By Felicia Sonmez, Colby Itkowitz, John Wagner, Washington Post–
Former vice president Joe Biden made his most direct call for President Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, hours after Trump said the Democratic-led inquiry should be terminated “for the good of the Country,” claiming it was tainted with political bias.
“President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with a congressional inquiry … he’s already convicted himself,” Biden, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said during a fiery address in New Hampshire.
Trump, meanwhile, continued to take aim at Biden and House Democrats, suggesting that he would refuse to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry unless Democrats “give us our rights.”
The developments came a day after the White House said in a scathing eight-page letter that it would not cooperate with the inquiry into the Ukraine scandal on the grounds that it lacked merit.
The letter was the latest escalation in a standoff with Congress, where Democrats are vowing to hold Trump accountable for pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been suspended.
● White House escalates standoff with Congress, says it will not cooperate with impeachment inquiry of Trump.
● Former national security officials fight back as Trump attacks impeachment as
“deep state” conspiracy.
● The revealing splits in GOP senators’ reactions to impeachment.
7 p.m.: Vice President Pence dodges questions about whether he was aware of Trump’s interest in foreign countries investigating Biden
In a rare back and forth with reporters in Iowa, Pence refused to answer repeated questions about whether he was aware of Trump’s desire for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Pence mostly regurgitated White House talking points, according to a pool report. He said he never discussed Biden on his call with President Zelensky and said he’d be open to releasing that transcript.
“What I can tell you is, all of our discussions internally, between the president and our team, and our contacts and my office with Ukraine, were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support and corruption,” Pence said.
Asked if it was okay with him that the president said he wants a foreign country to investigate his political opponent, Pence said, “I don’t believe that’s the case.”
“He said it,” a reporter pressed.
“And again, I know that’s the way Chairman Schiff characterized it in his manufactured version of the transcript, but the American people should read the transcript and they will see that the president did nothing wrong, there was no pressure, there was no quid pro quo. The president simply raised issues of importance and interest to the American people,” Pence said and then ended the gaggle.
5:30 p.m.: Whistleblower’s attorneys push back against claims of political bias
Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid, the lawyers representing the whistleblower whose complaint is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, issued a statement Wednesday evening disputing claims that their client is politically biased.
The whistleblower “has never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign, or party” and “has spent their entire government career in apolitical, civil servant positions in the Executive Branch,” they wrote.
They added that “in these positions our client has come into contact with presidential candidates from both parties in their roles as elected officials — not as candidates.”
Bakaj and Zaid also said the whistleblower “voluntarily provided relevant career information” to the inspector general of the intelligence community “in order to facilitate an assessment of the credibility of the complaint.” The inspector general, they noted, concluded that the complaint “was both urgent and credible.”
“Finally, the whistleblower is not the story,” they said. “To date, virtually every substantive allegation has been confirmed by other sources. For that reason the identity of the whistleblower is irrelevant.”
5 p.m.: Trump repeats ‘electric chair’ claim about Biden
In an exchange with reporters after an event at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, Trump repeated an unsubstantiated claim he made last month about Biden, arguing that if a Republican behaved in a manner similar to the former vice president, that person would “be getting the electric chair.”
“Here’s a man who is on tape saying exactly what he’s going to do, in terms of corruption,” Trump said. “And he gets away with it. If that ever happened to a Republican, they’d be getting the electric chair right now. They’d be right now being walked into the electric chair. It’s a whole different standard.”
Biden’s son Hunter served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment. Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.
As vice president, Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine to fire the top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom Biden and other Western officials, including Republicans, accused of not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
On Wednesday, Trump also went after Biden’s son personally, alluding to his struggles with drug addiction.
“His son, who is at best incompetent, who was thrown out of the Navy … don’t want to say why, but it’s a subject we just discussed,” Trump said. Trump had just spoken about opioids.
