A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Two important things happened Monday in the impeachment inquiry: one of the key people involved announced plans to speak publicly and another gave critical testimony on Capitol Hill.
Catch up on all the latest news here:
- Key development — Hunter Biden gave an interview to ABC News that will begin airing on Good Morning America Tuesday, hours before his dad, former Vice President Joe Biden, takes part in CNN’s Democratic debate in Ohio.
- Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser in the White House testified behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry today. She told lawmakers President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was circumventing the State Department to run what some Democrats have labeled a “shadow foreign policy” and that others in the administration were concerned about his work.
- Federal prosecutors are looking into Giuliani’s business dealings in Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported. That includes his finances, meetings and work for a mayor in the country, the Journal reported. CNN and The New York Times reported details about the investigation last week.
- A Republican congressman who isn’t on any of the relevant committees tried to crash the testimony and was kicked out.
- We’ve expanded and updated our who’s who rundown of key players in the Ukraine scandal.
- There’s no sign that Trump is turning on Giuliani, whose crusade to get Hunter Biden investigated in Ukraine — without any evidence of wrongdoing — has caused Trump so much trouble. Far from it — the two had lunch this weekend. But Giuliani is not handling Ukraine matters for Trump’s legal team.
- Michael McKinley, the former State Department adviser who resigned last week, is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the congressional committees leading the House impeachment investigation, according to two congressional sources.
Hunter Biden speaks
The full network treatment: In a full-on network news sit-down, Hunter Biden — whose business interests have caused his dad so much grief by becoming the focus of Trump’s attacks on the former vice president and consequently leading to the impeachment inquiry — gives his side of things to ABC News from his home in LA.
How does it look? Bearded and casual, Biden appears at his kitchen table in a soundless clip aired on ABC Monday.
What’s he doing? Perhaps he’s trying to project harmlessness, after he promised (through a lawyer) over the weekend to stay out of foreign business if his father is elected and to resign from the board of a Chinese company by the end of the month.
Joe Biden’s damage control
It’s interesting timing for Hunter Biden’s interview to go live hours before his dad takes to the debate stage. Those two things might not be related, but there’s clearly a new strategy coming out of Biden world with regard to Ukraine, according to CNN Political Director David Chalian.
“In advance of tomorrow’s CNN/New York Times Democratic debate, Joe Biden and his campaign have formulated a new response to questions about Hunter Biden’s work on a Ukrainian energy company’s board while Biden served as vice president,” says Chalian. “Biden now acknowledges he will have a different standard about family members working for foreign entities as president than he did as vice president.”
David has turned his Daily DC podcast into an audio Impeachment Watch. Get it on weekdays. Listen on:
How the Trumps cashed in on the White House
From CNN’s Marshall Cohen, who is deep into the details on all things Ukraine:
President Donald Trump has spent the last few weeks holding up former Vice President Joe Biden as the poster child of political corruption, relentlessly harping on unfounded allegations that Biden and his family improperly mixed business with politics.
The accusations against Biden rely heavily on right-wing conspiracy theories and have been largely debunked. But by highlighting the dangers of blending business opportunities with political power, Trump has resurrected an issue that has dogged his own family from the start.
Trump’s family has done many of the same things that he now claims are “corrupt.” Simply put, Trump has raked in millions of dollars from foreign deals while living in the White House.
- Trump’s sons continue to work on foreign real estate projects
- Foreign governments have spent money at Trump properties
- Ivanka and Jared work at the White House and aren’t divested
- China approved lots of Ivanka’s trademarks
- Trump wants to host the G7 at Doral, which he owns
- Etc. etc.
Trump said it. But that doesn’t make it true.
US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland is expected to testify to Congress, should he testify this week, that he has no knowledge of whether Trump was telling him the truth when he dictated a text message denying quid pro quo with the Ukrainian president, The Washington Post reports. “It’s only true that the President said it, not that it was the truth,” a person familiar with Sondland’s planned testimony told the Post.
Republicans turn on Trump, but re: Syria
Members of the President’s own party may be willing to criticize his decisions on Syria and allowing Turkey to move against the Kurds there — but have circled the wagons on impeachment.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Trump defender on impeachment, is now in cahoots with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to overrule him on Syria.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger was very strong in condemning Trump’s Syria policy.
“I thought you were going to defeat ISIS, that is why people voted for you. What changed? This is weakness. America is far more honorable than this,” he said on Twitter Monday.
Bad days in court
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz looks at the Trump administration’s string of successive losses on a variety of issues last week:
Seven different losses
Seven separate federal courts dealt major blows to Trump, on everything from his immigration policy to attempts to get his tax returns.
What it means for the White House
In past impeachment proceedings, the courts have undermined the President’s wishes. During Whitewater, President Bill Clinton was forced by a unanimous Supreme Court to testify under oath in a civil lawsuit, which led to his impeachment for lying and obstruction. During Watergate, President Richard Nixon faced multiple fast-moving court cases that ultimately forced details to Congress and prosecutors that prompted his resignation before the full House voted on articles of impeachment.
Important reminder from Zach: There have been few Ukraine-related questions put the courts so far. That could change as Trump continues to try keeping information and documents from House lawyers.
Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent is expected to appear in a closed House session. He oversees policy for Eurasia at the State Department right now and was a key figure in the US Embassy in Ukraine while Joe Biden was pushing for Victor Shokin to be fired as the country’s top prosecutor.
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election.
Democrats want to impeach him for it.
It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.