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House Gets FBI Interviews From Mueller Probe: Impeachment Update

Billy House
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House Gets FBI Interviews From Mueller Probe: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- The Justice Department said it’s turned over to the House Judiciary Committees FBI reports on interviews of 17 people in response to a court order to produce still-secret materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Here are the latest developments:

House Gets FBI Interviews From Mueller Probe (8:34 p.m.)

The Justice Department said it has handed over FBI interview notes on the following people: Chris Christie, Michael Cohen; Rick Dearborn; Uttam Dhillon; John Kelly; Jared Kushner; Cory Lewandowski; Paul Manafort; Mary McCord; K.T. McFarland ; Stephen Miller; Rob Porter; Rod Rosenstein; Christopher Ruddy; Sarah Sanders; Sean Spicer; and Sally Yates.

The Justice Department estimated that for many of the interviews, less than 20 percent of the content is redacted. The department also said it anticipates making more such interviews available “so long as they do not adversely impact ongoing investigations and cases” and maintain the confidentiality of executive branch “interests.” Those interviews include: Stephen Bannon; Dana Boente; James Burnham; James Comey; Annie Donaldson; John Eisenberg; Michael Flynn; Rick Gates; Hope Hicks; Jody Hunt; Andrew McCabe; Don McGahn; Reince Priebus; James Rybicki; and Jeff Sessions.

Democrats Demand Envoy’s Testimony on Oct. 16 (6:14 p.m.)

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on Tuesday canceled his scheduled testimony before House impeachment investigators looking into President Donald Trump’s activities involving Ukraine.

Three House committees issued a subpoena demanding that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appear for testimony on Oct. 16 and produce records from his personal devices two days earlier.Sondland had been scheduled to testify Tuesday morning, but the committees learned less than an hour before the closed-door hearing was to begin that he had been ordered by the Trump administration not to appear.Sondland has told the House committees that he turned the records over to the State Department, which has refused to provide them to Congress.

“There is no valid basis to withhold documents from the committees by relying on instructions from Secretary Pompeo,” the chairmen said.

Trump Won’t Participate in Impeachment Inquiry (5:10 p.m.)

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter Tuesday that Trump and his administration won’t participate in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” Cipollone wrote in an eight-page letter laying out the White House’s concerns about the inquiry. “Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen.”

Democrats Seek Mueller Material for Inquiry (1:29 p.m.)

The House Judiciary Committee asked a federal judge in Washington to allow access to still-secret materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, contending that they’re needed for the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Justice Department lawyers opposed the request, arguing that lawmakers haven’t shown they’re entitled to override grand jury secrecy. Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, said in a friend-of-the-court brief that without a formal House vote, the impeachment inquiry doesn’t meet the standard of a “judicial proceeding” that might entitle Democrats to the records.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell questioned what power the Justice Department has to require the House “to demonstrate that it is starting an impeachment inquiry?”

The judge cited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Sept. 24 statement that an inquiry had been initiated, as well as the committee’s authorization granted in July to pursue grand jury materials.

Howell didn’t rule on the Democrats’ request. She ordered both sides to submit additional information.

Giuliani Mulls Graham’s Invitation to Testify (12:06 p.m.)

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he’s not certain whether he’ll take up Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham’s invitation to testify about Ukraine matters because his information may be privileged.

“Love Lindsey, but I am still a lawyer and I will have to deal with privilege,” Giuliani told CNN. He added, “Given the nature of his invitation about my concerns I might be able to do it without discussing privileged information.” -- Billy House

House to Subpoena Envoy as Testimony Blocked (11:47 a.m.)

Three House committees said they are subpoenaing one of Trump’s top diplomats to provide documents and testimony after the State Department blocked him from appearing before the panels less than an hour before a closed-door hearing was to start.

The Democratic chairmen said that among the things they’re seeking from are “communications from his personal devices” that Sondland has turned over to the State Department.

The State Department is withholding them from the committee, in defiance of a subpoena to Secretary Michael Pompeo, the chairmen said. -- Billy House

Biden Spokesman Calls Giuliani a Liar (11:03 a.m.)

Joe Biden’s spokesman called Rudy Giuliani a “noted conspiracist and liar” and said calling him to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee would “further discredit” the panel’s reputation under Chairman Lindsey Graham.