4:45 p.m.: Trump predicts his refusal to cooperate with inquiry will become a Supreme Court case
In his remarks at the White House, Trump said his refusal to answer House Democrats’ requests during the impeachment inquiry “probably ends up being a big Supreme Court case.”
The remarks suggest that Trump does not plan to back down on his demands that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hold a House vote on starting an impeachment inquiry.
At the same event, Trump appeared to open the door to cooperating with House Democrats — if they meet certain conditions.
“We would, if they give us our rights,” he said.
Trump and Republicans have criticized Democrats for not holding a vote to formally open their impeachment inquiry. They have also taken aim at Democrats for hearing witness testimony behind closed doors, even though some, such as acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, have testified publicly.
“It’s the most unfair situation people have seen,” Trump said, contending that Democrats “have eviscerated the rules.”
4:15 p.m.: Harris, Blumenthal call on Trump Cabinet members to preserve evidence
Democratic Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) sent a letter Wednesday to Trump’s Cabinet officials urging them to preserve evidence, protect whistleblowers and inspectors general and cooperate with “all ongoing and future investigations” into potential wrongdoing by the president.
Both Harris, who is running for president, and Blumenthal are former state attorneys general.
“The president has referred to the Intelligence Community whistleblowers as partisans and traitors, which is a clear attempt to intimidate them and additional whistleblowers from coming forward,” they said in the letter. “Just as whistleblowers should not be threatened by administration officials, inspectors general should not be interfered with or intimidated.”
3:35 p.m.: Graham threatens to call Volker to testify
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday afternoon that he will call former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker to testify unless House Democrats release a full transcript of Volker’s closed-door deposition last week.
“If House D’s refuse to release full transcript of Volker testimony as requested by Congressman Jordan, it will be an abuse of power,” Graham said in a tweet. He added: “If this continues, I will call Volker before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify publicly to ensure the full story is told.”
Following Volker’s 10-hour deposition last week, Democrats said the former envoy had provided sufficient evidence of a quid pro quo by Trump in which military aid to Ukraine would be released in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens.
But House Republicans, including Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), have contended that nothing Volker had said damaged the president and that there was no proof Trump had sought a quid pro quo. Jordan has in recent days ramped up his calls for Democrats to release Volker’s testimony.
3:20 p.m.: Hillary Clinton presses Trump, Barr on election integrity
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton pressed Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr on election security after the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report that delivered a sobering assessment about the weaknesses that Russian operatives exploited in the 2016 campaign.
“I’d love to hear how @realDonaldTrump and Secretary Barr are going to take steps to protect our elections in light of this bipartisan report on the attack on our election integrity,” Clinton tweeted.
The report said in blunt language that Russians worked to damage Clinton while bolstering Trump — and made clear that fresh rounds of interference are likely ahead of the 2020 vote.
3:10 p.m.: Trump campaign releases new ad attacking Biden and son Hunter
Within minutes of Biden’s scathing remarks about the president, Trump tweeted “Sleepy Joe Biden!” and embedded his campaign’s latest attack ad against the former vice president. The ad repeats Trump’s unfounded accusation that Biden had leaned on Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor to benefit his son Hunter, who was working for a Ukrainian gas company. The company had been investigated by the prosecutor.
The ad is part of an $8 million TV commercial push by the Trump camp, which is airing this and another anti-Biden ad nationally and in local markets in early primary states.
The ad also shows a montage of Democrats — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and accuses them of wanting to overturn the 2016 election.
3 p.m.: Sen. Joni Ernst refuses to say whether it’s ‘appropriate’ to ask for foreign campaign help
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) wouldn’t answer a CNN reporter who repeatedly asked whether the senator thought it was appropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent, eventually just walking away from the interview.
At first, Ernst said they’d need to wait until they see the information gathered by the Senate Intelligence panel. The reporter asked again whether the mere act of asking for such a favor was appropriate.
