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The latest from the impeachment inquiry, including new transcripts and a court ruling

More transcripts from closed-door impeachment hearings were released Tuesday, providing new insight into how aid to Ukraine was delayed -- and why. Meanwhile, a federal court ruled witnesses subpoenaed in the impeachment inquiry must testify, noting that "presidents are not kings.” Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss these developments and news from the House Judiciary Committee.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The process of impeaching a president is the ultimate test of the balance of power in our government.

    Now the courts are weighing in on how the White House must comply with Congress. The rulings could change what evidence and witnesses appear in the next phase of the impeachment inquiry.

    We also have new details on the next public hearing and another patch of witness transcripts released this evening.

    Here to break down the latest, our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, hello, Yamiche. A lot to catch up with here.

    Just in the last hour, these transcripts released. These were the last witnesses to appear before the House Intelligence Committee. Tell us who these individuals were. And what are we learning from their testimony?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, our team was combing through hundreds of pages of transcripts in the last hour. There's so much to unpack.

    The first person that was — whose transcript was released was Ambassador Philip Reeker. I want to tell you a little bit about who he is. He's U.S. acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. He served over under both Democratic and Republican administrations. He didn't appear in public hearings.

    And what's important about him is that he essentially confirms a lot of the things that we know were happening when it comes to Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador the European Union, ambassador being seen as an irregular actor when it came to pressuring Ukraine to look at investigations into Joe Biden and Hunter Biden in exchange for this $391 million in military aid.

    He also talked about acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney possibly being involved. He also says that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, was playing a role there.

    I also want to note that he talks about four big themes that the officials were looking at. And I want to read them.

    The first is attacks on Yovanovitch. That is Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who testified publicly. The 2016 election and interference by Ukraine to aid Hillary Clinton. Burisma and Biden. And Burisma was that company that Hunter Biden was on the board of. And George Soros, a philanthropist and activist. Influence on the region through an NGO.

    So that was really what Philip Reeker was talking about there. And he was really confirming a lot of things. There wasn't a big — a lot of big red flags there.

    Then the other person who testified is Mark Sandy. I want to tell you a little bit about him. He's a senior career official in the Office of Management and Budget. He served under also — under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

    He's important because he's from OMB. That's what we call the Office of Management and Budget. Both acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the current — the current head of OMB, neither one of them have come to Congress to talk about talk about anything that was going on in that office.

    So this is someone, a career official, who said, I'm going to come to Congress and talk about this. And the main thing that we learned from his — from him is that someone might have actually resigned in part because there was this hold on military aid.

    So that was something completely new. We had not heard anything about that. The other thing to note is that he just talks about the process of which, how the money was held up. So he doesn't say anything new about kind of what we knew.

    But he does say that people were concerned that this hold might have been breaking the law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as we said, so much to follow there, and I know that our team is going to continue to pore through these transcripts, as are you.

    But, yesterday, later in the day, we had an appeals — I'm sorry — a federal district judge ruled that Don McGahn, formerly President Trump's legal counsel, must testify before the Congress.

    Today — it's not a surprise, but, today, the White House went ahead and said, we are appealing.

    Where does all that stand right now?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This was a major ruling that really caught a lot of people by surprise, because Don McGahn, the White House — the former White House counsel, was essentially being told, you have to go up to Congress and testify, you have to comply with the subpoena.

    And I want to read to you a little bit about what the judge said in her ruling. She said: "The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings."

    And what the judge was saying there was that the president can't require people to have loyalty, and that when — either current officials or former officials, they have the same constitutional rights to have free speech.

    Now, this has been appealed, and it might be moving pretty quickly, or we might have to wait months to figure out what's going on here. What we do know is that the president of the United States, President Trump, has been tweeting. He's very angry about this ruling. And here's what he said on Twitter.

    "I am fighting for future presidents and the office of the president. Other than that, I would actually like people to testify."

    He went on to list a number of people that he would want to testify, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former National Security Adviser John Bolton. And he essentially is saying, I would love these people to come and say that this is all a hoax and that actually I did everything very right.

    But what the president says is that this would compromise future presidencies, and that essentially people who work for me should be able to not be forced to tell him — to tell Congress what we talked about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, just quickly, separately from all this, Supreme Court order affecting the accounting firm that does work for President Trump, tell us quickly about that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So, quickly, the Supreme Court is essentially saying that they're blocking temporarily the House trying to get financial records for President Trump.

    He has not released his tax returns, so this really goes down to his personal attorney Michael Cohen telling Congress that the president has sometimes inflated his earnings. So the House wants to essentially get to the bottom of that.

    So we're going to have to see. It might go all the way to the Supreme Court, but there are going to be appeals moving through the courts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, in terms of what's next, the Judiciary Committee has now announced what it's doing.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The big news today was that the House Judiciary Committee announced its last — its first formal public hearing in the impeachment inquiry. It is going to be on December 4. So everyone should mark their calendars.

    It's not going to be as newsy or as — I would say, as surprising as what we saw with Fiona Hill and other people who came to testify publicly, because we're not going to have current and former officials coming and saying what they heard the president was doing.

    Instead, they're going to be having constitutional experts, maybe legal experts talking about how impeachment works, talking about what high crimes and misdemeanors are. So it's not going to be the same as what we saw in the House Intel Committee.

    But it's still going to be important, because the president can now bring his attorneys and cross-examine witnesses. And that means that they could start to look at other public hearings and say, well, this person said this. What do you think about that?

    So there could still be a little bit of drama, but it's going to be much different than what we saw last week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Next step in the impeachment process.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


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