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Trump news: Impeachment poll reveals soaring public support for president’s removal during TV hearings, as damning Ukraine scandal details emerge

Follow the latest updates from Washington, as they happened

Alex Woodward
New York
,Joe Sommerlad,Clark Mindock
Wednesday 27 November 2019 19:43
Donald Trump's picture of his face combined with 'Rocky's' body after Florida rally

The House Intelligence Committee’s televised hearings this month inspired a steady increase in public support for the impeachment of Donald Trump over the Ukraine scandal, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests.

That new poll came just before fresh accusations that have rocked the Trump administration on an entirely new set of circumstances beyond impeachment — this time the accusation from three women that EU ambassador Gordon Sondland had retaliated against them after they turned down his unwanted sexual advances, which included alleged forced kissing and exposing himself.

The accusations were detailed by a joint report from ProPublica and Portland Monthly, and were denied by the Seattle hotelier. Even so, they make him the latest high profile Trump ally to be accused of sexual misconduct after the likes of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, and the president himself.

Meanwhile, as the House Judiciary Committee announced its plans for the next stage of the inquiry and invited the president to attend, The New York Times reported Mr Trump knew about the CIA whistleblower’s initial complaint when he finally released the withheld $391m (£302m) military assistance to Kiev, a tactic that prompted two White House budget officials to resign in protest, according to the latest published witness transcript.

Before that, president Trump gave his latest 2020 campaign rally in Florida on Tuesday night, denouncing the investigation into his quid pro quo call with Volodymyr Zelensky as “bull****” and encouraging his supporters to chant the word in defiance.

On Wednesday, he spent some of his day tweeting about the day’s events, including a photoshopped image with his face on top of the much younger, much fitter Rocky Balboa’s body.

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Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 09:35

Public support for impeachment climbed during TV hearings, says poll

The House Intelligence Committee’s televised hearings this month inspired a steady increase in public support for the impeachment of Donald Trump over the Ukraine scandal, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests.

The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47 per cent of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40 per cent said he should not.

The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.

Just before the hearings started on 13 November, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found that “net support” for impeachment, which is the difference between the number who support impeachment and the number who oppose, was three percentage points.

That increased to four points after the first week of hearings and then to five points as the second week of hearings started. The latest poll shows that net support for impeachment is now at seven points.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 09:45

Trump invited to attend first House Judiciary Committee hearing

The president has been formally invited to an impeachment hearing at the House Judiciary Committee, scheduled for Wednesday 4 December, when legal experts will determine whether the president’s alleged abuses of power in his handling of Ukraine and its military aid constitute “high crimes and misdemeanours” as established in the US constitution.

In his letter to the White House inviting the president and his attorneys to the hearing, committee chair Jerry Nadler promises a “fair and informative process”.

“At base, the president has a choice to make: He can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process”, Nadler said.

“I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other presidents have done before him.”

Nadler gave Trump a deadline of 6pm 1 December to respond as to whether he will appear. He also asked for the name of his counsel.

Alex Woodward has this report.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 10:00

Trump knew about whistleblower complaint when he released Ukraine aid

The New York Times reports this morning that the president knew about the CIA whistleblower’s initial complaint when he finally released the withheld $391m (£302m) military assistance to Kiev.

White House lawyers reportedly told Trump in late August about the complaint - made on 12 August - informing him they were attempting to determine whether they were required to report it to Congress. Quite how detailed the briefing the president received was is not known.

The military assistance - approved by the US government to help the Eastern Europe nation to fight off Russian aggressors to the north - was duly released in September.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 10:15

Two White House budget officials resigned in protest over aid delay, inquiry transcripts reveal

That decision to delay the aid prompted two White House budget officials to resign in protest, according to the latest published witness transcripts of the private depositions given to the inquiry by Mark Sandy of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs.

The officials in question - one of whom worked in the OMB's legal division - were not named in Sandy's transcript but he said that one of the staffers "expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold".

Asked whether the legal department employee was leaving "at least in part because of their concerns on frustrations about the hold on Ukraine security assistance", Sandy answered: "Yes, in terms of that process, in part."

Sandy also revealed that the reason his department was given for the withholding of the aid was that other nations were not donating to Ukraine's defence coffers as generously as the US, a concern that has a familiarly Trumpian ring to it.