“We, again, we don’t have the facts in front of us. And what we see pushed out through the media, we don’t know what is accurate at this point,” Ernst said, according to footage of the exchange.
“I didn’t ask if it was accurate — I’m asking you if it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate his domestic political rival. Yes or no?” the reporter asked for a third time.
Ernst again dodged the question. The reporter asked the senator if she wasn’t answering because she feared retribution. Ernst said, “no,” and repeated her talking points about waiting to go through the information “without media interdiction.”
When the reporter tried again to get Ernst to comment on whether Trump’s request of a foreign leader was appropriate, Ernst turned and walked away.
Last week at a town hall, Ernst struggled to answer a voter who asked her, “Where is the line?”
2 p.m.: Trump responds to Biden as he speaks in New Hampshire
Trump took to Twitter to respond to Biden on Wednesday as the former vice president called for his impeachment during a campaign appearance in Rochester, N.H.
“So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment — and I did nothing wrong,” Trump tweeted. “Joe’s Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!”
Trump was referring to business dealings by Hunter Biden in Ukraine and China during Biden’s tenure as vice president.
Biden soon responded in a tweet of his own.
“Thanks for watching,” he said. “Stop stonewalling the Congress. Honor your oath. Respect the Constitution. And speaking of taxpayers, I’ve released 21 years of my tax returns. You?”
1:45 p.m.: Biden delivers forceful denunciation of Trump’s actions: ‘He should be impeached’
In a fiery campaign speech in Rochester, N.H., Biden condemned Trump’s actions and declared that the president should be impeached.
Biden had previously used caveats when discussing whether Trump’s behavior merited impeachment. In his remarks Wednesday, he argued that the president is endangering national security, violating democratic norms and abusing his power to get reelected.
“He believes he can and will get away with anything he does,” Biden said. “We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it. It’s no joke. He’s shooting holes in the Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it.”
Biden seized on Trump’s remarks outside the White House last week, where the president publicly urged China to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump did so “in the broad light of day,” Biden said.
“It was the third foreign power that we know of that he’s asked in clear, unmistakable language … to interfere” in U.S. democratic proceedings, Biden said, adding that Trump has made overtures to Russia and Ukraine as well.
The speech marked Biden’s most combative on the topic of Trump and foreign election interference.
“We believe Americans should decide Americans, period,” Biden said. “But Donald Trump will do anything to get reelected, including violating the most basic forms of democracy. It’s stunning, and it’s dangerous. … He has seen no limits to his power, regardless what the Constitution says.”
Biden also took aim at Trump for suggesting that the people who provided information to the whistleblower should be executed. “What president has ever used such language?” he asked.
And he criticized the president for continuing to decline to release his tax returns.
“And by the way, even Nixon released his taxes,” Biden said.
1:40 p.m.: Clinton email critics do a role reversal as Trump administration draws fire for private phone use
More than four years after a squad of House Republicans led a charge against Hillary Clinton for her handling of sensitive diplomatic information, the State Department is once again under scrutiny for how diplomats use personal phones to conduct official business.
But some of those same House lawmakers are now on the opposite side of the controversy, playing defense for U.S. diplomats.
On Tuesday, lawmakers said that Trump’s top envoys for Ukraine and the European Union used personal phones and an encrypted messenger app as they conducted U.S. policy on Ukraine, a matter that was revealed during House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Read more here.
— John Hudson and Karoun Demirjian
12:30 p.m.: Trump understates public support for impeachment
In an early afternoon tweet, Trump significantly understated the public support for his impeachment found in recent polling.
“Only 25 percent want the President Impeached, which is pretty low considering the volume of Fake News coverage, but pretty high considering the fact that I did NOTHING wrong,” Trump tweeted. “It is all just a continuation of the greatest Scam and Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!”
Support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office has ranged from 43 percent to 48 percent in independent national polls released this week.
Trump did not point to a particular poll in his tweet, and a White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about the source of his information.
