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As Giuliani defies subpoena, testimony reveals officials raised concern about his conduct

Despite the White House's efforts to block the impeachment inquiry process, depositions from long-time diplomats have shed new light on the Trump administration's approach to Ukraine, and how officials were concerned about the actions of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to take stock of the latest developments.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The inquiry into whether to impeach President Trump is ramping up, now that Congress is back in session.

    Despite the White House trying to block the process, depositions from longtime diplomats are shedding new light on the Trump administration's approach to Ukraine.

    For the latest, I'm joined by our own Lisa Desjardins.

    Lisa, you have been reporting, talking to people all day long.

    What are we learning today?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we may have some developments any minute in terms of how the House proceeds.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as we speak, is holding a meeting with her Democrats, who just returned from two weeks of recess, and she is also holding shortly after this a news conference with reporters, where I'm told she will make an announcement.

    The speculation is that this is not only about impeachment, but about a possible full House vote. Nancy Pelosi has indicated she's considered a full House vote to start this inquiry. Within minutes, I think we will learn whether she's going to go ahead with that.

    There is a lot of speculation that she will, but that's speculation, so we will see.

    This on a day when we had plenty of other activity as well. We had new testimony today, a behind-closed-doors deposition from another State Department official. In this case, his name is George Kent. George Kent is the — essentially the Eurasian or Ukraine-Russia expert, an assistant deputy secretary.

    He spoke today. And his testimony is still ongoing, as I understand it.

    Also today, we had Rudy Giuliani responded to a subpoena from the House for documents from him. He's obviously a central figure now. Let's look at what he said in this letter. It just came out a few hours ago to the House that wants documents from him.

    He wrote defiantly that — he said: "This appears to be an unconstitutional, baseless, and illegitimate impeachment inquiry."

    He's rejecting their request for documents. Actually, it's not a request. It's a subpoena.

    It's interesting. Of course, Judy, he's a former prosecutor himself. He knows the power of subpoenas. Here he is rejecting it, perhaps inviting a contempt move against him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So there was a former White House aide, Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia, worked in the National Security Council.

    She testified yesterday before the committee. Reverberations today about what she had to say.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Quite a lot.

    Fiona Hill is someone who was in the inner core of the White House, the National Security Council. And here's what she testified. She said she was increasingly concerned about Giuliani and what some saw as sort of an underground or rogue diplomacy effort on his behalf — on his behalf with the president.

    She told John Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, and also a White House lawyer at Bolton's urging. She said that Bolton saw Giuliani himself as essentially a grenade that could explode in any situation for those around him.

    So, she basically says she was raising questions about what Giuliani was doing with the president. And we understand that today's testimony by many Mr. Kent also reinforced that as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa, we know — frankly, it's hard to keep track because there are so many pieces of this happening.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But what else are we expecting to see this week?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we have more deadlines for documents.

    And we're waiting to hear from the Pentagon tonight. We're also waiting to hear from the Office of Management and Budget. We have just heard from the vice president, Mike Pence, who was subpoenaed for documents. He has said he doesn't feel he needs to respond. He doesn't see this as an official impeachment inquiry.

    We also have more depositions coming, Judy.

    Let's look at some of these spaces. Here, we're going to see some longtime diplomats. There, you see Michael McKinley. He's actually a former adviser to Secretary Pompeo. There, you see Gordon Sondland and also Laura Cooper. She's one of the assistant secretaries of defense.

    Let's highlight Mr. Sondland there,because it was his texts that we made such a — we looked at so closely a few weeks ago about the president wanting deliverables when it came to Ukraine.

    So his testimony is particularly something to focus on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I know it's hard, with all this going on, to step back and look at it all, but where does this impeachment business stand right now over — and you're waiting — as you said, we're waiting to hear from Speaker Pelosi.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    OK, deep breath. Here's what we have got.

    First of all, a possible House vote, a full House vote on an inquiry. We're waiting minute to minute to learn about that. Second, after that, Giuliani concerns are rising, it seems, in all corners.

    Then, third, Judy, actually, we have seen both parties launching TV ads. And I want to look at them, because they're targeting particularly vulnerable members.

    We will start with this ad from the right. This is a group that is launching ads, a group that — I guess we will show it in a second — launching ads against vulnerable Democrats, Abby Finkenauer of Iowa.

    There are also — there's a deluge of ads against some Republicans. You will see in just a second. Now, this is a conservative ad against Abby Finkenauer. And there you see some of those kind of favorite targets for conservatives.

    But next we're going to go to this ad, which is targeting a Republican, Senator Joni Ernst in Iowa, as not being tough enough on the president.

    So, Judy, we're seeing this war ramp up. What the tells me at this time is that both parties think there are a lot of persuadable Americans. They think Americans have not made up their minds yet and they want to get out there and do it for them, pay a lot of attention.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You can understand it. There's a lot at stake.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, we will be waiting to report on what we hear from Speaker Pelosi.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

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