Zelenskiy says he doesn't want to be witness: Impeachment update

Billy House

President Donald Trump, after making clear he won’t cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, goes back on offense Thursday with his first campaign rally since the probe began.

Trump will address supporters in Minneapolis as he grapples with polls that show rising support for impeachment – including one published Wednesday from Fox News that showed 51% of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office.

Here are the latest developments:

Zelenskiy Doesn’t Want to Be a Witness: Impeachment Update (1:06 p.m.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during talks with journalists in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he sees no reason he should be called on to testify in inquiries into whether Trump improperly pressured him to investigate Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

“I did not violate any law in Ukraine, or any international law,” Zelenskiy said as he held court for hours with reporters in Kyiv. “As president of Ukraine I don’t understand what I should witness about in another country.”

House Subpoenas Two Giuliani Associates (12:35 p.m.)

House committees leading the impeachment inquiry issued subpoenas for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested Thursday for campaign finance violations, to produce documents related to Ukraine by Oct. 16.

The Democratic chairmen of the committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight also said they expect the two men to testify before the committees at a later date.

“Your clients are private citizens who are not employees of the Executive Branch. They may not evade requests from Congress for documents and information necessary to conduct our inquiry,” the chairmen said in a letter to John Dowd, the attorney representing the two. “They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr. Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction.”

The letter also details previous efforts by the committees to request documents and depositions from Parnas and Fruman.

This Facebook screen shot provided by The Campaign Legal Center, shows President Donald Trump standing with Lev Parnas, top left photo, at the White House in Washington, posted on May 1, 2018.

Sekulow Says Trump Didn’t Know About Improper Payments (12:22 p.m.)

One of Trump’s outside attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said neither the president nor his campaign were aware of alleged improper financial contributions by two men who helped Rudy Giuliani seek information on Democrats in Ukraine.

The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Thursday over allegations they made political donations to advance personal financial interests as well as the interests of an unidentified Ukrainian government official.

Federal campaign records on Opensecrets.org show one of the alleged straw donations, for $325,000, was made to the America First Action Committee, which has sought to advance issues championed by Trump.

“As the indictment establishes, neither the president, nor the campaign, nor the PACs were aware of the financial issues involved,” Sekulow said.

According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman coordinated with an unidentified U.S. congressman to get his help removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2018, at the behest of Ukrainian government officials. At the time, Marie Yovanovitch served in that role, before Trump recalled her in May.

Trump’s Former Russia Adviser Set to Testify (9:02 a.m.)

Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the National Security Council, is expected to testify before three House committees on Monday .

Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill is expected to testify before three House committees on Monday as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to two House officials familiar with the plans.

Hill, who was the top Russia and Europe adviser on Trump’s National Security Council, will be interviewed behind closed doors by the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform panels as part of their probe into Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, according to the officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss information not yet public.

As part of her work for the Trump administration, Hill traveled to Russia to meet with representatives of Russia’s Security Council and Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Kommersant reported in April.

The White House has prohibited several current administration officials from testifying as part of the impeachment inquiry; Hill, however, left the administration earlier this year.

Zelenskiy Unsure if Ukraine Meddled in U.S. Vote (8:47 a.m.)

Ukraine should investigate whether there was any meddling by the previous authorities in the 2016 U.S. elections, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told journalists in Kyiv on Thursday.

“Ukrainians should investigate it themselves, probably there are grounds for that, but first of all it is our issue,” he said. “It is very important for us so that in future we never interfere in elections of any country.”

Zelenskiy said his administration is “ready to investigate,” but so far he hasn’t received any information about allegations from the Trump administration regarding election meddling or Burisma, the natural gas firm that had former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son as a board member.

“When the U.S. says, Yes, there was meddling,’ I say, Please pass details and we will find. We will be happy to investigate.’ The U.S. did not give me anything,” including on Burisma, he said.

Earlier Thursday, Zelenskiy rejected any suggestions he was blackmailed by Trump during a now infamous phone call in July that’s prompted an impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president. But he added that “Ukraine is not against” a joint investigation with the U.S. into the Bidens. – Daryna Krasnolutska

Key Events

  • White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday that neither the president nor his administration would participate in the impeachment inquiry, calling it “unauthorized” and “invalid.”
  • Biden said for the first time Wednesday that Trump should be impeached. He made the declaration in a speech in Rochester, New Hampshire, saying Congress would have no choice but to impeach if the Trump administration refused to cooperate with a probe into his behavior.Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in Iowa, meanwhile, that he’d have “no objection” to releasing transcripts of his calls with Ukrainian officials.
  • House Republicans met with Trump after being blindsided by the administration’s decision to prevent Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from testifying in the inquiry. The administration committed to work more closely with congressional Republicans on the inquiry.
  • Three House committees subpoenaed Sondland to testify on Oct. 16 and to produce records from his personal devices two days earlier, after he was prevented from testifying earlier this week by the State Department.
  • Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled by Trump as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, isn’t expected to appear voluntarily on Friday, as scheduled, for closed-door testimony before House committees leading the impeachment investigation, said a House official.

With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska, Tyler Pager and Kathleen Miller.