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Trump impeachment inquiry: All the latest updates

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All the latest updates as US House launches official impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that the United States House of Representatives would launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, acquiescing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election-year clash between Congress and the president.

The announcement came amid reports that Trump may have abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic frontrunner, and help his own re-election.

In a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Trump asked for help investigating Biden, according to a White House-released summary of the call. In the days before the call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400m in military aid for Ukraine – prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on Biden. Trump has denied that charge but acknowledged he blocked the funds, later released.

The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of the whistle-blower’s complaint that was released this week.

Trump has blasted the inquiry as “Witch Hunt garbage” and said he has done nothing wrong.

As a formal impeachment inquiry in the House gets under way, here are all the latest updates:

Thursday, September 26

House chairmen to Trump: Stop attacking whistle-blower, witnesses

The chairmen of three House panels released a statement on Thursday, demanding Trump to stop attacking the whistle-blower and the individual’s sources.

“President Trump is fully aware that our committees are seeking testimony from this whistleblower and others referenced in the whistle-blower’s complaint released today as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry, and our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress,” said Eliot L Engel, the chairman of the committee on Foreign Affairs, Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Elijah  Cummings, the chairman of the committee on Oversight and Reform.

“No officials with knowledge relevant to the committees’ investigation, including knowledge of the subject of the whistleblower complaint, may be subject to any intimidation, reprisal, or threat of reprisal, and all witnesses must be made available for congressional testimony,” the chairmen added.

“The president’s comments today constitute reprehensible witness intimidation and an attempt to obstruct Congress’s impeachment inquiry.  We condemn the president’s attacks, and we invite our Republican counterparts to do the same because Congress must do all it can to protect this whistleblower, and all whistleblowers.  Threats of violence from the leader of our country have a chilling effect on the entire whistleblower process, with grave consequences for our democracy and national security.”

US spy officials were forthcoming in testimony: Senate panel chair

The top US spy official and the inspector general for intelligence agencies “were extremely forthcoming” in closed-door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday on a whistle-blower complaint against Trump, the panel’s chairman said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and Inspector General Michael Atkinson “were extremely forthcoming with us today, extremely helpful at trying to fill in some of the things that we haven’t been able to pick up just from the published documents”.

Schiff: President’s comments invite ‘violence against witnesses’

Responding to reports that US President Trump likened the whistle-blower’s sources “to a spy” and said, “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart?”, the House intelligence chair said Americans should denounce such witness intimidation.

“The President’s suggestion that those involved in the whistleblower complaint should be dealt with as ‘we used to do’ for ‘spies and treason’ is a reprehensible invitation to violence against witnesses in our investigation. All Americans must denounce such witness intimidation,” Adam Schiff tweeted.

Whistle-blower is a CIA officer detailed to White House: NYT

The whistle-blower who filed a complaint against President Trump was a CIA officer who was detailed to work at the White House at some point, according to the New York Times, who site three people familiar with the matter.

The newspaper said that the man has since returned to the CIA.

Lawyers for the whistle-blower declined to confirm the New York Times reporting, the newspaper said.

“Any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way,” said Andrew Bakaj, his lead counsel. “The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity.”

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, defended the newspaper’s decision to publish the information, saying, “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country – whether the president of the United States abused power and whether the White House covered it up.”

Trump seeks whistle-blower sources, mentions treason: reports

President Trump told staff from the US mission to the United Nations on Thursday he wanted to know who provided information to a whistle-blower on his phone call with Ukraine’s president, likening them to a spy, two newspapers reported.

“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Trump was quoted as saying by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Schiff: Complaint lays out scheme to use leverage to obtain dirt on opponent

US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the whistle-blower complaint released on Thursday reveals a series of “damning allegations” concerning President Trump’s conduct, including a telephone call in which he sought dirt on a political opponent from Ukraine’s president.

The complaint “sets out a series of the most damning allegations concerning the conduct of the president and others potentially within the administration,” Schiff told reporters after a hearing in which the acting US director of national intelligence testified that the complaint was credible.

On whistle-blower complaint, Pompeo says State Department acted appropriately

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said he had not yet fully read the whistle-blower complaint about US President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine but that he believed the State Department had acted appropriately.

