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Trump impeachment news: President considers testifying over Ukraine scandal, as Supreme Court puts hold on release of his tax returns

Follow the latest updates from Washington, as it happened

Trump impeachment: Key moments from testimony of Marie Yovanovitch

Donald Trump has said he is “strongly considering” taking up House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s invitation for him to testify to the impeachment inquiry and “speak all the truth he wants”, a welcome also extended by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who said the president should give his side of the story on Ukraine rather than grumble about the proceedings on Twitter.

The White House has meanwhile scrambled to deny speculation the Mr Trump’s sudden visit to a Maryland hospital on Saturday for a medical check-up was initiated in response to a more serious health complaint.

The president otherwise spent his weekend hitting out at Fox News host Chris Wallace over his treatment of GOP representative Steve Scalise, as his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in turn comes under fire from House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff for snubbing a subpoena and obstructing the investigation.

Meanwhile, secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was changing decades-old policy identifying Israeli settlements as illegal under international law, drawing criticism from human rights activists.

Mr Pompeo also refused to defend former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, after she was attacked by Mr Trump during her testimony last week.

We are expecting a packed week of impeachment hearings this week, with testimony Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Democrats will meanwhile hold their next debate on Wednesday in Georgia.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 10:15
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White House scrambles to deny rumours over unscheduled Trump hospital visit

The White House has been forced to deny speculation about Donald Trump’s sudden visit to a Maryland hospital on Saturday for a medical check-up, after it was reported the trip had not followed usual protocol, leading many to wonder whether the president had suffered a more serious health scare.

Trump spent two hours undergoing a "quick exam and labs" at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda on Saturday afternoon, according to his press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who told Fox News's Jeanine Pirro: "He's healthy as can be. He has more energy than anybody in the White House. That man works from 6am until very, very late at night."

But while Grisham insisted everything was above board, CNN reports that the visit did not follow protocol for a routine presidential medical exam. Typically, staff would have been forewarned that a "VIP" was arriving and key areas of the hospital would be closed off for security reasons. That did not happen this time, leading one source to brand the handling of the visit "abnormal".

Hmmm. Sounds fishy.

Conrad Duncan has this report on the unscheduled detour.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 10:25
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Nancy Pelosi invites president to testify at impeachment inquiry

Trump has meanwhile been invited by House speaker Nancy Pelosi to testify to the impeachment inquiry and “speak all the truth he wants” during an extended interview with Margaret Brennan for CBS's Face the Nation.

She also attacked the president for tweeting during Friday's appearance by ousted Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, stopping short of agreeing it amounted to "witness intimidation" but saying the posts in question were “totally wrong and inappropriate and typical of the president.”

The GOP did not get off lightly either.

“I really have a real discomfort level of responding to what Republicans say because they are in denial about what has happened in the country,” Pelosi said. “So if you want to ask me about where we're going on this, I'm happy to respond to that. But I find it a waste of my time and yours to just be talking about what Republicans say.”

That welcome to Trump was also extended by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who said the president should give his side of the story on Ukraine rather than grumble about the proceedings on Twitter.

"I think the hearings have brought up many many troubling allegations," he said at a press conference in New York. "If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing, doesn't like what he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet. He should come to the committee and testify under oath and he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath." 

"You've got to ask the question: What is he hiding?" Schumer added. "What, is he afraid to confront what these people have said?"

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 10:40
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Trump attacks Pence aide and 'nasty & obnoxious' Fox News host but unexpectedly defends Joe Biden on busy Twitter weekend

Trump of course can't stay away from Twitter and spent his weekend on the attack.

His targets including Jennifer Williams, a senior aide to vice president Mike Pence due to appear before the inquiry on Tuesday, whom he baselessly labelled a "Never Trumper" - as he had previous witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent - after a transcript of her damning private deposition to investigators was released on Saturday.

He also went after Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace for giving his ally Steve Scalise a rough time.

You can see their exchange below.

The president otherwise spent his time posting Fox interview clips with Republican cronies like Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Doug Collins and Kevin Ratcliffe and friendly pundits Tom Fitton, Steve Hilton and Dan Bongino. It was very much a case of business as usual as Trump sought to fire fight the damaging press coverage arising from the impeachment hearings.

He also rewarded New York GOP member Elise Stefanik for her performances niggling Adam Schiff at the public hearings last week with a generous shoutout.

