defense

Trump comes out swinging, but Fiona Hill fights back in dramatic impeachment finale
Kyiv embassy official says he had ‘never seen anything like’ Sondland cafe call with U.S. president

Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council Russia adviser, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee during a hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump came out swinging Thursday morning, but two witnesses who testified for hours in the impeachment inquiry pulled no punches as they overshadowed the president’s morning attacks.

Testimony by Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council Russia expert, and David Holmes, an official in the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, further undercut several contentions pushed by Trump, GOP lawmakers and the president’s surrogates. Hill, for instance, dismissed a conspiracy theory rejected by American intelligence agencies but espoused by Trump and other Republicans that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.

Teflon veep: Pence emerges largely unscathed as Sondland, Dems say he knew of quid pro quo
Trump’s No. 2 has left it to surrogates like Jim Jordan and Marc Short to swat away allegations

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified Wednesday during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers and witnesses this week repeatedly brought up Vice President Mike Pence during public impeachment hearings, but President Donald Trump’s No. 2 has emerged mostly unscathed.

Wednesday was a rough one for Trump, with testimony from a top U.S. diplomat implicating him in a quid pro quo. But no House Democrat during the public sessions has suggested articles of impeachment against Pence.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 21
Some Democrats want to subpoena Pompeo, Mulvaney and Bolton after Sondland testimony

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., listens as ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., holds a copy of the “Report on Russian Active Measures” during his opening statement in the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony on Wednesday, some Democrats feel the Intelligence Committee should subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, according to Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee.

Sondland testified that the three senior officials were aware of and signed off on the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Pentagon official says Ukraine asked about military aid in July
Ukrainians may have known about the hold on aid package this summer, undercutting GOP impeachment arguments

Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense, right, and David Hale, undersecretary of State for political affairs, are sworn in before they testify before the House Intelligence Committee during a hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Nov. 20. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Laura Cooper, a Pentagon expert on Ukraine, told the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday evening that Ukrainian embassy staff in Washington contacted her office in July with questions about the White House’s hold on military aid promised to their country.

Cooper’s testimony adds a new twist to the House impeachment inquiry, into the connection between the hold on that aid and President Donald Trump’s desired politically motivated investigations into a Ukrainian energy company and the Biden family.

Trump’s relationships and other takeaways after Gordon Sondland’s testimony
‘The Gordon problem’: Ambassador quips ‘that’s what my wife calls me’ during an odd day in Washington

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testifies during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — Donald Trump stuck to the script Wednesday, one he personally wrote on an Air Force One notepad in black marker.

As the president gestured with his hands as he spoke to reporters, the pad in his left hand tilted toward journalists assembled on the White House’s South Lawn. His movements revealed the notes, writing in large letters with what appeared to be a thick black marker. (A White House official confirmed it was the president’s handwriting on the white page.)

Trump contends Sondland clears him
‘I want nothing. That’s what I want from Ukraine,’ POTUS says he told ambassador

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on Oct. 10. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Reading from his own marker-written notes and running an hour behind schedule for a trip to Texas, President Donald Trump contended Wednesday that Gordon Sondland’s testimony proves he did not order a quid pro quo with Ukraine’s new president.

In yet another surreal moment of his presidency, Trump appeared to recite a version of a Sept. 9 phone conversation with Sondland that his ambassador to the EU took while sitting on the outdoor patio of a Kyiv restaurant.

Senate Democrats question Pentagon over protecting impeachment witnesses
Defense Department's No. 2 official also urged to protect anonymous whistleblowers from retribution

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs at the National Security Council, testifies during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump spilled over Wednesday into an unrelated Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing, where senators pressed the Defense Department’s second-highest official about protections for witnesses and whistleblowers.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., asked Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist about news reports that the Army was considering extra security for the family of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in the impeachment probe on Tuesday.

‘I don’t know any of these people’: 3 takeaways as Trump watches impeachment saga
Williams gives VP cover after his spox noted ‘she doesn’t directly report to the vice president’

President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House via Marine One on Nov. 3. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

The third day of public impeachment hearings temporarily transformed President Donald Trump into a history professor as he and his surrogates tried to discredit government witnesses and panned House Democrats.

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who oversees European matters at the National Security Council, told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump’s talk on a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president of his government investigating U.S. Democrats was “inappropriate” and a “partisan play.” He also panned attacks on other witnesses as “callow and cowardly,” appearing to criticize his commander in chief. Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, called that telephone conversation “unusual” because Trump was focused on a domestic political matter.

Pentagon report: US pullout from Syria strengthens terrorists
ISIS regrouping, readying new attacks despite death of leader, according to assessment

Syrian Kurds gather around a U.S. armored vehicle during a demonstration against Turkish threats next to a U.S.-led international coalition base on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border in October. (Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

The sudden departure of most U.S. troops from northeastern Syria in early October has strengthened the Islamic State terrorist group in that country, despite the U.S. military’s recent killing of the group’s leader, according to a new Pentagon assessment. 

ISIS is reconstituting its forces and readying new plans for terrorist attacks in the wake of the U.S. troop withdrawal and Turkey’s subsequent invasion of Syria, and other forces in the area are unlikely to prioritize counterterrorism as the U.S. military did, according to an intelligence report summarized in a Pentagon audit published Tuesday. 

Trump calls Pelosi ‘incompetent’ for launching impeachment inquiry
White House official says Trump ‘is expected to sign’ short-term spending bill

President Donald Trump argues at December meeting about border security with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence looks on in the Oval Office. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Continuing their yearslong feud, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Speaker Nancy Pelosi “incompetent” over House Democrats’ impeachment probe.

The president also lashed out at the media, saying their coverage of his unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday shows news outlets are “sick.” There also were indications from the president’s staff that he will not trigger another government shutdown later this week.