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Trump opposes public hearings as a ‘hoax’: Impeachment update

Billy House

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney failed to appear after having been subpoenaed to testify Friday behind closed doors to the House committees investigating President Donald Trump.

A second official – Mark Sandy, the White House Office of Management and Budget associate director for national security programs – also has been asked to testify. Other OMB officials have defied requests or subpoenas for information.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump Opposes Public Hearings as a Hoax’ (12 p.m.)

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere, left, and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham listen as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, before departing to Georgia to meet with supporters.

Trump said he opposes public hearings that begin next week in the impeachment inquiry, contradicting weeks of complaints by Republicans in Congress that the hearings held until now are unfair because they were held behind closed doors.

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings, it’s a hoax,” Trump told reporters Friday. “This is just a continuation of the hoax. It’s a disgraceful thing.”

The House Intelligence Committee plans to begin public hearings next Wednesday, and following that the Judiciary Committee will hold open sessions at which Trump’s team can offer evidence and witnesses in his defense.

So far, the only defense for Trump has been Republicans lawmakers’ questioning of witnesses in the closed House hearings. GOP lawmakers have repeatedly complained that those meetings are unfair because they’re being conducted in private.

At one point a group of Republicans barged into the hearing room – including some lawmakers who were entitled to be in the room because they were members of the committees holding the sessions.

“I’m not concerned about anything, the testimony has all been fine,” the president told reporters. “It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge, there is no first-hand knowledge. All that matters is one thing, the transcript, and the transcript is perfect.”

House Vote Timing Depends on Trump Defense (11:04 a.m.)

The chances of a House impeachment vote by late December may depend on whether Trump offers an extensive defense in upcoming hearings by the Judiciary Committee, said a House official briefed on the process.

That phase of the investigation will begin after the Intelligence Committee wraps up the public hearings it plans to start next week, and eventually transmits a report of its findings to the Judiciary Committee. The current, Intelligence Committee-led phase of the investigation has moved quickly because the only defense of Trump involves questioning by Republican committee members.

The Judiciary Committee hearings will allow Trump’s legal team to offer evidence and witnesses in his defense, so wrapping the House inquiry up by the end of the year will depend on how the White House participates, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss the plans.

If Trump does put up a vigorous defense – with demands for witnesses, cross-examinations other procedural moves – the December time frame will almost certainly be in doubt, the official said. – Billy House

Trump May Release Transcript of Earlier Call (10:18 a.m.)

Trump told reporters he is considering releasing a transcript of his first phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

That call, which took place in April and hasn’t been made public, is of interest to House Democrats who are leading an impeachment inquiry. Trump made the comments as he left the White House on Friday.

Trump previously released a transcript of his July 25 call with Zelenskiy, which is at issue in the House impeachment proceedings.

Trump Not Concerned’ About Testimony (10 a.m.)

Trump said he’s not concerned about testimony before House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Friday, Trump said: “I’m not concerned about anything, the testimony has all been fine.”

Mulvaney Fails to Appear for House Testimony (8:37 a.m.)

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney listers as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in this Oct. 21, 2019, file photo.

Mulvaney’s failure to show Friday continues a pattern of White House refusal to comply with subpoenas for testimony, as only two witnesses appeared this week before the three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.

“Past Democrat and Republican Administrations would not be inclined to permit Senior Advisers to the President to participate in such a ridiculous, partisan, illegitimate proceeding – and neither is this one,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Friday when asked about Mulvaney’s appearance.

Mulvaney has emerged as a figure in the ongoing investigation. He acknowledged in an Oct. 17 press conference that the White House blocked nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine. One angle that Republican impeachment investigators have been wanting to explore with him is the extent of Trump’s direct role in that decision.

In early October, the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees had issued a subpoena to Mulvaney for documents as part of their impeachment inquiry, but officials on those panels say it has been ignored

The second scheduled witness, Sandy, is also unlikely to appear Friday, according to committee officials familiar with the panels’ activities.

Whistle-Blower Lawyer Sends Trump Warning (7:54 a.m.)

Ukraine whistle-blower attorney Andrew Bakaj, left, and President Donald J. Trump.

Trump must stop attacks on the Ukraine whistle-blower that are placing the individual and his or her family in danger, attorney Andrew Bakaj said in a letter to the White House on behalf of his client, according to a CNN report.

Trump is “engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower, and their family in physical danger,” Bakaj wrote in “cease and desist” letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone. CNN said it obtained a copy of the letter.

Trump has repeatedly challenged the whistle-blower – including on Sunday, suggesting the person gave “false stories” about his “perfect” phone call with Ukraine’s presdient. “The whistle-blower should be revealed,” Trump told reporters outside the White House.

Some Republicans have pushed for the whistle-blower’s identity to be made public. Others have criticized that approach, saying it would have a chilling effect on future whistle-blowers. Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and several of the president’s other supporters have tweeted the name of a person they believe to be the whistle-blower. Ohio Representative Jim Jordan has said the whistle-blower will be on a Republican list of witnesses for upcoming public hearings.

Trump has said written answers from the whistle-blower aren’t acceptable and called the individual a big anti-Trump person. – Kathleen Miller

Key Events

State Department official George Kent said Trump wanted Ukraine’s president to make a public statement explicitly tying Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton to a corruption investigation, according to a transcript of his testimony. He also said Ukrainian officials used Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for a disinformation campaign that led to the ouster of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Two of Trump’s top aides, Mulvaney and Cipollone, are clashing over who should direct the response to the House impeachment inquiry, according to people familiar with the matter.

Excerpts from the Gordon Sondland transcript are here; Excerpts from former special envoy Kurt Volker’s transcript are here. Excerpts from Yovanovitch’s transcript are here; Excerpts from the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of state, are here. Excerpts from the transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, are here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony excerpts are here.

With assistance from Billy House and Josh Wingrove.