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in an emailed statement, “At this rate, all that comes out of Rudy Giuliani’s mouth is just a noun, a verb, and a disproven lie about Joe Biden.” -- Billy House

Graham Invites Giuliani to Testify in Senate (10:19 a.m.)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham offered Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani the chance to appear before the panel to discuss his allegations related to Ukraine.

“Have heard on numerous occasions disturbing allegations by @RudyGiuliani about corruption in Ukraine,” Graham tweeted in a veiled reference to allegations that Giuliani and Trump have made about Joe Biden and his son. -- Steven T. Dennis

Schiff Says Trump Team Obstructing Congress (9:45 a.m.)

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the Trump administration’s decision to block testimony from a U.S. envoy central to an impeachment inquiry amounts to obstruction of Congress.

Sondland’s testimony to three panels leading the impeachment probe scheduled for Tuesday morning was abruptly canceled after the State Department ordered him not to appear.

Schiff said the State Department also is withholding other records, including text messages.

Republican Representative Jim Jordan said that the treatment of other witnesses by Democrats was part of the reason the administration pulled back from Sondland’s appearance. He said the American people “have a right to know who the whistle-blower is.” -- Billy House

Trump Says Sondland Wouldn’t Get Fair Hearing (9:30 a.m.)

Trump said he “would love to send” Gordon Sondland to testify before the U.S. House in its impeachment inquiry but said the U.S. ambassador to the European Union wouldn’t get a fair hearing from Congressional Democrats.

“Unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

Trump tweeted the statement hours after Sondland’s lawyers issued a statement saying the State Department had blocked him from appearing. Sondland had been scheduled to give a deposition Tuesday morning. -- Nick Wadhams

State Department Blocks Ambassador Testimony (8:36 a.m.)

The State Department directed Sondland to cancel his scheduled testimony Tuesday, according to a letter from his attorney.

Robert Luskin, the lawyer representing Sondland, said his client was ready to appear voluntarily to respond to the committee’s questions behind closed doors, but the the State Department instructed the U.S. ambassador to the European Union to not show up. Luskin said Sondland had already worked out the logistics of his testimony with committee staff.

“Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today,” Luskin’s letter said. “Ambassador Sondland hopes that the issues raised by the State Department that preclude his testimony will be resolved promptly. He stands ready to testify on short notice, whenever he is permitted to appear.”

Sondland, a hotel executive who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, came under increased scrutiny last week after Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, turned over text messages in his closed deposition that detailed Sondland’s involvement in Ukraine issues. The texts show Sondland defending the efforts of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to get Ukraine to look into Joe Biden and his son, even over concerns raised by other diplomats.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said he will make a statement at 9:30 a.m. on Sondland’s cancellation. -- Billy House

Poll Shows Approval of Democrats’ Inquiry (7:16 a.m.)

A Washington Post poll showed 61% of respondents believe Democrats are “making a necessary stand against Trump’s actions” by opening an impeachment inquiry, and 53% said Democrats are “acting to uphold their constitutional duties.”

That result is good news for Democrats who are trying to present the impeachment process as a serious responsibility for elected officials confronting allegations of presidential wrongdoing.

Approval of how Democrats have handled the inquiry is split, with 49% of respondents saying they approve and 44% saying they disapprove. Republicans receive lower marks for their handling of the situation, with 33% of respondents approving and 56% disapproving.

Overall support for beginning the impeachment probe is at 58%, while 49% say the House should actually impeach Trump and recommend that the Senate remove him from office.

The poll was conducted Oct. 1-6 by the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Key Events

Trump said Monday that the whistle-blower report is “so off” and that the House impeachment inquiry is “a scam.” He added: “You can’t impeach a president for doing a good job.”Three House committees subpoenaed documents from the Defense Department and White House Office of Management and Budget, including records of Trump’s phone calls with the Ukraine president, opinions on the legality of withholding security aid from Ukraine and records on any efforts to ask that country to investigate Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, said he’ll step down as head of the McCain Institute, citing the “media focus” on his work in Ukraine. The institute named for late Senator John McCain is based at Arizona State University.

--With assistance from Nick Wadhams, Andrew Harris, Steven T. Dennis and Joel Rosenblatt.

To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Anna Edgerton, Laurie Asséo

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