“To the best of my knowledge and from what I have seen so far, each of the actions that were undertaken by State Department officials was entirely appropriate,” Pompeo told a news conference.

House intelligence panel hearing adjourns

The House Intelligence Committee hearing with testimony from acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire has ended.

‘This is a cover-up’: Pelosi says Trump betrayed oath of office

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says an intelligence community whistle-blower’s complaint shows President Donald Trump has undermined national security and tried to cover it up.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday at her weekly press conference that allegations Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden show he “betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity” of US elections.

She added: “This is a cover-up.”

Trump has denied doing anything wrong.

Amid House testimony, Trump goes to fundraiser

While the nation’s top intelligence official is testifying in Washington, DC, President Donald Trump is attending a closed fundraising breakfast in New York.

The fundraiser is at a Manhattan restaurant and is expected to raise about $3 million for Trump and other Republican campaigns.

A woman on Thursday held a sign through the window of a nearby sandwich shop that said, “Whistle-blowers set us free.” Next door, a pizza place posted a homemade sign written on a pizza box that said “We love Mr Trump.”

Trump began his day with tweets denouncing House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and urging Republicans to “fight hard,” saying “our country is at stake.”

Republican member of panel tells president ‘this is not OK’

A Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian leader “was not OK”.

“I want to say to the president, ‘This is not OK,'” Mike Turner said of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. “That conversation is not OK. And I think it’s disappointing to the American public when they read this transcript.”

Read a summary of the call here.

Maguire: I didn’t withhold the complaint, I ‘delayed’ it

Acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire said he didn’t withhold the whistle-blower complaint, he “delayed” it. He also said he was not directed to withhold the complaint from Congress by the White House or Trump administration.

“This is a unique situation,” Maguire said.

Read the full complaint here.

Maguire says whistle-blower can testify freely after clearances

Acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire told the House Intelligence Committee that the whistle-blower, whose identity is unknown, will be able to testify freely once the security clearance issues for the individual’s counsel is sorted.

CNN reported late on Wednesday that the whistle-blower had tentatively agreed to testify if Maguire approved security clearance of the individual’s legal counsel so the lawyers can accompany their client.

Nunes to Maguire: ‘Be careful what you say’

Devon Nunes

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill  [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

At the end of his questioning, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, told acting National Intelligence Director Joseph Maguire to be “careful what you say because they are going to use your words against you”.

Acting DNI says he went to White House counsel after receiving complaint

After being pressed, the acting director of national intelligence said he first went to the White House Office of Legal Counsel to determine any executive privilege concerns regarding the whistle-blower complaint.

Maguire says whistle-blower ‘did the right thing’

The acting director of national intelligence said a whistle-blower “did the right thing” by coming forward to report concerns over the White House’s handling of a call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s leader.

Joseph Maguire

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Joseph Maguire told the House intelligence committee at a hearing on Thursday the whistle-blower followed the law “every step of the way”.

Acting DNI: Everything in this matter is totally unprecedented

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, citing questions of executive privilege regarding the whistle-blower complaint, said the matter is “totally unprecedented”.

Acting DNI: I handled this matter in full compliance with the law

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told the House Intelligence Committee that he believes he was acting in full compliance with the law at all times.

Joseph Maguire

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is sworn in before testifying before the House Intelligence Committee  [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

Schiff to spy chief: Why did you seek DOJ opinion

The House Intelligence Committee chairman asked the US’s top spy chief why he asked for Justice Department’s opinion on whether to provide the whistle-blower complaint to congress.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is testifying before the House Intelligence Panel.

House intel committee releases redacted whistle-blower complaint

The House Intelligence Committee has released a redacted version of the whistle-blower complaint.

Acting DNI chief Maguire to testify

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is set to testify on Thursday morning on the whistle-blower complaint that helped prompt House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce the House was moving forward with an impeachment inquiry of Trump.

The hearing is set to begin at 10am local time (13:00GMT)

Whistle-blower complaint declassified, may be released Thursday

US Representative Chris Stewart tweeted late on Wednesday that the whistle-blower complaint has been declassified.

US media, citing unnamed sources, reported that it could be released as early as Thursday.

“I encourage you all to read it,” Stewart said.