"The testimonies from Ambassador Reeker and Mr Sandy continue to paint a portrait of hand-picked political appointees corrupting the official levers of US government power, including by withholding taxpayer funded military assistance to Ukraine, to further the president’s own personal political agenda," House committee chairs Adam Schiff, Carolyn Maloney and Eliot Engel said in a joint statement announcing the release of the transcripts.

Here's Alex Woodward's report.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 10:30

Trump denounces impeachment inquiry as 'bull****' at latest wild MAGA rally in Florida

President Trump gave his latest 2020 campaign rally in Florida last night, denouncing the investigation into his quid pro quo call with Volodymyr Zelensky as "bull****" and encouraging his supporters to chant the word in defiance.

Speaking at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, at a rally Trump branded "a homecoming" (despite his being from Queens, New York), the president railied at House investigators, accusing them of "trying to rip our country apart" and delaring: "First it was the Russia hoax and now the same maniacs are pushing the deranged impeachment [narrative]."

"You see what’s happening in the polls? Everybody said: 'That’s really bull****,'" he said, prompting the crowd of nearly 20,000 to break into the war cry of the delusional. His supporters would later chant "Conan! Conan!" in tribute to the heroic Special Forces dog that helped track down Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria and who visited the White House this week.

Trump defended his decision to absolve three members of the US military charged with war crimes - a decision that has prompted much controversy and caused US secretary of the Navy Richard V Spencer to step down. "We're going to take care of our warriors. And I will always stick up for our great fighters," he said.

The president worked hard to butter up voters as he described his supporters as the "super elite". "You people are successful as hell," he told them. "You're smarter. You're better looking. You're sharper."

He also sought to play a populist card by claiming "some people" (meaning unidentified, fictional, politically correct liberal bogeymen) are attempting to rebrand Thanksgiving, a (nonexistent) move he is having none of.

Trump also spent time discussing recent controversies, including an unannounced trip he paid to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on a Saturday earlier this month.

Despite lingering questions about the visit, Trump assured the crowd that if he "didn't feel great," he "wouldn't be ranting and raving" in this way. Indeed sir.

Here's Samuel Osborne's report.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 10:50

A Trump impersonator, Latino supporters and the baby blimp

Here are a few of the best press shots of from last night in Florida.

(Maria Alejandra Cardona/Reuters)

(Joe Raedle/Getty)

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

(Joe Raedle/Getty)

(Matias J Ocner/Miami Herald/AP)

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 11:10

Trump denies ordering Rudy Giuliani to dig up dirt for him in Ukraine

Prior to yesterday's rally, Trump gave a radio interview to disgraced former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and used his platform to deny that he directed his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani - who had been pushing Ukraine for the investigations - to act on his behalf by pressuring Kiev to dig up dirt on his political rivals.

"No, I didn't direct him, but he is a warrior," Trump told O'Reilly, using the same adjective he would apply to the excused war criminals in Florida.

Giuliani "possibly saw something", Trump added. "He's done work in Ukraine for years."

Rudy better have that "insurance" he joked about because he was well and truly thrown under the bus here and is clearly being set up as the president's fall guy.

Trump also used the appearance to push false approval rating statistics (that went unchallenged) and suggest he will designate the cartels of Mexico as a terror organisation.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 11:25

Trump jokes about Adam Schiff and impeachment inquiry at turkey pardoning

Before he jetted out for Florida yesterday, Trump took part in the traditional White House custom of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey, not wasting an opportunity to mock his antagonists in Congress.

Trump joked that Bread and Butter - the pair of North Carolina-bred turkeys he was about to pardon - had been raised to "remain calm under any condition," a trait he said will be "very important because they've already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff'sbasement on Thursday."

"It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey," Trump told guests seated in the White House Rose Garden, where he was flanked by his wife, first lady Melania Trump. But he told the birds that, "unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It's very unusual." Ho ho.

Trump's latest act of clemency benefited Butter, a 21-kilogram turkey granted a "full and complete" pardon. Trump said he was also sparing Bread, who weighs 20 kilograms from being served up on a Thanksgiving table. Both gobblers will get to spend the rest of their lives on a farm at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Here's Darren Richman for Indy100.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 11:40

Melania Trump booed by school kids at opioids event in Baltimore

The first lady was at Trump's side in the Rose Garden there but later attended a summit on the opioid crisis at the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus, where she was roundly booed by many of the high school and middle school students in attendance.

Here's Clark Mindock's report.

Joe Sommerlad27 November 2019 11:55

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