Perhaps more surprisingly, he came to the defence of Joe Biden (!) after North Korea branded him a "rabid dog". 

Here's Liam James on that last point.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 10:55
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Adam Schiff calls out Mick Mulvaney for not complying with subpoena

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff issued a fairly stunning rebuke to Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Saturday for snubbing a subpoena and obstructing the impeachment investigation.

Schiff praised Mark Sandy, a senior official within the Office of Management and Budget, for coming forward to testify, saying his decision "stands in stark contras to the actions of [Mulvaney]...  who not only has refused to testify, but actively worked to block others from complying with subpoenas, and refused to provide Congress with documents relating to Trump's suspension of Congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine."

"This is the same Mick Mulvaney who publicly admitted from the White House podium that Trump withheld the military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations meant to help the President's re-election campaign, and the same Mick Mulvaney who was a direct firsthand participant in and witness to the scheme," Schiff continued.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 11:10
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Republican congressman Mike Turner admits impeachment developments 'alarming'

Also on the Sunday talk shows, Ohio Republican Mike Turner admitted to Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union that the juicy details emerging from the impeachment hearings - notably the transcript of National Security Council official Tim Morrison's deposition - were "alarming".

He also said the president's tweets are "generally unfortunate", a sentiment with which it's hard to disagree.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 11:25
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Sunday shows fixate on upcoming Gordon Sondland testimony

The conversation was otherwise focused on the upcoming testimony of Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the EU, which is due to take place on Wednesday morning. 

Sondland, one of the"Three Amigos" and a central figure of interest over the Ukraine scandal, has revised his original deposition to House investigators to include the admission that a quid pro quo was in play after all, prompting Trump defenders like Lindsey Graham to speculate he might be a "double agent". Ridiculous, especially given that the man donated $1m (£771,000) to the persident's inauguration committee.

On ABC's This Week, New York Democrat Sean Maloney, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told George Stephanopoulos that Sondland could cast new light on what he argued amounts to "solicitation of a bribe"

On State of the Union, Democratic senator Chris Murphy said the ambassador would be spending his weekend deciding, "whether his primary loyalty is to America or whether his primary loyalty is to the president of the United States".

And on Fox News Sunday, another Connecticut Democrat, Jim Himes, denied that the opposition's case rested on Sondland. "I don’t think it blows a hole in the case… there is ample evidence that there was a corrupt deal being cooked up," he told Chris Wallace.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 11:40
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Giuliani associate boasted of 'James Bond mission' to Ukraine on behalf of 'the big guy'

Rudy Giuliani's Soviet-born associate Lev Parnas reportedly boasted of being on a "secret mission" for Trump, CNN reports.

Parnas is understood to have made the remark at the White House's annual Hanukkah party last year, following a private meeting he had with Trump and his own business partner Igor Fruman.

CNN's sources say Parnas bragged that "the big guy" had tasked him and Fruman with a "James Bond mission" to Ukraine.

Lev Parnas (Drew Angerer/Getty)

"Parnas viewed the assignment as a great crusade," said one. "He believed he was doing the right thing for Trump."

Giuliani, through his lawyer, Robert Costello, denies that the private meeting reported on took place. Costello also dismissed Parnas by saying he is "no Sean Connery" and suffered from "delusions of grandeur".

Joseph A Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, told CNN, "Mr Parnas at all times believed that he was acting only on behalf of the president, as directed by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and never on behalf of any Ukrainian officials."

Trump publicly stated that he did not know Parnas and Fruman the day after they were arrested at Dulles International Airport last month on campaign finance violation charges.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 11:55
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White House budget official defies Trump to give Saturday deposition on Ukraine aid

The impeachment inquiry did not slow down over the weekend .

In addition to the release of new transcripts from Morrison and Williams, the aforementioned Mark Sandy gave a closed-door deposition to Congress.

He was the first OMB official to testify on the office's role in holding up the $391m (£302m) in congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine.

Here's Chris Riotta's report.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 12:10
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Trump enjoys Joker screening at White House

The president took a break from livetweeting Fox News and fast-forwarding through Jean Claude Van Damme movies to get to the violent bits to sit down and watch Todd Phillips's controversial new supervillain origin story Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix.

He liked it, you'll be shocked to learn.

Joe Sommerlad18 November 2019 12:25

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