Majority of US House now favour impeachment inquiry

The majority – 217 Democrats and one Independent – of the US House members now favour some kind of impeachment inquiry or action, according to US media.

Some tallies put the number at 219 Democrats and one Independent.

US media tallies are based on public statements and comments to US news outlets.

According to the New York Times, more than 70 Democrats have said they support impeachment since Monday.

Whistle-blower tentatively agrees to testify: CNN

The whistle-blower who filed the complaint now at the centre of an impeachment inquiry of Trump has tentatively agreed to testify, CNN reported.

According to the news outlet, the whistle-blower will only agree to appear before members of congress if acting DNI chief Joseph Maguire approves security clearances of the individuals legal counsel so the counsel can accompany their client.

Wednesday, September 25

Schumer calls for whistle-blower complaint to be ‘immediately’ released

Chuck Schumer, the US Senate’s top Democrat, on Wednesday called for the immediate release of a complaint filed by an intelligence official reportedly about a call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The public has a right to read the whistle-blower’s complaint for themselves. The contents of the complaint should be made public immediately,” Schumer said in a statement.

Some politicians were able to view the complaint on Wednesday, but have been barred from publicly discussing the contents of it.

Republican US senator calls details in whistle-blower complaint ‘troubling’

A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said there are “real troubling things here” in a whistle-blower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s leader.

Senator Ben Sasse, speaking to reporters upon leaving a secure room for senators to read the complaint, added that “Republicans ought not just circle the wagons” to protect Trump.

Similarly, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that the document was “very troubling.” “There are so many facts that have to be examined,” Schumer said.

US House intel panel chair Schiff says whistle-blower complaint credible, disturbing

US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Wednesday after viewing a whistle-blower complaint concerning President Donald Trump that the allegations were “deeply disturbing” and “very credible”.

“I found the allegations deeply disturbing. I also found them very credible,” Schiff told reporters.

“I want to thank the whistle-blower for coming forward. I think what this courageous individual has done has exposed serious wrongdoing,” he said.

Trump says he doesn’t like precedent of releasing details of calls with foreign leaders

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he decided to release a summary of a controversial phone call with Ukraine’s leader because “horrible things” were being reported about it, but that he did not like the precedent of releasing details of such calls.

“I don’t like the precedent,” Trump said at a news conference on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting. “I don’t like it where you’re dealing with heads of state and to think that their call is going to be released.”

Trump calls inquiry ‘a hoax’

Trump again used his often repeated line when it comes talking about investigations of him and his administration: “a hoax”.

“The Democrats did this hoax during the United Nations week. It was perfect,” Trump said during a news conference in New York on Wednesday. “Because this way it takes away from the tremendous achievements that we’re taking care of doing that we’re involved in. In New York City at the United Nations.”

Trump also said he “didn’t threaten anybody”, denying that he attempted to pressure Ukraine’s leader.

Trump says he backs transparency, calls for transparency from Dems

Trump on Twitter and in a press conference said he has informed Republicans that he full supports transparency “on so-called whistle-blower information” but he said he insists “on transparency from Joe Biden and his son Hunter, on the millions of dollars that have been quickly and easily…taken out of Ukraine and China”.

“Additionally, I demand transparency from Democrats that went to Ukraine,” he said.

Ukraine president thought only US side of Trump call would be published

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday he thought that only US President Donald Trump’s side of their July phone call would be published.

According to a summary of the momentous telephone call released by the Trump administration, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate a political rival, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, in coordination with the US attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer.

“I personally think that sometimes such calls between presidents of independent countries should not be published,” Zelensky told Ukrainian media in a briefing in New York that was broadcast in Ukraine. “I just thought that they would publish their part.”

Zelensky said he did not know the details of an investigation into Biden’s son, repeating that he wants his new general prosecutor to investigate all cases.

Whistle-blower complaint to be delivered to Congress Wednesday: reports

Several US media outlets reported that the House and Senate intelligence committees will gain access to the the whistle-blower complaint at 4pm local time (20:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Biden says Trump hurt US national security

Joe Biden said President Donald Trump not only has compromised national security but mounted “a direct attack on the independence” of the Justice Department.

The document shows Trump asking Zelensky to “do us a favour” by investigating Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump urged Zelensky to talk to Attorney General William Barr about the matter.

