Donald Trump won't participate in his upcoming impeachment hearings in Congress, his counsel says, forfeiting his ability to present evidence and call witnesses as House Democrats prepare articles of impeachment against the president.
His counsel Pat Cipollone called the impeachment hearings "baseless" and accused Democrats of an "abuse of power" — echoing sentiments from White House spokespeople over the last few weeks.
“Civilisation as we know it today is at stake in the next election, and certainly our planet,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi told a CNN town hall event in Washington on Thursday after making her historic announcement calling on Congress to commence the process.
The president was quick to lash out on Twitter, again inviting ridicule by calling for the CIA whistle-blower whose initial complaint prompted the inquiry to reveal themselves, as his lawyers continue to battle to stop the release of his tax returns to Congress.
Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court has granted a freeze on the release of the president's banking information, delaying a decision in that case until 13 December, when the court is set to discuss three cases involving subpoena requests for the president's financial documents and tax returns.
Follow our live coverage as it happened.
Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
Democrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week
House Democrats have signalled they could have articles of impeachment against Donald Trump drawn up by next week after speaker Nancy Pelosi formally asked the House Judiciary Committee to commence the process.
The articles are likely to encompass Democrats' findings on Trump's dealings with Ukraine - from whom he attempted to extort a political favour in exchange for the release of $391m (£302m) in congressionally-approved military aid - and could charge Trump with abuse of office, bribery and obstruction.
Lawmakers and staff are expected to finish drafting the articles in the coming days, a process that is being led by Pelosi and the House Judiciary Committee. That panel could approve the articles as early as next week, setting up a vote of the full House in the days before Christmas.
“I expect articles will be introduced next week,” one Democratic source told The Hill, as the Judiciary Committee's chairman Jerrold Nadler sought to quell the excitement on Capitol Hill. There is a lot of work to do,” he said.
“When we’re ready to make an announcement, we will,” Pelosi assured reporters.
Here's Chris Riotta on the speaker's dramatic announcement yesterday.
'Civilisation as we know it today is at stake,' says Nancy Pelosi
Following her milestone press conference on Thursday morning - and her subsequent angry exchange with a right-wing reporter who asked whether she "hated" Trump - Pelosi appeared at a CNN town hall hosted by Jake Tapper last night and told the audience: "Civilisation as we know it today is at stake in the next election, and certainly our planet."
The speaker refused to even contemplate a question about the president's possible re-election in 2020 and said her investigators would not be rushed in the pursuit of his impeachment: "I'm not on a timetable, I'm on a mission."
"I have to admit that today was quite historic," she reflected at one point. "It was taking us, crossing a threshold on this that we just had no choice. I do hope that it would be remembered in a way that honors the vision of our founders, what they had in mind for establishing a democracy."
Asked by Tapper whether she would proceed if Chairman Nadler recommended including obstruction of justice charges from special counsel Robert Mueller's report in the articles, Pelosi said, "We're operating collectively. It's not going to be - somebody puts something on the table. We have our own, shall we say, communication with each other."
"We're not writing the articles of impeachment here tonight," she added.
Senate Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Jeff Merkley had argued for the inclusion of Mueller report materal in the articles earlier in the day.
"Past conduct is always relevant if the defendant denies the intent. It’s relevant to refute a denial," said Blumenthal, according to The Huffington Post."How can he be innocent now, if there’s all this evidence of how he’s acted to obstruct justice then?"
"I was struck that the Mueller report lays out [several] cases of obstruction. I think that’s a hard thing for the House not to pay attention to," Merkley said.
Congressman mocks Trump's return to whining about whistleblower
For his part, Trump has been busy lashing out on Twitter, accusing Pelosi of suffering "a nervous fit" in her heated response to James Rosen and returning to his familiar demand for the CIA whistleblower whose initial complaint prompted the inquiry to reveal themselves.
That tweet drew this insprired response from California Democrat Eric Swalwell:
Prior to Pelosi's big announcement, the president had goaded her to impeach him "fast". "If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business," he tweeted.
When they did so, he issued a bogus warning, act of Impeachment will be "used routinely to attack future presidents. That is not what our Founders had in mind." As disingenous as that was, he did appear to have picked up a lesson from Pelosi there in invoking America's grand democratic traditions.
