MONDAY: Republicans speak out against Trump … on his Syria policy
“This is a shot in the arm to the bad guys,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), to news breaking that morning that Trump would be pulling American troops out of northern Syria, setting up America’s Kurdish allies for an immediate invasion by neighboring Turkey.
More than half a dozen Republican senators, many of them powerful, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), strongly criticize Trump’s decision. It didn’t immediately translate to any noticeable Republican break in support for the president as he faces an impeachment inquiry, but at the very least, this is another wedge between him and the senators who may soon hold a trial on whether to acquit or convict him.
TUESDAY: Trump stonewalls Congress entirely on impeachment
First, the Trump administration blocks a key diplomat from testifying. Fresh off text messages released last week that purported to show Trump’s European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, doing the president’s bidding in Ukraine, Sondland was ready to talk to House investigators behind closed doors. But hours before the scheduled testimony, the Trump administration blocked him — and confiscated texts and emails on his personal phone that may be relevant to the investigation, said House Democrats. Democrats issued a subpoena. (Sondland now says he’ll comply with that, against State Department directions. He’s set to give a deposition Wednesday, Oct. 16.)
That evening, the White House issues a letter to House leadership saying it won’t cooperate with the impeachment inquiry at all. The White House counsel accused Democrats of violating “the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent.” It was a thin, at times inaccurate and misleading argument. But it formalized what Trump was already doing anyway. Democrats said that won’t halt them “one iota,” but they may now be at the mercy of Trump officials willing to cross the impeachment picket line to testify. Or they could impeach him for obstructing Congress.
Meanwhile, a poll shows that a majority of Americans support the impeachment inquiry. And nearly half, 49 percent, support the House actually impeaching him. The Washington Post-Schar School poll is among those showing an uptick in public support for impeachment, including among some Republicans. Other polls out this week show similar support; at least half of Americans support the impeachment inquiry.
A new memo from the original whistleblower, obtained by the New York Times, says that a White House official who was on Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president described the call as “crazy” and “frightening” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security.”
WEDNESDAY: Biden backs removing Trump, Pence struggles to answer questions
Former vice president Joe Biden says Trump should be impeached “for shooting holes in the Constitution.” He had been a notable holdout in the 2020 race on calling for impeachment.
As Democrats consider subpoenaing White House officials despite Trump’s ban, Trump appears to offer a negotiating chip to them: take a vote putting lawmakers on record for an impeachment inquiry, and he would consider helping out. “We would if they give us our rights,” he said.
Vice President Pence would not give a straight answer about his involvement in Ukraine. Despite Trump’s insistence that the July call at the center of the impeachment inquiry was “perfect,” Pence did not seem to want anything to do with it. He met with Ukraine’s president in September, and when pressed by an NBC News reporter, he did not say what he did or didn’t know about Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.
THURSDAY: Trump donors with ties to Ukraine are arrested
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are accused of funneling foreign money to make political donations and help out a Ukrainian official. They had been under investigation at the same time that the House’s impeachment inquiry requested their testimony. The indictment accuses them of trying to donate to a congressman to get a U.S. ambassador to Ukraine ousted (Trump later removed her) and to try to use lawmakers to help them get a marijuana business started. It’s not clear how, if at all, this is connected to Trump’s own efforts in Ukraine. We do know Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, worked with these two men and was, somewhat inexplicably, leading Trump’s efforts in Ukraine. Democrats subpoenaed the two for documents, as well as Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Trump holds a rally for the first time since the impeachment inquiry. He went to Minnesota, a state narrowly he lost in 2016. There, he lambastes Democrats over the impeachment inquiry (“a brazen attempt to overthrow our government”) and launches vicious personal attacks at both Joe Biden (”never considered smart”) and his son Hunter Biden (“a loser”).
FRIDAY: Strategizing for the next big week
Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, testifies behind closed doors, despite the White House’s objections to administration officials cooperating with the impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch tells House investigators that Trump had her ousted over concerns she was loyal to the Bidens, despite being a career diplomat — an allegation she denies. She also questions, in prepared remarks, whether her focus on anti-corruption could have jeopardized some of Giuliani’s clients in Ukraine.
That testimony caps what might turn out to be a slow week relative to the one that comes next, when the full House and Senate return to Washington.
Friday afternoon, both sides are plotting how they’ll adjust their strategies given the avalanche of developments over the two weeks they’ve been on recess. House Democrats are wondering if the Ukraine-focused strategy they had settled on doesn’t go far enough. “We have an obligation to just see how deep this sewage flows,” one of them told The Post.