Biden said Trump “put personal politics” above US national security interests by soliciting a foreign leader’s help in damaging one of the US president’s domestic political rivals. Biden is a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Trump says he put ‘no pressure’ on Zelenskiy

President Donald Trump said he placed “no pressure” on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

Trump commented on Wednesday during a meeting in New York with Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

U.S. President Trump meets with Ukraine's President Zelenskiy in New York City, New York

Trump speaks to Zelensky on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Asked about their July telephone call, Zelensky said it was a “good phone call” and “normal” and that he and Trump discussed “many things.”

Zelenskiy added, “Nobody pushed me.”

Top US spy official threatened to quit if pressured on testimony: report

The top US spy official threatened to resign over concerns the White House might press him to withhold information from Congress in scheduled testimony on Thursday about a whistle-blower complaint about President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the Post said acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told the White House he was not willing to stonewall Congress.

It said the move was partly aimed at forcing the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistle-blower complaint, which Maguire has so far withheld from Congress.

Ukraine president says was not pushed by Trump to act on Biden

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday he was not pushed by US President Donald Trump to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and does not want to involved in the US elections.

“I don’t want to be involved to democratic open elections of US state,” he said. “We had I think good phone call, it was normal, we spoke about many things … I think, and you read it, that nobody pushed me.”

Republicans slam Democrats, defend Trump

The vast majority of Republicans have dismissed Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian president as a “nothing call”.

Republicans leaned heavily on the fact that the rough transcript did not include direct evidence of a quid pro quo.

“Dems launched an impeachment inquiry based on a rumor instead of waiting for the facts,” tweeted Republican Representative Steve Scalise.

“Nothing remotely impeachable in transcript,” tweeted Republican Pete King. “Ukrainian President brought up Giuliani before @POTUS Trump mentioned Biden. No quid pro quo. Pursuing impeachment is indefensible.”

Schumer calls for Senate intelligence panel to probe Trump’s handling of Ukraine

The US Senate intelligence panel should probe President Donald Trump’s handling of Ukraine, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Wednesday following the release of a memo outlining Trump’s July call with the Ukrainian president.

Schumer, speaking to reporters, said the memo – which showed Trump asking Kiev to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden – raised a number of questions that Republicans should also want answered.

The Senate committee, led by Republican Senator Richard Burr, conducted a largely bipartisan investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

US House chairmen threaten subpoenas after ‘damning, shocking’ call

The chairmen of four of the US House of Representatives committees involved in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump called a summary of his call with Ukraine’s president “an unambiguous, damning, and shocking abuse” of office on Wednesday.

The four committee leaders, all Democrats, repeated that Congress needs full, unredacted access to the whistle-blower complaint that fueled calls for the impeachment inquiry and threatened to subpoena the State Department and White House if they do not turn over related records for a Thursday deadline.

Pelosi: Memo confirms need for impeachment inquiry

Democratic US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the summary of a July phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president released by the Justice Department on Wednesday confirmed the need for an impeachment inquiry of Trump.

“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the President engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” Pelsoi said in a statement.

House intel panel chair: Trump’s Ukraine call far more damning than expected

The chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, on Wednesday said President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president was far more damning than expected.

Schiff, a Democrat, said the memo of the call that the White House released earlier on Wednesday in which Trump asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, currently seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, sounded like threats made by the mafia.

Nadler calls on Barr to recuse himself ‘until we get to the bottom of this’

Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Wednesday that Barr “must recuse himself until we get to the bottom of this matter”.

Barr connection marks possible new issue for Trump

Trump told Zelensky that Attorney General William Barr, the top US law enforcement official, would reach out to him about re-opening the investigation into the Ukrainian gas company, according to the rough transcript of a call between the US and Ukrainian leaders.

The connection to Barr marked a new and potentially more serious issue for Trump because it shows he took steps to involve the US government with a foreign country to investigate a political rival.

Trump did not ask Barr to contact Ukraine, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, and Barr has not communicated with Ukraine about a possible investigation or any other subject. Barr, a Trump appointee, first found out about the conversation several weeks after it took place, Kupec said.

Memo shows Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine president

President Donald Trump repeatedly prodded Ukraine’s new leader to work with Rudy Giuliani and the US attorney general to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden. That’s according to a five-page memo summarising the July 25 call.

