Trump news – live: Witnesses describe 'improper' Ukraine call as president mocks veteran's military uniform

The Independent Politics 3 weeks ago

Donald Trump’s personal physician, Navy commander Sean Conley, has written a letter insisting the president’s unannounced Saturday visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, was “a routine, planned interim checkup”.

“Despite some of the speculation, the president has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues,” Commander Conley wrote in his statement, issued by the White House in a bid to dispel rumours that a more serious health complaint was being covered up.

Four key witnesses are due to appear before the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday to testify on the Ukraine scandal – Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison – after the US Supreme Court blocked the release of Mr Trump’s tax returns to Congress.

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From Andrew Feinberg, who is in the hearing room today for The Independent:
Keep in mind that Volker, who has defended former VP Joe Biden, thrown Rudy Giuliani under the bus, and blown a number of holes in some of the GOP’s most oft-repeated talking points, is one of the witnesses the Republicans specifically requested to hear from in these public hearings.
Mr Morrison says he was in Warsaw when Pence went to Poland.
Mr Volker says he "wouldn't have called [a public statement] a condition". He said he viewed it as "very helpful".
Mr Volker says he "didn't find it that unusual" that there was such an emphasis on an investigation.
Mr Morrison says "I did not at the time" know what was meant by "the deliverable", but that it appears the discussion was about a quid pro quo.
Tim Morrison says it was a mistake – "an administrative error" – that the record of the 25 July Ukraine phone call was put on a server for more sensitive information.
Kurt Volker went on to also defend Marie Yovanovitch, the career diplomat who faced an apparent smear campaign led in part by Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani:
"The allegations themselves, including those against Ambassador Yovanovitch, did not appear to be credible at all. I know her to be an incredibly competent professional ... the suggestions that she was acting in some inappropriate manner were not credible to me."
Here is Kurt Volker once again defending former Vice President Joe Biden's honour: 
"On July 19, Mayor Giuliani raised, and I rejected, the conspiracy theory that Vice President Biden would have been influenced in his duties as VP by money paid to his son ... I have known Vice President Biden for 24 years. He is an honourable man and I hold him in the highest regard."
Kurt Volker said he thought "all of it was inappropriate" when Gordon Sondland brought up investigations with Ukraine.
Kurt Volker continues to assert in his lengthy opening statement that he did not support or believe any of the unfounded accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden: “The accusation that Vice President Biden was acting inappropriately didn’t seem at all credible to me.”
Here's an image of Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison, the two latest impeachment witnesses to speak before House investigators, being sworn in for their joint public testimony:

A key point in Kurt Volker’s written testimony: 

“In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, Burisma, as equivalent to investigating former Vice President [Joe] Biden. I saw them as very different - the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable. In restrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”

It's unclear what Matt Gaetz is planning on doing by sitting in the audience at the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, but he appears to be suggesting that he intends to step in at some point. Then again, the Florida Republican is known to be a showboater: 

Kurt Volker is set to throw a wrench in Republican talking points as he is reportedly prepared to say he did not believe former Vice President Joe Biden was influence "in any way" by personal motives surrounding Ukraine:
Impeachment witness Tim Morrison begins his opening remarks by making clear he will not spend his testimony disparaging anyone at the National Security Council: 
"I have great respect for my former colleagues from the NSC and the rest of the interagency. I am not here today to question their character or integrity. My recollections and judgments are my own."
Note the major discrepancy here in Kurt Volker's second testimony before House investigators spearheading an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump -
Here's The Independent's Andrew Feinberg writing from inside the impeachment hearings as Republican ranking member Devin Nunes delivers his opening remarks: 
"Nunes just said that the President alone sets US policy, that voters don’t elect an interagency consensus. I talked with Lawrence Tribe (constitutional law professor at Harvard) yesterday, he said this about the “policy dispute” defense: “I don’t know what defence they will eventually settle on, but that one, I think, goes nowhere.”
“There are federal laws limiting the circumstances in which a president ... can ... refuse to spend money. He hasn’t invoked any of those authorities, and so the power of the president to represent the nation in foreign policy is neither here nor there.” 
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff in his opening remarks: 
"While Trump claimed there was no quid pro quo, his insistence that Zelensky himself publicly announce the investigations or they would be at a stalemate, made clear that ... a White House meeting and $400 million in military aid were conditioned on receipt of what Trump wanted."
Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and close ally to Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, has entered the audience to watch the impeachment inquiry's public hearings.
The Independent's Andrew Feinberg snapped this photo from inside the room:
Adam Schiff is introducing Kurt Volker and Tim Morrisson, two impeachment witnesses summoned to deliver evidence by House Republicans  in the inquiry into Donald Trump. 

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