it: The White House called a “travel/photo lid” extremely early Monday — at 9 a.m. The term means the day’s group of reporters, photographers and sound technicians responsible for tracking any presidential movements and spoken words has been dismissed. That means we won’t hear from Trump about impeachment Monday — at least not in verbal form, unless he calls into a favorite Fox News or conservative radio program.

And he’s been active on Twitter Monday morning…

“End the witch hunt”: America First Policies, the nonprofit arm of a pro-Trump super PAC, announced Monday it was investing $1 million in ads on TV and Facebook and a text message campaign to urge voters to contact Democratic lawmakers and encourage them to “end the witch hunt, oppose impeachment and put America first,” a narrator says in the sample 30-second ad.

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TV ads will air in Iowa’s 1st District, which is represented by Rep. Abby Finkenauer; Virginia’s 7th District, represented by Rep. Abigail Spanberger; and Rep. Matt Cartwright’s Pennsylvania 8. Trump won all three districts in 2016.

No accident: Republican Rep. Liz Cheney appeared to blame Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria on Democrats’ impeachment investigation and Trump’s weakened political position.

“It was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border,” she told Fox News on Monday. “And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they’re doing with the impeachment proceedings.”

Trump has taken heat from fellow Republicans for withdrawing U.S. forces from the region and in essence abandoning Kurdish forces, who Turkey has long opposed.

In cahoots: Trump early on Monday demanded the intelligence community whistleblower testify before a House panel leading the inquiry.

That still-anonymous individual “Must testify to explain why he got my Ukraine conversation sooo wrong, not even close,” Trump tweeted, even though the complaint document’s summary of the call aligns with one produced and released by the White House. The president, as he has previously, then went about suggesting Schiff and the whistleblower are in cahoots to bring down his presidency: “Did Schiff tell him to do that?”

Trump again defied federal whistleblower protection laws by adding in one tweet that “We must determine the Whistleblower’s identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA..”

But Schiff on Sunday said his panel might not call the whistleblower to testify in large part to help him remain anonymous.

“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,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Before the president started threatening the whistleblower … we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward. Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected.”

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