The White House released the memo on Wednesday.

The conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s president is just one piece of a whistle-blower’s complaint made in mid-August.

The complaint is central to the impeachment inquiry announced Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump told the Ukrainian president “If you can look into it … it sounds horrible to me”.

Trump was talking about unsubstantiated allegations that Biden sought to interfere with a Ukrainian prosecutor’s investigation of his son, Hunter.

Trump also confirmed that he ordered his staff to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine a few days before the call.

The president said he did nothing wrong.

House to vote on resolution calling for release of whistle-blower complaint

The Democrat-led House of Representatives plans to vote on Wednesday on a non-binding resolution condemning the Trump administration for withholding the whistle-blower complaint related to Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart. The resolution also calls on the administration to release the complaint.

Asked about Trump, Ukrainian leader says only his son can pressure him

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asked whether US President Donald Trump had put improper pressure on him during a July phone call, said nobody can put pressure on him except his six-year-old son.

“Nobody can put pressure on me because I am the president of an independent state,” Zelensky told Russian reporters in New York where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly.

“The only one person by the way who can put pressure on me … is my son, who is six years old,” said Zelensky whose comments were broadcast by the Rossiya 24 channel on Wednesday morning ahead of an planned meeting between Zelensky and Trump.

Trump complains again of harassment

Donald Trump described himself Wednesday as the worst-treated president ever after Democrats announced a formal impeachment inquiry against him.

“The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!,” Trump tweeted.

Prior to the Democrats announcement, Trump asserted than an impeach inquiry would be a “positive” for him.

Tuesday, September 24

White House to release whistle-blower complaint

The White House is preparing to release a whistle-blower complaint about US President Donald Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader by the end of the week, Politico magazine reported on Tuesday, citing a senior administration official.

Trump said on Tuesday he would release a transcript of the call between the two leaders, but the White House had previously resisted releasing the complaint.

Trump: impeachment inquiry ‘garbage’

President Donald Trump reacted swiftly to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that the Democratic-controlled House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.

Trump noted that Pelosi’s announcement comes as he meets Tuesday with world leaders at the United Nations. He tweeted that “the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage. So bad for our Country!”

He added: “They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!”

Before the announcement, Trump asserted that an impeachment inquiry would be “positive for me”.

Pelosi orders impeachment inquiry

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced the US House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Pelosi made the announcement on Tuesday from the speaker’s office at the Capitol saying “no one is above the law”.

Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the House of Representatives will launch a formal inquiry into the impeachment of US President Donald Trump [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The move puts the Democratic speaker’s stamp on the investigations that have been under way in the House.

Pelosi said the president “must be held accountable.”

Senate approves resolution of release of complaint

The Republican-led Senate has approved a nonbinding but symbolically important resolution calling on the Trump administration to immediately provide the House and Senate intelligence committees a copy of a whistle-blower complaint involving President Donald Trump.

The measure put forward by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer passed by a voice vote after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed the idea and noted that the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee was working behind the scenes to obtain the complaint.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House would vote on a similar resolution on Wednesday.

Biden: Congress must use ‘full constitutional authority’

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Congress must use its “full constitutional authority” to determine whether President Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian president for dirt on Biden as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden said if Trump doesn’t comply on that and other inquiries, he “will leave Congress … with no choice but to initiate impeachment”.

Biden said that would be a tragedy of Trump’s “own making”.

He added that the president apparently believes he is “above the law”.

Whistle-blower wants to speak

The chairman of the House intelligence committee said a whistle-blower who has been blocked by the Trump administration would like to speak to Congress.

The whistle-blower, whose identity is unknown, lodged a formal complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, determined that it could not be forwarded to Congress.

The complaint at least partly involves President Donald Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine.

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Africa

Nigeria’s Pace Of Economic Recovery Remains Slow Under Buhari -IMF

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A slow economic recovery is continuing, inflation is falling, and external buffers are declining in the face of increased portfolio outflows in Nigeria, preliminary findings by the International Monetary Fund staff team show.

The IMF stated this in a press release made available to SaharaReporters on Tuesday night.

According to the end-of-mission statement, one of the teams’ preliminary findings is that a slow economic recovery is continuing, inflation is falling, and external buffers are declining in the face of increased portfolio outflows.

