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Testimony Will Now Extend to Weekends: Impeachment Update

Billy House

(Bloomberg) -- House impeachment investigators are beginning a new week of closed-door meetings into President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine. Lawmakers plan to hear from William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, on Tuesday, and from others.

Here are the latest developments:

Witnesses Will Now Appear on Weekends (9:15 p.m.)

House committees have begun to schedule weekend depositions in their impeachment inquiry, amid predictions the investigation’s conclusion could be pushed deeper into December than expected.

On Saturday, Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs with the State Department, is scheduled to appear behind closed doors before the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees leading the probe, according to an official familiar with the plans.

He becomes the first witness in the investigation to be scheduled on a weekend.

Reeker had previously been scheduled to testify on Wednesday. But that appearance was deferred without explanation. Reeker’s lawyers had expected the State Department to bar him from testifying, and that the committees would respond by issuing a so-called friendly subpoena.

Testimony by other witnesses that had been set for this Thursday or Friday was postponed because of ceremonies being held in honor of the late Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.

Multiple officials familiar with the inquiry’s workings were saying on Monday that the crunch of remaining depositions and other aspects of the investigation were threatening to undo any possible conclusion of the investigation by Thanksgiving or the beginning of December.

Trump Wants Barr to Investigate Ukraine (7:10 p.m.)

Trump called on Attorney General William Barr to investigate unsupported claims that Ukraine was involved in the origins of the Russia investigation.

“I would like the attorney general to find out what’s going on. Because you know what? We’re investigating corruption,” Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News in an interview scheduled to be broadcast later Monday night.

Barr in May began a sprawling inquiry into the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. That inquiry, led by John Durham, a U.S. attorney in Connecticut, came under renewed scrutiny last week after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said at a news conference that foreign assistance to Ukraine was held up in order force Kyiv to cooperate with it.

Trump and his allies have asserted, without evidence, that the Ukrainian government sought to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election. “I heard Clinton was involved. I heard they got somebody who wrote the fake dossier. Is it out of Ukraine?” Trump told Hannity. He may have been referring to the dossier that was prepared by a former British spy as opposition research against Trump during the 2016 election.

Inquiry Testimony Delayed for Cummings Rites (4:31 p.m.)

House impeachment investigators won’t hear witness testimony this Thursday or Friday as ceremonies are held for the late Representative Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee that is one of the three panels leading the inquiry.

Testimony scheduled for Thursday by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs at the National Security Council, is being delayed, according to a committee official familiar with the plans.

Cummings will lie in state in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall for a public viewing on Thursday after a formal ceremony for lawmakers, family and invited guests. His funeral will be held Friday in Baltimore. -- Billy House

Testimony by State’s Reeker is Deferred (12:35 p.m.)

This week’s planned closed-door testimony schedule is being revised, according to people familiar with the matter.

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs with the State Department, was set to testify Wednesday, but his appearance is being deferred and officials are in talks, says a person familiar with the matter. Reeker’s lawyers expect the State Department to bar him from testifying, which may be followed by a so-called friendly subpoena from the House committees.

Others are still scheduled to testify, including William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, on Tuesday; Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense, on Wednesday, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs at the National Security Council, on Thursday.

Michael Duffey, the White House budget office associate director for national security programs, is still listed as testifying on Tuesday. But acting OMB Director Russell Vought said Monday neither he nor Duffey would comply with the House committees’ deposition requests. -- Billy House

Democrat Says No Deadline Set to End Inquiry (11:45 a.m.)

Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia, a senior Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said impeachment investigators “have not set a deadline” for wrapping up the inquiry.

“Ideally, from a political point of view, you don’t want this spilling into the re-election or the presidential campaign year if you can help it, at least our part of it,” Connolly said. However, “this needs to be approached with the gravity of the issue and the Senate needs to take it seriously and convene itself as a trial or as a court of judgment.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week told fellow Republicans they should be prepared for a possible Senate trial before Christmas. Connolly said the three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry want to complete a thorough investigation so “we’re not making it even easier for Mitch McConnell to give it a pro forma dismissal.”

Connolly said he doesn’t have information about when the House committees will begin holding public hearings. He said the legal fight to enforce subpoenas won’t slow the process, but rather will work in parallel to witness depositions before the committees. -- Laura Litvan

House GOP to Force Vote on Censure of Schiff (11:27 a.m.)

House Republicans plan to force a vote Monday on a resolution censuring House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff for his conduct of the impeachment inquiry into Trump, according to second-ranking Republican Steve Scalise’s office.

Majority Democrats are expected to easily block the resolution, which Republicans are rallying around as a way to fight back against the impeachment inquiry.

The measure, H.Res. 630, authored by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, would censure Schiff for his handling of the impeachment inquiry and his description at a committee hearing of Trump’s call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Schiff said a rough transcript of the call “reads like a classic organized crime shakedown,” and he characterized Trump’s words as asking Zelenskiy “to make up dirt on my political opponent.”

According to the rough transcript released by the White House, Trump did ask Zelenskiy to investigate 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son, but he didn’t use the words “make up dirt.”

Schiff says his summary was a parody of the call, while Republicans say it was a willful distortion meant to deceive the public. The resolution says, “This egregiously false and fabricated retelling had no relationship to the call itself.”

It remains to be seen if the resolution will get unanimous GOP support, including from moderate Republicans in swing districts. So far at least 173 out of 197 House Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors. -- Erik Wasson

Key Events

Representative Francis Rooney, a Republican who said he was open to impeachment, said Saturday he won’t seek re-election. He said he fears for his party’s future, calling the administration’s effort to taint Democrats with Ukrainian help “egregious” and its Syria policy even worse.Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump made the “right decision” to reverse course and not hold next year’s G-7 summit at his Florida golf resort. He also said the president still considers himself to be in the hospitality business.Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, an early advocate for impeachment, called on the House to open the inquiry’s hearings to the public and “let the American public see the full extent of Trump’s criminal behavior.”

--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis, Laura Litvan, Erik Wasson, Nick Wadhams, Billy House and Jordan Fabian.

To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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