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November 1, 2019

CAFE Brief 11/1: Impeachment Resolution, Mueller Grand Jury, Twitter


The news is breaking at dizzying speed, and we’re on top of it. Let’s dive in!

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 29: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs at the National Security Council, arrives in the Capitol Visitor Center for his deposition related to the House’s impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, October 29, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images),

Impeachment resolution passes

The House of Representatives voted to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry in a 232-196 vote. All Republicans and two Democrats voted against the measure. The resolution, H.R.660, outlines the procedures going forward and sets the stage for a more public-facing investigation.

It puts Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in the driver’s seat for much of the inquiry. Schiff and ranking minority member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) will lead the questioning in the public hearings for “equal specified periods of longer than five minutes,” but not exceeding 45 minutes. Schiff is also authorized to make transcripts of closed-door depositions public with the appropriate redactions.

The resolution also directs the Intelligence Committee to issue a report on its findings and recommendations and send it to the House Judiciary Committee, which will contemplate possible articles of impeachment. During this phase, the president’s lawyers will be able to receive evidence, attend sessions and hearings when evidence is presented, question witnesses, and respond to opposing arguments. Once the Judiciary Committee votes on any articles of impeachment, it will send its report to the full House for a vote.

Morrison’s testimony

In the midst of the debate around the impeachment resolution, House impeachment investigators were questioning Tim Morrison – the current National Security Council (NSC) advisor on Russia and Europe – behind closed doors. In testimony lasting more than eight hours, Morrison corroborated Ambassador Bill Taylor’s account that Trump conditioned military aid from Ukraine on President Zelensky announcing an investigation of the Bidens and the 2016 election. However, according to CNN’s report, Morrison said he was “not concerned” that “anything illegal” was discussed on the infamous July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. On the eve of his deposition, Morrison reportedly told colleagues that he plans to resign from his position in the White House and return to the private sector.

Vindman’s testimony

The top Ukraine expert on the NSC, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, testified before House impeachment investigators for over 10 hours on Tuesday, telling lawmakers that he saw a clear quid pro quo in place before the July 25 phone call, describing a July 10 incident in which Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told Ukrainian officials that a meeting with President Trump was contingent on “Ukraine delivering specific investigations” into the 2016 election and the Bidens. Vindman said he told Sondland that “his statements were inappropriate” and proceeded to report his concerns to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg.

Vindman was also listening in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky and was involved in the creation of the rough transcript of the conversation. Despite his attempts to correct the transcript, Vindman testified that the readout omitted key parts of the discussion, such as Trump’s assertion that there were tapes of Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine. This revelation contradicts Trump’s repeated insistence that the transcript documented the call word-for-word. Vindman again told NSC lawyer Eisenberg of his concerns that the pressure on Ukraine was inappropriate, leading Eisenberg to suggest that the rough transcript be moved to a highly classified server with restricted access.

Bolton’s testimony

House impeachment investigators have requested that former national security adviser John Bolton testify on Nov. 7, next week. Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper has said Bolton would need to be subpoenaed in order to testify. Cooper also represents Bolton’s former deputy, Charles Kupperman, who is seeking a judicial resolution of conflicting orders from lawmakers and the White House over his testimony. Kupperman’s case provides guidance for whether Bolton will cooperate with investigators. In the lawsuit, Kupperman’s attorneys wrote that absent direction from the judicial branch he “will effectively be forced to adjudicate the constitutional dispute himself, and if he judges wrongly, he will inflict grave constitutional injury on either the House or the President.” The hearing of the case is scheduled for December 10 before District Judge Richard J. Leon.

Grand Jury materials

Last week, District Judge Beryl Howell ordered the Justice Department to give the House impeachment investigators key grand jury materials from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, rejecting the White House’s argument that the impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional without a full House vote of authorization. However, the administration was given a reprieve on Tuesday when a three-judge Appellate Court panel granted the Justice Department’s request for a stay — a temporary block — of the ruling.

Twitter bans political ads

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Wednesday that the social media company is banning all political ads starting November 22. “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” Dorsey tweeted. “A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money,” he added. The policy change puts pressure on other social media platforms like Facebook, which has been under fire for its decision not to fact-check political ads.

Further Reading

“Epstein’s Autopsy ‘Points to Homicide,’ Pathologist Hired by Brother Claims,” NYT, 10/30/19

“Bill Taylor will ‘fulfill his duty’ if asked to testify in impeachment probe,” CNN, 10/30/19

“House subpoenas White House budget officials, State Department advisor in impeachment probe,” CNBC, 10/25/19

“Alexander Vindman should be celebrated, not smeared,” The Washington Post, 10/30/19

“Without evidence, Trump calls White House official ‘Never Trumper’ ahead of impeachment testimony,” ABC News, 10/29/19

“White House told in May of Ukraine President Zelenskiy’s concerns about Giuliani, Sondland,” NBC News, 10/28/19

“DeVos Held In Contempt Of Court For Enforcing Loans On Defrauded College Students,” NPR, 10/25/19

“Trump again appeals House subpoena for his tax returns from Mazars,” CNN, 10/25/19

“Giuliani probe snowballs,” Politico, 10/25/19

“Federal judge blocks Alabama abortion ban from being enforced,” Reuters, 10/29/19

“North Carolina judges block current congressional map,” The AP, 10/28/19

“Trump allegedly ordered former Defense Secretary James Mattis to ‘screw Amazon’ one year before awarding a hotly contested $10 billion defense cloud contract to Microsoft,” Business Insider, 10/26/19

“Rep. Katie Hill to resign amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with staffers,” Politico, 10/27/19

Stay Informed,

Adrienne Cobb & the CAFE team: Tamara Sepper, Carla Pierini, Julia Doyle, Calvin Lord, and David Kurlander

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