Michael Pfeifer

Impeachment on a Page – Week of November 11, 2019

As developments in the Trump impeachment inquiry continue to unfold, Dentons’ Public Policy group has created a quick reference guide to the current status of this fast-moving process. Enclosed please find “Impeachment on a Page” for the week of November 11, 2019.

Previous Updates

Impeachment on a Page – Week of October 29, 2019

Impeachment on a Page – Week of October 22, 2019

Impeachment on a Page – Week of October 16, 2019

Impeachment on a Page – Week of November 4, 2019

As developments in the Trump impeachment inquiry continue to unfold, Dentons’ Public Policy group has created a quick reference guide to the current status of this fast-moving process. Enclosed please find “Impeachment on a Page” for the week of November 4, 2019.

Previous Updates

Impeachment on a Page – Week of October 22, 2019

Impeachment on a Page – Week of October 16, 2019

Impeachment on a Page – Week of October 28, 2019

As developments in the Trump impeachment inquiry continue to unfold, Dentons’ Public Policy group has created a quick reference guide to the current status of this fast-moving process. Enclosed please find “Impeachment on a Page” for the week of October 28, 2019.

Previous Updates

Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Recent developments and what’s happening this week – Week of October 21, 2019

A major player in the impeachment inquiry tragically passed away since our last update. On the morning of October 17, House Oversight Committee Chairman, Elijah Cummings died due to complications from longstanding health challenges. Cummings was at the forefront of the impeachment process and one of the top Democratic leaders. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) will serve as interim chair until a new permanent chair is selected, but there is no word at this time as to who may be selected. We here at Dentons offer our condolences to his family and friends.

As for the current state of play, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told Senate Republicans last week that he believes the articles of impeachment will be approved in the House by Thanksgiving and hopes the Senate trial will be completed by Christmas. Speaker Pelosi reiterated that the timeline depends on getting all of the facts. McConnell also clarified that Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial. Also last week, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters that the Trump administration withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in return for investigations. For Democrats, Mulvaney’s statement all but confirms the premise of the impeachment inquiry that the Ukraine scandal did involve a quid pro quo. Mulvaney walked back on his statement hours later claiming there was no quid pro quo, a talking point Republicans have pushed since the transcript of the call was released.

It was a busy week for testimony. Top Russia advisor Fiona Hill testified in front of lawmakers on Monday that senior officials were deeply concerned, even before the phone call between Trump and Zelensky, by the activities of the US President and those close to him regarding Ukrainian diplomacy. Hill’s testimony also brought another major player into the Ukraine scandal—former National Security Advisor John Bolton—who may be called to testify in the near future.

On Tuesday, lawmakers heard testimony from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, despite previous efforts by the State Department to block Kent’s testimony. Kent revealed that in a May 23 meeting, Mick Mulvaney told Kent that US special envoy Kurt Volker, who resigned last month; Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who resigned last week; and US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland would be tasked with Ukrainian diplomacy instead of career diplomats like Kent, who is considered a Ukraine policy expert.

The following day, Michael McKinley, former senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told lawmakers that his decision to resign was over frustrations that the Trump administration was sidelining career diplomats on Ukraine policy and not supporting them during the impeachment process. Kurt Volker also met with lawmakers for a second time.

On Thursday, Sondland testified under subpoena that he did not agree with President Trump’s decision to delegate American foreign policy on Ukraine to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland’s testimony is at odds with other US foreign officials who have said Sondland willingly inserted himself into Ukrainian policy.

As we mentioned last week, two of Rudy Giuliani’s business associates— Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman— were indicted and arrested by the Southern District of New York. The two were arrested at Dulles airport just before boarding a plane with one-way tickets. Both men were released after paying $1 million bonds, and are under house arrest. Two more men associated with Parnas and Fruman— Andrey Kukushkin and David Correia— were also arrested soon after. It was reported that SDNY prosecutors have been looking into Giuliani since August over a $500,000 payment from one of Parnas’ companies. Prosecutors are looking into Giuliani’s financials and plan to subpoena his bank records. On the impeachment front, Giuliani’s attorneys have also reportedly stated that he will defy a subpoena related to the impeachment inquiry.

Where are Americans on impeachment? Gallup recently released a poll measuring support for impeachment and removal of President Trump. Additionally, Gallup compared the sentiment of the two parties as to whether they believe President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. As expected, sentiment is split strongly between party lines.

