Trump says Schiff helped write complaint

Jordan Fabian

Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is moving forward as several House committees are due to get private briefings Wednesday from the State Department inspector general on documents related to Ukraine.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has been subpoenaed to provide documents by Friday to three House committees.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, as they participate in a news conference at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump accuses Schiff of helping write complaint (2:53 p.m.)

Trump accused Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of helping write a whistle-blower complaint that led to an impeachment inquiry.

“I think it’s a scandal that he knew before,” Trump said Wednesday at a White House news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. “I’d go a step further – I think he probably helped write it.”

He added: “That’s a big story. He knew long before and he helped write it, too.”

Trump’s comment came after the New York Times reported that Schiff got an early account of what became the whistle-blower complaint that alleges Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff, said the committee did not review or receive the complaint in advance. “Like other whistle-blowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled Committees, the whistle-blower contacted the Committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community,'’ Boland said.

State watchdog to detail efforts to punish witnesses (2:39 p.m.)

The State Department’s inspector general is planning to brief lawmakers privately on efforts inside the department to punish officials who cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry of Trump, according to two people familiar with the matter.Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, is scheduled to meet with lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, just one day after Pompeo denounced a request from House committees to take testimony from five department officials.

The inspector general’s office declined to comment. – Billy House

Perry says he’ll answer queries on Zelenskiy (1:19 p.m.)

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters in Chicago Wednesday he’ll cooperate with House Democrats seeking information about his role in White House interactions with Ukraine’s president. “We are going to work with Congress and answer all their questions,” he said.

Perry has met twice with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, including in May when he led a delegation to Zelenskiy’s inauguration in place of Vice President Mike Pence.

The energy secretary didn’t answer a question about whether he was on the July 25 phone call with Trump and Zelenskiy that is central to the House impeachment inquiry. – Ari Natter

Trump calls whistle-blower source a 'spy’ (12:31 p.m.)

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that the source or sources who revealed his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to a whistle-blower “was a spy” and said the country must learn the person’s identity.

“He either got it totally wrong, made it up, or the person giving the information to the whistle-blower was dishonest,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “And this country has to find out who that person was because that person’s a spy, in my opinion.”

He also said in a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House that whistle-blowers deserve protection only when their complaints are “legitimate.” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who helped to write U.S. whistle-blower protection laws, said Tuesday in a statement that the Zelenskiy whistle-blower “appears” to have followed the law “and ought to be heard out and protected.”

“Look, I think a whistle-blower should be protected if the whistle-blower is legitimate,” Trump said. – Jordan Fabian

Trump says inquiry is driving stocks down (11:48 a.m.)

Trump said Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is pushing down down the value of stocks, and that the party is intentionally trying to depress the market to defeat him in the 2020 election.

“All of this impeachment nonsense, which is going nowhere, is driving the Stock Market, and your 401K’s, down,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “But that is exactly what the Democrats want to do. They are willing to hurt the Country, with only the 2020 Election in mind!”

U.S. stocks tumbled to the lowest since August on Wednesday after another disappointing report fueled fears that the American economy is slowing. The S&P 500 headed for the biggest two-day slump in two months as private payrolls fell short of estimates a day after a manufacturing gauge slumped to the lowest in a decade. – Jordan Fabian

Schiff warns Trump against stonewalling (11:34 a.m.)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019

Any White House attempt to “stonewall” House Democrats’ impeachment investigation will be considered evidence of obstruction of justice, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters.

Schiff said the whistle-blower deserves protection, and that Trump’s tweets have been “a blatant effort to intimidate a witness.”

“We’re not fooling around here now,“ Schiff said. “We don’t want this to drag on for months and months and months.” He added, “They will be strengthening the case if they behave that way.”

Schiff said Democrats are ready to go to court if necessary to enforce demands for information from the White House.

“It is hard to imagine a more corrupt course of conduct” than Trump’s pressuring the Ukraine president to investigate political rival Joe Biden, Schiff said. Republicans who dismiss the call as not rising to the level of an impeachable offense “are going to have to answer, if this conduct doesn’t rise to the level of concern the founders had, what conduct does?” – Billy House

House chairmen ready White House subpoena (10:47 a.m.)

Three House committee chairmen threatened on Wednesday to subpoena the White House if it fails to adhere by Friday to document requests related to allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine into investigating one of his leading political rivals.

Representatives Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel publicly released a memo and draft subpoena Wednesday.

“Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage withor even respond tothe committees,” they said in the memo.

The White House has refused to produce documents that were first requested more than three weeks ago on Sept. 9, the chairmen said. – Billy House

Putin defends Trump on Ukraine call claims (9:36 a.m.)

Under political siege in Washington and facing an impeachment threat, Trump got support from one key figure – Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Putin rode to Trump’s defense Wednesday over allegations the U.S. president pressured his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, now a leading candidate to challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.

“From what we know, I don’t see anything compromising at all,” Putin told an audience at the Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow. “I didn’t see that during this phone call Trump demanded compromising material from Zelenskiy at any cost and threatened him that he wouldn’t help Ukraine.”

While the Kremlin has said it wouldn’t like transcripts of Trump’s calls with Putin to be released, the Russian leader appeared more relaxed about the prospect. Pointing to his past experience as a KGB spy, Putin said “any conversation can be published – I always proceed from that.”

Putin added that after political controversy erupted in the U.S. over his Helsinki summit meeting with Trump last year, he told officials in Washington to publish details of their talks.

“We don’t mind,” Putin said. “I assure you that there’s nothing there that would compromise President Trump.”

Key Events

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will hold a press conference in the Capitol at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday. 
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he never met or talked by phone with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, whose contacts in Ukraine are part of the impeachment inquiry. Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian transcript of his July 25 call with Trump is similar to the one released by the White House.
  • Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as U.S. special representative to Ukraine, confirmed he’ll testify in private Thursday in front of three House committees, according to an official from one panel.
  • The chairmen of the three committees warned Pompeo to “immediately cease intimidating” State Department witnesses, hours after the secretary of state rejected the panels’ plan to take testimony from several State officials.
  • A Monmouth University poll showed that 63% of Americans say it’s wrong for a U.S. president to request help from a foreign leader to investigate a political rival and about the same proportion believe Trump probably did just that.

– With assistance from Justin Blum, Tony Halpin, James Rowley, Billy House, Erik Wasson, Ari Natter, Mario Parker and Jordan Fabian.