As it happenedended1575321237

Trump impeachment news: Congress begins drawing up charges, as president hits back at former FBI lawyer before heading to UK for Nato summit

Melania Trump unveils the White House Christmas decorations

Donald Trump began his week avidly tweeting along to Fox News before jetting out for a Nato summit in London, as the House impeachment report into his dealings with Ukraine are set to be unveiled to members of Congress in advance of the Judiciary Committee staging its first hearing of the inquiry on Wednesday.

The White House yesterday declined to be part of the midweek session, with lawyer Pat Cipollone branding the process a “baseless and highly partisan” attack on the president in a letter to Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler.

Republicans continued to defend Mr Trump on the Sunday talk shows, with the ranking GOP representative on the committee Doug Collins calling on inquiry figurehead Adam Schiff to testify and accusing him of “hiding behind the report”.

As he departed the White House for London, Mr Trump called the trip “one of the most important journeys that we make as president” and said Democrats had long known about it.

His trip to the UK comes amid ongoing quarrels over defence spending by NATO allies and widespread anxiety over the president’s commitment to the alliance.

The president said his trip would be focused on “fighting for the American people". But in the more than two months that the impeachment inquiry has been underway, he has constantly drifted back to what he frames as the Democrats’ unfair effort to overturn the results of his 2016 election.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on the constitutional grounds for impeachment before Mr Trump wraps up at the NATO summit.

Mr Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mr Cipollone and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway all complained about the timing, with Mr Pompeo saying the hearings would “distract America's president from his important mission overseas.”

Mr Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including revamping NATO so that allies spend more on defense. But he’s often appeared consumed by the day-to-day battle against impeachment.

In recent days he’s repeatedly lashed out about the “impeachment hoax” and the “scam” inquiry, even delving into impeachment at a ceremony to celebrate NCAA athletes and at last week’s annual Turkey pardon.

White House aides say the summit offers Mr Trump an opportunity to counter the impeachment narrative in Washington and demonstrate to voters that he’s keeping a business-as-usual approach while Democrats concentrate on the probe.

Donald Trump uses pardoning of Thanksgiving turkey to make digs at impeachment hearings

But soon after Air Force One departed, Mr Trump took to Twitter to slam “Do Nothing Democrats” for scheduling the hearing during the NATO meeting as “Not nice!””

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Madrid for a UN conference on climate change, declined to comment about the impeachment inquiry, saying, “When we travel abroad, we don't talk about the president in a negative way. We save that for home.”

Additional reporting by AP. Please allow a moment for our live blog to load

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Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 09:25
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House impeachment report to be unveiled to lawmakers

The House impeachment report into Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is set to be unveiled to members of Congress behind closed doors on Monday - the culmination of weeks of Intelligence Committee testimony - as the Judiciary Committee prepares to stage its first hearing of the inquiry on Wednesday.

The Democratic majority says the report will speak for itself in laying out what Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff has called the evidence of "wrongdoing and misconduct" by the president over his actions towards Kiev. It is being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote on Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee in time for the Wednesday's landmark hearing.

As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, Wednesday's hearing is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the Intelligence Committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.

As if you needed reminding, Democrats are focused on whether Trump abused his office by withholding $391m (£302m) in military aid approved by Congress as well as a White House meeting as he pressed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations into the p[resident's domestic political rivals. The report is also expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress by Trump's instructions that officials in his administration defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.

The president maintains he did nothing wrong and, as the House presses forward on an ambitious schedule toward an impeachment vote, Trump and his Republican allies remain aligned against the process.

Here's Alex Woodward on what to expect this week.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 09:40
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White House refuses to take part in 'baseless and highly partisan' Judiciary Committee hearing

The White House yesterday declined to be part of the midweek session, with lawyer Pat Cipollone branding the process a “baseless and highly partisan” attack on the president in a letter to Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler.

Trump's aides responded defiantly to the first of two crucial deadlines he faces in Congress this week as Democrats prepare to shift the focus of their impeachment inquiry from fact-finding to the consideration of possible charges of misconduct over his dealings with Ukraine. The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee, tasked with considering charges known as articles of impeachment, had given Trump until 6pm EST (11pm GMT) on Sunday evening to say whether he would dispatch a lawyer to take part in its proceedings on Wednesday.

Their answer?

"We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings," Cipollone wrote to Nadler.

The White House counsel - while citing a "complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness afforded the president" in the impeachment process - did not rule out participation in further proceedings. But he signaled that Democrats would first have to make major procedural concessions.

Nadler has also given the White House a Friday deadline to say whether Trump will mount a defence in broader impeachment proceedings.

Democratic congressman Don Beyer said on Twitter in response to the White House letter: "Not one process complaint made by the president and his Republican allies in Congress so far has turned out to be genuine."

The first in a series of expected Judiciary proceedings will hear testimony on the impeachment process established under the US Constitution from a panel of legal experts that has yet to be named.

Hearings before the committee, which has responsibility for crafting any formal charges against Trump, are a major step toward possible charges. Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will make the final decision, has not yet said whether the Republican president should be impeached. But in a letter to supporters last week, she called for him to be held accountable for his actions. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, calling the impeachment inquiry a sham and a "witch hunt".

"We may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully," Cipollone wrote, laying out a list of demands, including allowing Trump's Republicans to call additional witnesses.