12:15 p.m.: Pelosi, House Democrats to hold conference call Friday
Pelosi will hold a conference call with House Democrats on Friday afternoon to deliver an update on the impeachment inquiry, according to two House Democratic aides.
The call comes days before lawmakers return to Washington from their two-week recess.
— Mike DeBonis
Noon: Republicans seize on Hillary Clinton interview
Republicans seized Wednesday on a television interview with Hillary Clinton to bolster their argument that Democrats are seeking to avenge her 2016 loss by targeting Trump for impeachment.
In the interview, which aired Tuesday on “PBS NewsHour,” Clinton was asked about a Trump tweet this week in which he suggested that “crooked Hillary Clinton” should enter the 2020 presidential race and referenced the past controversy over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
“So maybe there does need to be a rematch,” Clinton said, adding: “Obviously, I can beat him again.”
In a tweet Wednesday that included that clip, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote: “If there were any doubt that Democrats still refuse to accept they lost in 2016, here is Hillary Clinton herself claiming she beat @realDonaldTrump. She’s completely delusional.”
While Clinton received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump nationwide, Trump prevailed in the electoral college.
11:20 a.m.: Trump campaign manager says Democrats ‘trying to coup’ the president
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Wednesday that Democrats are “trying to coup” the president.
“This isn’t the fourth impeachment attempt in American History by Democrats,” Parscale tweeted. “It is the first COUP attempt in American History by Democrats! You can call what you want, but Democrats are trying to coup the most popular Republican president in history.”
10:40 a.m.: Revealing splits in GOP senators’ reactions to impeachment
If the House impeaches President Trump, it’s up to the Senate whether to remove him from office. Senators will hold a trial, and it would take 20 Republicans along with all Democrats to reach the constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, to remove him.
That is a long shot, given that Republicans in Congress have largely defended Trump in the face of allegations that he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son.
Still, some Republican senators want to know more about the whistleblower complaint that started all this. Others have rebuked Trump for soliciting political help from foreign leaders or withheld support for the impeachment inquiry pending more facts.
We’ve collected reactions from all 53 Republican senators. Read more here about what they have had to say.
— Adrian Blanco, Amber Phillips, Kate Rabinowitz, JM Rieger and Kevin Schaul
10:15 a.m.: Jordan says Democrats ‘continue to make the rules up as they go along’
In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) criticized Democrats for not holding a vote to open their impeachment inquiry into Trump.
“They continue to make the rules up as they go along,” said Jordan, who has been one of Trump’s most visible surrogates as the impeachment probe ramps up.
While Democrats have not held a vote on opening an inquiry, Jordan said that it appears likely that the House will eventually vote on articles of impeachment.
“In the end, on articles, it seems like they’re headed down that road,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Jordan tweeted in defense of Trump, arguing that “Democrats are so busy ‘striking while the iron is hot’ that they didn’t even have a vote to start their crazy impeachment proceedings!”
9:30 a.m.: Graham says he’s gathering GOP signatures for a letter to Pelosi
Graham said Wednesday that he is seeking Republican signatures for a letter to Pelosi contending that Trump’s July call with Zelensky does not amount to an impeachable offense.
Graham made his comments during an appearance on Fox News in which he called the House impeachment inquiry “a star-chamber process.”
“I’m going to ask my colleagues in the Senate, Republicans, to sign a letter to Nancy Pelosi saying we do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense,” Graham said.
If Trump is impeached by the Democratic-led House, a trial would be held in the Republican-led Senate to determine whether to remove him from office.
Graham also elaborated on his invitation to have Trump personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani testify in front of his Senate panel.
“He’s claiming to have a lot of evidence about corruption in the Ukraine that ties back to the Democrats that’s apart from what the House is looking at,” Graham said. “I think Rudy’s got a story to tell. I want him to tell it in my committee.”
