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Trump Says Democrats Seek to Undo Election: Impeachment Update

Jennifer Jacobs

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump, after making clear he won’t cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, goes back on offense Thursday with his first campaign rally since the probe began.

Trump addressed supporters in Minneapolis as he grapples with polls that show rising support for impeachment -- including one published Wednesday from Fox News that showed 51% of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump Says Democrats Seek to Undo 2016 Election (9 p.m.)

Trump cast the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as an effort to undo the results of the 2016 election, telling a rally in Minneapolis their effort will fail.

“They want to erase your vote like it never existed,” Trump told the cheering audience on Thursday night. “They want to erase your future.”

Trump said the Democrats’ efforts will result in a “backlash” at the ballot box in 2020, resulting in a massive turnout for him.

House Considers How to Shield Whistle-Blower (5:44 p.m.)

House officials say they are considering several ways of protecting the whistle-blower’s identity, including questioning at a location away from the Capitol, and a setting in which committee members wouldn’t see the whistle-blower.

Those ideas may involve the use of a screen and possibly a voice disguiser. There remains no agreement on a date for the session.

The whistle-blower is asking to provide testimony to House committees in the form of written answers to questions instead of testifying in person, a separate person familiar with the matter said. -- Billy House

Gowdy Can’t Start Work Until After January (5:11 p.m.)

Trump said Trey Gowdy can’t start work as the president’s outside counsel on his impeachment defense until after January because of apparent restrictions related to lobbying work.

“I think there’s a problem with -- he can’t start for another couple of months because of lobbying rules and regulations, so you’ll have to ask about that,” Trump said Thursday as he left the White House for a rally in Minneapolis. “I just heard Trey Gowdy can’t start until sometime after January because of the lobbying rules and regulations. So I don’t know. So we’ll have to see.”

Trump enlisted Gowdy, a former prosecutor and lawmaker from South Carolina, earlier this week to join his defense. The president didn’t specify which rules would prevent Gowdy from starting work immediately. -- Jordan Fabian

Whistle-Blower Asks to Testify in Writing (5 p.m.)

The whistle-blower is asking to provide testimony to House committees in the form of written answers to questions instead of testifying in person, a person familiar with the matter said.

The person said the committees hadn’t yet responded to the request, which was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal. -- Billy House

Energy Secretary Perry is Subpoenaed (4:03 p.m.)

Energy Secretary Rick Perry was subpoenaed by three House committees as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

In a letter, the committee chairmen demanded documents from Perry to help them determine whether he played a role in “conveying or reinforcing the president’s stark message“ to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about a possible investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. -- Laura Litvan

Giuliani Should Testify to Congress, Schumer Says (2:48 p.m.)

Rudy Giuliani should testify to Congress, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said after two associates of Trump’s attorney were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.

“Giuliani has been involved up to his neck in this entire mess,” Schumer, a Democrat, said at a news conference Thursday in New York. “He has an obligation to testify under oath so he can be asked questions so this can come to light.”

Giuliani has received a subpoena to produce documents to three House committees that are leading the Democrat-led chamber’s impeachment inquiry. In addition, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, has offered Giuliani a chance to testify before his panel to discuss his allegations related to Ukraine, corruption and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, this week said members of her party would “welcome” an opportunity to hear from Giuliani and ask questions. -- Laura Litvan

McMaster Says ‘Not Appropriate’ to Ask a Country to Interfere (1:54 p.m.)

H.R. McMaster, Trump’s former national security adviser, said it’s “not appropriate” for a president to ask another country to interfere in U.S. elections.

McMaster, a retired general who was the second of Trump’s four national security advisers, commented when he was asked at a conference Thursday about whether it was right for Trump to ask Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son.

“Of course no, no, it’s absolutely not,” McMaster said.

In an apparent endorsement of congressional inquiries that Trump has spurned, McMaster said what must happen is that “our democracy play out, our separation of powers play out and for the American people through their representatives” in Congress “to make a judgment as to whether or not that happened.” -- Nick Wadhams

Zelenskiy Doesn’t Want to Be a Witness: (1:06 p.m.)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he sees no reason he should be called on to testify in inquiries into whether Trump improperly pressured him to investigate Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

“I did not violate any law in Ukraine, or any international law,” Zelenskiy said as he held court for hours with reporters in Kyiv. “As president of Ukraine I don’t understand what I should witness about in another country.” -- Daryna Krasnolutska

House Subpoenas Two Giuliani Associates (12:35 p.m.)