After all that, he spent his evening lighting the White House Christmas tree, which must have been a bittersweet moment for him, to say the least.
"That's good timing innit. Telling me that today, the day of laughter... Brilliant," as David Brent once said.
(Erik S Lesser/EPA)
Trump lashes out at media over Middle Eastern troop commitment story
Trump also yesterday chaired a meeting of his permanent represenatives of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room, at which he blustered about his Nato performance and hit out at a Wall Street Journal report indicated he was about to commit large numbers of troops to the Middle East, a subject he later returned to on Twitter.
Such a gesture would of course contradict his recent determination to remove American forces from northern Syria - whatever the consequences for the locals - after prematurely declaring the war against Isis over. Whether he intended his latest assault on the media as a desperate distraction from the impeachment news is unknown but entirely possible given his past modus operandi.
The Washington Post meanwhile reports today that the president will be spending will be spending much of the coming days with his impeachment defence team, overseen by ex-Treasury official Tony Sayegh and former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, whose meeting place is said to be, "not a traditional war room, but more of an anti-impeachment talking-point factory", run out of a bunker-like space beneath Oval Office.
President asks Supreme Court to shield financial records
In the ongoing pursuit of Trump's tax returns, the president's legal team have asked the US Supreme Court to block a House subpoena demaning they be turned over.
Trump has appealed several lower court and appeals court decisions that have ruled in favour of releasing the documents, which have been requested by members of Congress as part of an ethics investigation and in a separate lawsuit from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
He has sought to shield those records, bringing his appeal to the country’s highest court for a second time.
Alex Woodward reports.
Joe Biden loses cool on campaign trail: 'You're a damn liar, man'
Trump's possible 2020 rival Joe Biden lost his temper on the campaign trail in New Hampton, Iowa, yesterday when a member of his audience challenged him about the role he and his son Hunter played in Ukraine, parroting several favourite Republican conspiracy theories.
When the questioner - a retired farmer - accused Biden of sending his son to work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma, the candidate fumed: "You're a damn liar, man," Biden said. "That's not true, and no one has ever said that... Get your words straight, jack!"
When the same man suggested he might be too old for the presidency at 77, Biden hit back: "I'm not sedentary. I get up".
As a campaign staffer motioned to remove the microphone from the man speaking to him, the former veep continued: "Let him go. Look: The reason I'm running is because I've been around a long time and I know more than most people know. And I can get things done. That's why I'm running. And you want to check my shape, let's do pushups together, man. Let's run. Let's do whatever you wanna do. Let's take an IQ test."
Afterwards, both parties attempted to downplay the spat.
In better news for Biden, he has won the endorsement of former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Here's Alex Woodward again.
Rudy Giuliani's mysterious Ukraine adventures continue
"I'm a busy person. I don't have time to keep track of Rudy Giuliani, I just don't, but I do think that it is further indication of the arrogance of it all," Speaker Pelosi said at her CNN town hall last night.
It emerged yesterday that Trump's lawyer is in Kiev to shoot a documentary for a conservative news channel seeking to "debunk" the president's impeachment. Good luck with that one pal.
Here's our Moscow correspondent, Ollie Carroll, on what the old loon is up to.
Fox News in disarray as Pelosi confirms impeachment push
You might be wondering how Fox News is coping with yesterday's impeachment news.
Not well, is the answer.
Sean Hannity is threatening to "unload" on chat show host Jimmy Kimmel for making fun of him...
...while Tucker Carlson continues to argue the US should side with Russia and is now saying America should never have been donating military aid to Kiev in the first place to fend off Kremlin aggressions and bolster regional stability.
In worse news for Trump die-hards, the network's resident legal expert Andrew Napolitano says the president should "certainly" be impeached.
Here's Tom Embury-Dennis on that last point.
Trump 'routinely' made sensitive calls on lines open to Russian surveillance
The president has been routinely communicating with Giuliani and other individuals on mobile phones vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services, according to current and former US officials, meaning the Kremlin could have learned of his attempt to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens months before that effort was exposed.
"But her emails!"
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