Slim Majority Now Supports Trump’s Impeachment and Removal From Office Compared to When Mueller Report Was Released

 June 3-16, 2019^October 1-13, 2019Change
 %%(pct. pts.)
Yes, should be4552+7
No, should not be5346-7
No opinion220

Gallup

Support for Impeachment, by Political Party Identification: June vs. October 2019

 June 2019October 2019Change
 % Yes, should be% Yes, should be(pct. pts.)
National adults4552+7
Republicans76-1
Independents4655+9
Democrats8189+8

Gallup

This coming week, lawmakers will hear testimony from Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. Top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, will testify on October 22nd. Taylor was part of the texts messages between State officials and Giuliani which revealed specific details about the Ukraine scandal. Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought will testify on Friday. There will also be testimony from two other lower level officials from the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget – Kathryn Wheelbarger, the Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs will testify Thursday, and Michael Duffey, the Associate Director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget will testify on Wednesday.

A date has not been set for the C.I.A. whistleblower to testify. Despite no official date, Democratic lawmakers assured that he will testify. Democrats plan on taking extreme step to ensure the anonymity of the whistleblower.  A date has also not been set for the Counselor of the State Department and former classmate of Secretary Pompeo, Ulrich Brechbuhl. Given his close ties to the Secretary, lawmakers are eager to hear his testimony.

Impeachment on a Page

As updates continue to develop, Dentons’ Public Policy group has assembled a quick reference guide providing an overview on the Trump impeachment inquiry.  

Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Recent developments and what’s happening this week – Week of October 15, 2019

Since our last update, two new players have emerged in the Trump impeachment inquiry. Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs Fiona Hill and former hotelier and current US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. 

Ms. Hill testified before investigators for than 8 hours on Monday October 14.  News reports indicate that Ms. Hill told members of Congress that following a July meeting with Ukrainian and U.S. officials about unspecified investigations, she and John Bolton, the former national security adviser, were so concerned that Bolton directed her to alert a lawyer in the National Security Council.  Hill exited the administration days before the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Ambassador Sondland was identified as a key witness after text messages were handed over to House investigators by former special US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. During Volker’s 10-hour deposition, text messages between US and Ukrainian officials that he provided revealed that US officials felt President Trump would not agree to a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unless he launched a public investigation into Joe Biden’s son.

Reports have emerged that either the White House or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blocked Sondland from testifying, which has resulted in the three committees issuing a subpoena to Sondland. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Ukraine expert George Kent also did not appear for his scheduled deposition last week. Additionally, Secretary Pompeo missed his  deadline to produce documents according to the request we discussed in last week’s update.

Last Tuesday, the White House sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Chairmen Schiff, Engel and Cummings informing them that the White House will not cooperate in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. This came on the heels of a similar letter sent the prior week by House Minority Leader McCarthy asking to halt the impeachment inquiry until Speaker Pelosi publicly answers a list of questions relating to how she will involve House Republicans in the process. Republican lawmakers and the White House have raised the issue of why Speaker Pelosi decided to forego a formal House vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry. Pelosi has said that the House rules do not require a vote and has accused the Republicans of playing politics.

There was a major development on the Giuliani front. Early last week, John Dowd, a former Trump attorney representing arrested Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, said that the two Soviet-born emigres would not comply with their document and deposition requests. On Thursday, October 10, Parnas and Fruman were taken into custody by federal officials prior to departing from Dulles Airport for alleged criminal violations of federal campaign finance laws. According to an unsealed indictment in the Southern District of New York, Parnas and Fruman participated in a complex scheme to funnel foreign money into the 2018 election, and engaged in a straw-donor scheme to conceal the true source of funds donated to pro-Trump super PACs in order to foster influence and access with politicians. According to reports, Parnas and Fruman were assisting Giuliani in efforts to gather information about Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.

As for new subpoenas, the three House committees have issued subpoenas to the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget for documents related to whether President Trump’s decision to withhold military aid was associated with pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival. 

This week, committee members will hear from: Tuesday, George Kent; Wednesday, McKinley; Thursday, Sondland; Friday, Laura Cooper (new addition), who is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.  Committee members heard from Fiona Hill Monday.