House committees leading the impeachment inquiry issued subpoenas for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested Thursday for campaign finance violations, to produce documents related to Ukraine by Oct. 16.

The Democratic chairmen of the committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight also said they expect the two men to testify before the committees at a later date.

“Your clients are private citizens who are not employees of the Executive Branch. They may not evade requests from Congress for documents and information necessary to conduct our inquiry,” the chairmen said in a letter to John Dowd, the attorney representing the two. “They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr. Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction.”

The letter also details previous efforts by the committees to request documents and depositions from Parnas and Fruman. -- Jordan Fabian

Sekulow Says Trump Didn’t Know About Improper Payments (12:22 p.m.)

One of Trump’s outside attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said neither the president nor his campaign were aware of alleged improper financial contributions by two men who helped Rudy Giuliani seek information on Democrats in Ukraine.

The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Thursday over allegations they made political donations to advance personal financial interests as well as the interests of an unidentified Ukrainian government official.

Federal campaign records on Opensecrets.org show one of the alleged straw donations, for $325,000, was made to the America First Action Committee, which has sought to advance issues championed by Trump.

”As the indictment establishes, neither the president, nor the campaign, nor the PACs were aware of the financial issues involved,” Sekulow said.

According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman coordinated with an unidentified U.S. congressman to get his help removing the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2018, at the behest of Ukrainian government officials. At the time, Marie Yovanovitch served in that role, before Trump recalled her in May. -- Jordan Fabian

Trump’s Former Russia Adviser Set to Testify (9:02 a.m.)

Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill is expected to testify before three House committees on Monday as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to two House officials familiar with the plans.

Hill, who was the top Russia and Europe adviser on Trump’s National Security Council, will be interviewed behind closed doors by the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform panels as part of their probe into Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, according to the officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss information not yet public.

As part of her work for the Trump administration, Hill traveled to Russia to meet with representatives of Russia’s Security Council and Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Kommersant reported in April.

The White House has prohibited several current administration officials from testifying as part of the impeachment inquiry; Hill, however, left the administration earlier this year. -- Billy House

Zelenskiy Unsure if Ukraine Meddled in U.S. Vote (8:47 a.m.)

Ukraine should investigate whether there was any meddling by the previous authorities in the 2016 U.S. elections, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told journalists in Kyiv on Thursday.

“Ukrainians should investigate it themselves, probably there are grounds for that, but first of all it is our issue,” he said. “It is very important for us so that in future we never interfere in elections of any country.”

Zelenskiy said his administration is “ready to investigate,” but so far he hasn’t received any information about allegations from the Trump administration regarding election meddling or Burisma, the natural gas firm that had former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son as a board member.

“When the U.S. says, ‘Yes, there was meddling,’ I say, ‘Please pass details and we will find. We will be happy to investigate.’ The U.S. did not give me anything,” including on Burisma, he said.

Earlier Thursday, Zelenskiy rejected any suggestions he was blackmailed by Trump during a now infamous phone call in July that’s prompted an impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president. But he added that “Ukraine is not against” a joint investigation with the U.S. into the Bidens. -- Daryna Krasnolutska

Key Events

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday that neither the president nor his administration would participate in the impeachment inquiry, calling it “unauthorized” and “invalid.”Biden said for the first time Wednesday that Trump should be impeached. He made the declaration in a speech in Rochester, New Hampshire, saying Congress would have no choice but to impeach if the Trump administration refused to cooperate with a probe into his behavior.Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in Iowa, meanwhile, that he’d have “no objection” to releasing transcripts of his calls with Ukrainian officials.House Republicans met with Trump after being blindsided by the administration’s decision to prevent Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from testifying in the inquiry. The administration committed to work more closely with congressional Republicans on the inquiry.Three House committees subpoenaed Sondland to testify on Oct. 16 and to produce records from his personal devices two days earlier, after he was prevented from testifying earlier this week by the State Department.Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled by Trump as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, isn’t expected to appear voluntarily on Friday, as scheduled, for closed-door testimony before House committees leading the impeachment investigation, said a House official.

--With assistance from Tyler Pager, Kathleen Miller, Laura Litvan, Jordan Fabian, John Hughes, Daryna Krasnolutska, Nick Wadhams and Billy House.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net

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

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