Cipollone also complained that Democrats had scheduled Wednesday's hearing - "no doubt purposely" - to overlap with Trump's absence from the United States to attend a Nato summit in London.

The president and his Republican allies in Congress say the inquiry has been rushed and unfair to Trump by not allowing the White House to have legal counsel present or call witnesses during weeks of closed-door testimony and open hearings before the House Intelligence Committee. Republican lawmakers were able to question witnesses during the closed hearings, however, and called three witnesses during public hearings that wrapped up last week.

The House Judiciary Committee could vote on whether to recommend articles of impeachment within the next two weeks, setting the stage for a possible impeachment vote by the full House before Christmas, according to Democratic aides.

If the House impeaches Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial to determine whether he should be removed from office. Senate Republicans have shown little appetite for removing Trump.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 09:55
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Ranking Judiciary Republican attempts to pressure Adam Schiff into giving testimony 

Republicans continued to defend Trump on the Sunday talk shows, with the ranking GOP representative on the Judiciary Commitee Doug Collins calling on inquiry figurehead Adam Schiff to testify and accusing him of “hiding behind the report”.

“My first and foremost witness is Adam Schiff,” Collins said on Fox News Sunday, also noting that Schiff had “compared himself in the past to a special counsel” and that then-special prosecutor Ken Starr testified during the GOP-controlled House’s impeachment of Bill Clinton.

"[Schiff] has put himself into that position," Collins added. "If he chooses not to [testify], then I really have to question his veracity in what he’s putting in his report."

"It’s easy to hide behind a report," Collins continued. "But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions."

The Republicans have no power to compel Schiff to appear and the man himself has said "there's nothing for me to testify about," that he isn't a "fact" witness and that Republicans are only trying to "mollify the president, and that's not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness."

Collins, speaking before the Cipolline letter was released, was asked by Chris Wallace about possible White House participation and took the opportunity to brand the whole impeachment exercise "a complete American waste of time right here", a memorable turn of phrase.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 10:10
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GOP senator accused of pushing Russian smears in defence of Trump, denies being 'duped' by Vladimir Putin

Two other Republicans drawning attention to themselves in the defence of the president yesterday were Louisiana senator John Kennedy and California representative Tom McClintock.

Senator Kennedy - who had to row back his claim that Ukrainians, not Russians, hacked the 2016 election after his appearance on Fox News Sunday last week - was this time on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and said it again, this time adding that ex-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko had "actively worked for Hillary Clinton".

Todd, utterly exasperated, gave the counter-argument raised by ex-national security council expert Dr Fiona Hill at the inquiry and countless other intelligence specialists - that it was most definitely the Kremlin - and asked Kennedy whether he was "at all concerned you've been duped" by Vladimir Putin.

His answer was a flat "no", which is not the same as a denial that he was duped.

Professionally folksy to the last, Kennedy also said the impeachment inquiry has been "as rigged as a carnival ring toss".

On MSNBC, Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark wasted no time in accusing him of "peddling Russian propoganda on national television".

Meanwhile, McClintock told This Week Trump was guilty of nothing worse than not using "the delicate language of diplomacy" in his 25 July quid pro quo call with President Zelenksy.

It was all just "the blunt talk of a Manhattan businessman", said McClintock, which I guess is the foreign policy equivalent of "locker room talk".

Here's Andy Gregory with more.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 10:30
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Trump due in London for Nato summit

The president is jetting in to Stansted Airport this evening for the aforementioned Nato summit and is reportedly looking forward to meeting up with prime minister Boris Johnson - who was accused of modelling himself on Trump at a general election debate on Sunday night - and called him in advance to express his condolenscenes over Friday's London Bridge terror attack.

Trump is set to visit Buckingham Palace for a reception on Tuesday, before he joins world leaders in Watford the following day.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 10:45
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Nigel Farage tries - and comprehensively fails - to defend Trump's 'grab them by the p****' remark

In that same general election debate, Trump sycophant and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage attempted to defend the president's notorious "grab them by the p****" remark, declaring: “If all of us were caught out with what we said on a night out after a drink, none of us would be here.”

"Is that what you do on a night out after a drink?" Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson countered with a raised eyebrow.

President Trump, it should be noted, is teetotal, so this already desperate defence of the indefensible doesn't even hold water, let alone beer.

Here's Jane Dalton with more.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 11:00
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Trump announces new tariffs on Brazilian, Argentinian metals as penalty for currency devaluation

Trump is up early, taking quotes in isolation from Fox on Twitter and announcing new steel and aluminium tariffs on Brazil and Argentina as a penalty for allegedly devaluing their currencies.

Here's Ben Chapman's story.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 11:20
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Republicans 'absolutely disgusted and exhausted' by Trump, says ex-GOP congressman

While the president still has a rogue's gallery of defenders out there fighting the good fight for him, from Collins and Kennedy to Farage, one man who has had enough is ex-Pennsylvania congressman Charlie Dent, who has told CNN his fellow Republicans are "absolutely disgusted and exhausted by the president’s behaviour". 

Chris Riotta has more.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 11:35
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Steve Bullock drops out of 2020 Democratic race

Montana governor Steve Bullock has suspended his 2020 presidential campaign amid fundraising struggles and a repeated inability to qualify for the debate stage. He will not run for the Senate either.

Joe Sommerlad2 December 2019 11:50

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