9:05 a.m.: Hoyer says Trump ‘betrayed our nation,’ urges GOP to support inquiry
Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Wednesday that Trump had ‘betrayed our nation’ in the Ukraine scandal.
Hoyer’s assessment came in a statement in response to the White House announcement Tuesday that it would not cooperate with the inquiry into Trump pressing Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
“The letter sent by the White House yesterday is the latest example of this Administration’s efforts to stonewall an investigation into the President’s abuse of power and obstruct justice,” Hoyer said. “The evidence shows that the President betrayed our nation by encouraging foreign interference in our election, undermining our democracy and national security.”
Hoyer also urged House Republicans to work with Democrats on the impeachment inquiry.
“This is not an issue of party or politics — it is about our Constitution, the rule of law, and the security of our nation,” Hoyer said. “House Democrats will continue to pursue this inquiry with the seriousness and solemnity it deserves.”
8:20 a.m.: Trump calls for end of impeachment inquiry, says whistleblower should be ‘exposed’
Trump on Wednesday called for ending the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, claiming that it was tainted by partisanship, amid tweets in which he lashed out in multiple directions.
“For the good of the Country, this Witch Hunt should end now!” Trump wrote, calling the inquiry a “scam.”
“The Do Nothing Democrats are Con Artists, only looking to hurt the Republican Party and President,” he wrote in another tweet. “Their total focus is 2020, nothing more, and nothing less. The good news is that WE WILL WIN!!!!”
In another tweet, Trump took aim at the anonymous U.S. intelligence official whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry, writing that the whistleblower “should be exposed and properly questioned.”
Trump also took fresh aim at Schiff, writing that he “should be Impeached for Fraud!”
Trump has taken issue with Schiff’s statement during a hearing in which he embellished Trump’s July call with the leader of Ukraine. Schiff later said that it was meant as a parody and that Trump should have realized that.
In an earlier tweet Wednesday, Giuliani also sought to paint the impeachment inquiry as “purely partisan,” saying it should be paid for by the Democratic National Committee.
6:15 a.m.: Eric Trump supports calling impeachment inquiry an ‘attempted coup’
One of President’s Trump’s sons, Eric Trump, took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to voice support for Fox News host Sean Hannity, who on Tuesday night told viewers he would no longer refer to the impeachment inquiry by that term because “it is not.”
“This is just the latest attempted coup of a duly elected president,” Hannity said on his prime-time show.
“@seanhannity is absolutely correct — This is not an impeachment inquiry, it is an ‘attempted coup,’” Eric Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
6 a.m.: McConnell says impeachment inquiry has ‘fallen far short’ on fairness
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose chamber would determine whether to remove Trump from office if he is impeached, criticized the House inquiry Tuesday night, saying it has “fallen far short” on fairness.
“Overturning the results of an American election requires the highest level of fairness and due process, as it strikes at the core of our democratic process,” McConnell tweeted. “So far, the House has fallen far short by failing to follow the same basic procedures that it has followed for every other President in our history.”
Later Tuesday night, Trump retweeted McConnell’s assessment, adding in his own words: “The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of the USA!”
5 a.m.: Trump ally on Fox News calls whistleblowers ‘suicide bombers,’ accuses Democrats of ‘regicide’
Former U.S. attorney Joseph E. diGenova turned to European history Tuesday night to describe the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Trump calling their efforts “regicide,” the act of killing a king.
“What you’re seeing is regicide,” diGenova, a frequent Trump defender, told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment. The Democrats in the House want to destroy the president.”
But diGenova, a conspiracy theorist Trump wanted on his legal team during the Russia probe, wasn’t finished. In a lengthy interview on “The Ingraham Angle,” the lawyer, who was joined by Giuliani, blasted the two anonymous whistleblowers as “suicide bombers” and accused Democrats of “sedition.”
The fiery rhetoric marks the latest escalation in language used by Trump’s supporters, and even the president himself, to complain about the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Read more here.
— Allyson Chiu