Other findings noted that Elevated fiscal deficits rely on central bank financing, which complicates monetary policy; and that action on a coherent and coordinated set of policies is urgently needed to reduce vulnerabilities and increase growth over the medium term.

Between September 25 and October 7 this year, an IMF staff team led by Amine Mati, Senior Resident Representative and Mission Chief for Nigeria, visited Lagos and Abuja to discuss recent economic and financial developments, update macroeconomic projections, and review reform implementation.

At the end of the visit, Mati said: “The pace of economic recovery remains slow, as depressed private consumption and investors’ wait-and-see attitude kept growth in the first half of the year at 2 percent, a rate significantly below population growth. Headline inflation has fallen, reaching its lowest level since January 2016, helped by lower food price inflation.

“Spurred by one-off increases in imports, the current account turned into a deficit in the first half of 2019 after three years of surpluses. Gross international reserves have fallen to below $42 billion at end-August 2019, mainly reflecting a decline in foreign holdings of short-term securities and equity. The exchange rate in various windows remained stable, helped by steady sales of foreign exchange by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“Carryover from 2018 to 2019 helped increase public investment spending in the first half of 2019, but revenue underperformed significantly relative to the budget target in the first half of 2019. Over-optimistic revenue projections have led to higher financing needs than initially envisaged, resulting in overreliance on expensive borrowing from the CBN to finance the fiscal deficit. Federal Government interest payments continue to absorb more than half of revenues in 2019.”

According to him, the outlook under current policies remains challenging, pointing out that growth is expected to pick up to 2.3 percent this year on the strength of a continuing recovery in the oil sector and the regaining of momentum in agriculture following a good harvest.

The IMF representative added, “Revenue initiatives planned under the 2020 budget—including a VAT reform that increases the rate, introduces a minimum registration threshold and exempts basic food products—will help partially offset declining oil revenues and the impact of higher minimum wages, thus keeping the overall consolidated fiscal deficit elevated. The current account’s shift to a deficit is expected to persist while the pace of capital outflows continues to weigh on international reserves. Inflation will likely pick up in 2020 following rising minimum wages and a higher VAT rate, despite a tight monetary policy.

“A comprehensive package of measures—whose design and implementation will require close coordination within the economic team and the newly-appointed Economic Advisory Council—is urgently needed to reduce vulnerabilities and raise growth.”

Mati also noted that the increasing CBN financing of the government reinforced the need for an ambitious revenue-based fiscal consolidation that should build on the initiatives laid out in the Strategic Revenue Growth Initiative.

He, therefore, urged the President Muhammadu Buhari regime to maintain a tight monetary policy through more conventional tools.

According to him, managing vulnerabilities arising from large amounts of maturing CBN bills, including those held by non-residents, requires stopping direct central bank interventions, the introduction of longer term government instruments to mop up excess liquidity and moving towards a uniform market-determined exchange rate.

However, he stated, “Banking sector prudential ratios are improving. However, new regulations to spur lending—which has recently increased—should be carefully assessed and may need to be revisited in view of the potential unintended consequences on banks’ asset quality, maturity structure, prudential buffers, and the inflation target. Continued strengthening of banks’ capital buffers would enhance banking sector resilience.

“Structural reforms, particularly on governance and corruption and in implementing the much-delayed power sector recovery plan, remain essential to boosting prospects for higher and more inclusive growth.”

“The team held productive discussions with senior government and central bank officials. It also met with representatives of the banking system, the private sector, and international development partners. The team wishes to thank the authorities and all those it met for the productive discussions, excellent cooperation, and warm hospitality.”

IMF, however, noted that the observations of the team would not be discussed by its board.

“The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s executive board. This mission will not result in a board discussion,” it explained.

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2nd whistleblower adds to impeachment peril at White House

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Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — A second whistleblower has come forward with information about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, adding to the impeachment peril engulfing the White House and potentially providing new leads to Democrats in their unfurling investigation of Trump’s conduct.

Attorney Mark Zaid, who represents both whistleblowers, said in a text message to The Associated Press that the second person has spoken to the intelligence community’s internal watchdog and can corroborate information in the original whistleblower complaint. That document alleged that Trump pushed Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s family, prompting a White House cover-up. Crucially, the new whistleblower works in the intelligence field and has “firsthand knowledge” of key events, Zaid said.