There are breaking updates on this front seemingly on a daily basis and the Dentons Public Policy Group will continue to send out updates accordingly.

Trump impeachment inquiry takes shape with focus on Ukraine, Pompeo, Giuliani

Last week we provided an update outlining the formal process set forth by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 (ICWPA) for handling the whistleblower complaint that triggered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on September 24 to announce a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald J. Trump. Now that the impeachment inquiry is moving forward, we provide this update regarding the procedures and possible scenarios for what happens next. 

Speaker Pelosi launched the impeachment process last week by charging six House committees—Intelligence, Oversight, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means and Judiciary—to initiate or continue investigations into President Trump and his administration in regard to the whistleblower complaint regarding the President’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Speaker Pelosi’s move departed from impeachment precedent in that she did not introduce a resolution to authorize an official impeachment investigation, a move that has been criticized by House Republicans. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has since twice introduced a resolution disapproving of the move. His resolution has been tabled both times, but the criticism is likely to persist as long as the inquiry moves forward without the full House getting a chance to vote to initiate a formal impeachment process.

While the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over recommending impeachment to the full House of Representatives in conjunction with the filing of formal articles of impeachment, Speaker Pelosi has made it clear that she wants the impeachment inquiry to focus narrowly on the allegations set forth in the whistleblower complaint. Consequently, she has asked the House Intelligence Committee, led by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), to take the lead in investigating the specific allegations in the whistleblower complaint, with the other named House committees providing support on topics or executive branch agencies relating to the whistleblower complaint that are within their respective jurisdictions. It would then be the responsibility of Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to assemble the evidence of potentially impeachable offenses submitted by the other committees and to draft formal articles of impeachment. The Judiciary Committee would then take the step of considering and approving the articles of impeachment to be submitted to the full House for a vote. All the named committees have the authority to subpoena key witnesses and documents from the administration and elsewhere. It is likely that there will be significant pushback from the administration on responding or honoring deposition requests. There have been reports that Speaker Pelosi would like the impeachment investigation and House action to be concluded within a fairly expedited timeframe, with a possible House vote occurring prior to the Thanksgiving congressional recess.

It remains to be seen whether the House Democratic leadership will limit the articles of impeachment to just the allegations in the whistleblower complaint, or whether the Democratic Caucus  will encourage the Judiciary Committee to include other purported offenses that they find to be impeachable. If the Judiciary Committee recommends impeachment and submits formal articles, the House will conduct a floor vote. A simple majority is required for impeachment, which would likely be attainable, given the fact that the Democrats hold a 235-200 majority. Assuming a majority impeachment vote in favor of at least one article, such article would be forwarded to the Senate where an impeachment trial would occur. Although there is some past precedent for Senate dismissal of impeachment articles or refusal to hold a trial on their merits, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said that he would be compelled by current Senate rules to conduct an impeachment trial.

The Constitution requires an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Senate to secure a conviction of impeachment, an outcome that has occurred eight times against federal judges, but never against a US President. The Senate fell one vote short of convicting President Andrew Johnson of impeachment in 1868, and the conviction of President Bill Clinton was defeated by a 55 to 45 vote. Chief Justice Roberts would preside over the trial, with the Senators taking the role of jurors. The President would have the right to be represented during the Senate trial by an attorney. An impeachment conviction in the Senate recommending removal from office would mean that Vice President Pence would become the next Commander-in-Chief. An acquittal by the Senate would likely energize the President’s supporters in advance of a vote on his potential reelection. Either way, the entire process is inherently fraught with division.

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As part of this series, the Dentons Public Policy Group will provide a weekly update on the subpoenas issued during the impeachment inquiry. Within the past week, Democrats have moved quickly to subpoena individuals involved in the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Last Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was subpoenaed by three House committee chairmen—Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs), Adam Schiff (Intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (Oversight)—over his failure to submit documents relating to Ukraine. Secretary Pompeo has made it clear he does not plan on complying with subpoenas for documents and depositions. The committees requested that Secretary Pompeo allow the following individuals to conduct depositions: former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker; Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; and State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl. As of today, Kurt Volker will be deposed this Friday, October 4, and Marie Yovanovitch will be deposed on October 11. 

Additionally, Rudy Giuliani was subpoenaed by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees on September 30. Three associates of Giuliani’s were also subpoenaed—Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Semyon Kislin.