The emergence of the second whistleblower threatened to undermine arguments from Trump and his allies to discredit the original complaint. They have called it politically motivated, claimed it was filed improperly and dismissed it as unreliable because it was based on secondhand or thirdhand information.

A rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, released by the White House, has already corroborated the complaint’s central claim that Trump sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The push came even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Text messages from State Department officials revealed other details, including that Ukraine was promised a visit with Trump if the government would agree to investigate the 2016 election and Ukrainian gas company Burisma — the outline of a potential quid pro quo.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said word of a second whistleblower indicates a larger shift inside the government.

“The president’s real problem is that his behavior has finally gotten to a place where people are saying, ‘Enough,’” Himes said.

Democrats have zeroed in on the State Department in the opening phase of their impeachment investigation. The Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have already interviewed Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine who provided the text messages. At least two other witnesses are set for depositions this week: Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly ousted as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May.

Trump and his supporters deny that he did anything improper, but the White House has struggled to come up with a unified response. No administration officials appeared on the Sunday news shows to defend the president, while other Republicans focused mainly on attacking Democrats. A few Republicans suggested that Trump was only joking this past week when he publicly called on China to investigate the Bidens.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s most vocal backers, provided perhaps the strongest defense of the president. He said there was nothing wrong with Trump’s July conversation with Zelenskiy and that the accusation look like a “political setup.”

As for Trump, rather than visiting his nearby golf course in Sterling, Virginia, for a second day, he stayed at White House, where he tweeted and retweeted, with the Bidens a main target.

“The great Scam is being revealed!” Trump wrote at one point, continuing to paint himself as the victim of a “deep state” and hostile Democrats.

As the president often does when he feels under attack, he trumpeted his strong support among Republican voters. He kept lashing out at Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the few Republicans who has publicly questioned Trump’s conduct.

“The Democrats are lucky that they don’t have any Mitt Romney types,” Trump wrote, painting the 2012 GOP presidential nominee as a traitor to his party. Romney tweeted recently that Trump’s “brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine” for an investigation of Biden is “wrong and appalling.”

The July call raised questions about whether Trump held back near $400 million in critical American military aid to Ukraine as leverage for a Burisma investigation. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

A leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Biden wrote in The Washington Post that he had a message for Trump and “those who facilitate his abuses of power. … Please know that I’m not going anywhere. You won’t destroy me, and you won’t destroy my family.”

Additional details about the origins of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy emerged over the weekend.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry had encouraged Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader, but on energy and economic issues, according to Perry spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes. She said Perry’s interest in Ukraine is part of U.S. efforts to boost Western energy ties to Eastern Europe.

Trump, who has repeatedly described his conversation with Zelenskiy as “perfect,” told House Republicans on Friday night that it was Perry who teed up the July call, according to a person familiar with Trump’s comments who was granted anonymity to discuss them. The person said Trump did not suggest that Perry had anything to do with the pressure to investigate the Bidens.

As the furor over Trump’s phone call and the House’s subsequent impeachment inquiry escalated, two Republicans challenging Trump for the GOP presidential nomination engaged in a heated on-air debate over what should happen to the president. The exchange between former Reps. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Joe Walsh of Illinois was notable, given the refusal of all but three Republican senators to criticize Trump’s conduct.

“This president needs to be impeached, just based on what he himself has said,” Walsh said. “And Republicans better get behind that.”

Walsh said the president deserves to be impeached. Sanford tried to make the case that moving forward with impeachment in the Democratic-run House if the Republican-controlled Senate doesn’t have the votes to convict would be counter-productive.

Himes appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” while Walsh was on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Graham spoke on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

AP

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Impeachment probe reaches into White House with new subpoena

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Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time, the impeachment inquiry reached directly into the White House on Friday as Democrats subpoenaed officials about contacts with Ukraine and President Donald Trump signaled his administration would not cooperate.

The demand for documents capped a tumultuous week that widened the constitutional battle between the executive branch and Congress and sharpened the political standoff with more witnesses, testimony and documents to come.

Trump said he would formally object to Congress about the House impeachment inquiry, even as he acknowledged that Democrats “have the votes” to proceed. They’ll be sorry in the end, he predicted.

“I really believe that they’re going to pay a tremendous price at the polls,” Trump said.

But Democrats accused Trump of speeding down “a path of defiance, obstruction and cover-up” and warned that defying the House subpoena would in itself be considered “evidence of obstruction” and a potentially an impeachable offense.

Lawmakers have made Trump’s request last summer that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden the centerpiece of the probe. A whistleblower complaint said that Trump sought to use military assistance for Ukraine as leverage to push President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the 2020 Democratic hopeful.

“We deeply regret that President Trump has put us — and the nation — in this position, but his actions have left us with no choice,” wrote the three Democratic House chairmen, Reps. Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff and Eliot Engel, in issuing Friday’s subpoena after White House resistance to the panel’s request for witnesses and documents.

Fighting the inquiry, the White House was expected to send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arguing that Congress could not mount its impeachment investigation without first having a vote to authorize it. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham derided the subpoena as coming from a Democratic “kangaroo court.”

But Pelosi insisted the House is well within its rules to conduct oversight of the executive branch under the U.S. Constitution.

In the letter accompanying the subpoena, the three chairmen agreed, stating, “Speaker Pelosi has confirmed that an impeachment inquiry is underway, and it is not for the White House to say otherwise.”

Trump’s comments at the White House came shortly before Democrats sent a separate extensive request for documents to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Ukraine.

Pence spokeswoman Katie Waldman dismissed the demand, saying that given its wide scope, “it does not appear to be a serious request.”

The House has also subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

When Pelosi recently announced that the House was initiating the inquiry, she didn’t seek the consent of the full chamber, as was done for impeachment investigations into former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. But it is proceeding at a rapidly escalating pace.

Late Thursday, House investigators released a cache of text messages that showed top U.S. diplomats encouraging Ukraine’s newly elected president to conduct an investigation linked to Biden’s family in return for granting a high-profile visit with Trump in Washington.

The release followed a 10-hour interview with one of the diplomats, Kurt Volker, who stepped down as special envoy to Ukraine after the impeachment inquiry had begun.

On Friday, investigators in Congress heard again from Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who brought forward the whistleblower complaint of Trump’s call with the Ukraine president that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Trump repeated on Friday that he had been pressing Ukraine to investigate corruption, not trying to undermine Biden, who could be his 2020 presidential election opponent. He made a related request of China, specifying Biden and his son, on Thursday.

As Republicans search for a response to the investigation, the absence of a procedural vote to begin the probe has been a main attack line against Democrats.

Pelosi swatted back the need for such a vote as unnecessary.

“The existing rules of the House provide House Committees with full authority to conduct investigations for all matters under their jurisdiction, including impeachment investigations,” Pelosi wrote Thursday in a letter to House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy after he, too, pressed for a floor vote.

Pelosi has sought to avoid a vote on the impeachment probe for the same reason she resisted, for months, liberal calls to try to remove the president: It would force moderate House Democrats to make a politically risky vote.

The White House, meanwhile, is trying to force the question on Democrats, as it seeks to raise the political cost for their impeachment investigation and to animate the president’s supporters ahead of the 2020 election.

Two days after telling reporters, “Well, I always cooperate,” Trump struck a different note on cooperating with the House probe. “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s up to the lawyers.”

There’s no clear-cut procedure in the Constitution for initiating an impeachment inquiry, leaving many questions about possible presidential obstruction untested in court, said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University.

“There’s no specification in the Constitution in what does and does not constitute a more formal impeachment inquiry or investigation,” he said.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, dismissed the entire premise of the impeachment inquiry, which is centered on Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden.

“The president was not tasking Ukraine to investigate a political opponent,” Giuliani told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He wanted an investigation into a seriously conflicted former vice president of the United States who damaged the reputation of the United States in Ukraine.”

Democrats have sought to use their declared impeachment investigation to bolster their case to access all sorts of documents from the administration, most recently secret grand jury information that underpinned special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Where courts have generally required congressional oversight requests to demonstrate a legitimate legislative purpose, impeachment requests could be wide-ranging.

Democrats have already won some early court battles. It is unclear if Democrats would wade into a lengthy legal fight with the administration over documents and testimony — or if they would just move straight to considering votes on articles of impeachment.

AP

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