April 27, 2018

House Intelligence Committee Republicans on Friday released a report that found "no evidence" of collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russian government officials, The Washington Post reports.

The report details information from a year-long Republican-led committee investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. The committee's Democrats refused to endorse the report, saying that the investigation sought to absolve Trump without thoroughly and fairly reviewing relevant facts, the Post reports.

"While the committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns," the report concludes.

Some of that "poor judgment" included a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 between top Trump campaign staffers and a Russian lawyer who promised to provide damaging information on opponent Hillary Clinton.

While the report acknowledges that Russia interfered in the election, it blames the FBI and the previous administration for failing to respond appropriately. It found no evidence that Trump's past business dealings in Russia set the stage for collusion leading up to the election, and says that information in the dossier compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele was "second- and third-hand."

Trump immediately took to Twitter to share the news: "Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia," he tweeted. "A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!" Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

9:10 a.m.

President Trump lashed out at House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and complained that the impeachment inquiry has been hard on his family at a wild post-public hearing Louisiana rally.

Trump spoke Thursday night after the first two witnesses spoke publicly in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, decrying the "deranged impeachment witch hunt" and telling supporters that impeachment has been "very hard on my family."

"Impeachment to me is a dirty word," he added. "It's been very unfair, very hard on my family. My whole life is crazy."

Trump also dismissed Wednesday's witnesses as "Never Trumpers," which they specifically denied being, and targeted Schiff, the intelligence committee's top Democrat, with personal insults as he has in the past, mocking his "little 10-inch neck" and this time even doing an impression of him buying a shirt.

“What size shirts do you need, Adam,” Trump asked to himself. “I wear a size nine," he responded back as Schiff. "Nine! He will not make the LSU football team, that I can tell you."

At another point in the rally, Trump also re-upped his call for Schiff to be prosecuted while providing no examples of anything illegal he's done, centering his complaint around the Democrat's paraphrase of his Ukraine call. The impeachment inquiry, meanwhile, on Friday is continuing with its second day of public hearings. Brendan Morrow

8:16 a.m.

The second day of public impeachment hearings into President Trump is about to begin.

After Wednesday's hearing featuring testimony from William Taylor, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, on Friday, ousted former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is set to provide public testimony.

David Holmes, the official who Taylor testified overheard Trump talking with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about "the investigations" over the phone, will also speak before Congress, but this will be behind closed doors.

Yovanovitch previously provided closed-door testimony before Congress, telling lawmakers Trump had her removed from her position earlier this year based on "false claims" pushed by people with "questionable motives." She also told Congress she felt threatened and "very concerned" after Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky she was "bad news" and that "she's going to go through some things."

Yovanovitch's hearing will begin at 9 a.m. Eastern, and it can be streamed live on YouTube via CSPAN. Brendan Morrow

7:47 a.m.

The House Ethics Committee disclosed Thursday that two Florida congressmen, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) and Rep. Ross Spano (R), are under investigation. Hastings, who has been in the House for 26 years, is being investigated by the Ethics Committee for his long-term relationship with a member of his staff, Patricia Williams. Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) resigned last month after denying she had an intimate relationship with a member of her staff while admitting she had such a relationship with a campaign staffer.

Williams has been on Hastings' staff since 2000, and they bought a house together in 2017, the Palm Beach Post reports. He downplayed any impropriety this fall, telling the Post, "However it looks, it's been looking like that for 25 years."

With Spano, the House Ethics Committee announced it is deferring its investigation at the request of the Justice Department, which, the committee revealed, has opened a criminal investigation into possible campaign finance violations. Spano, 53, claimed last year that he loaned his campaign $175,000 from personal funds when in fact he had received $180,000 in loans from personal friends, Politico reports. Spano's lawyer informed the Federal Election Commission of the erroneous campaign finance report soon after Spano won the race.

"Today, the House Committee on Ethics deferred their review of my self-reported filings with the FEC," Spano said in a statement. "We plan to cooperate fully with the Justice Department on this matter." Peter Weber

6:41 a.m.

Two U.S. diplomats will testify Friday in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump, one publicly and one behind closed doors. House impeachment investigators will depose David Holmes, an aide to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, about his assertion he overheard Trump ask U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about the status of proposed Ukrainian "investigations" into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor's predecessor, career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch, will testify in public before the House Intelligence Committee about the shadow campaign, apparently led by Trump lawyer and fixer Rudy Giuliani, that led to her dramatic late-night recall from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Yovanovitch testified in October that Ukrainian officials had warned her to "watch my back" and she felt personally targeted by Trump. Months after her ouster, Trump told Ukraine's president that "the woman" Yovanovitch "was bad news" and "she's going to go through some things," according to the White House partial transcript of that July 25 call.

On Friday, Yovanovitch will face "Trump's fiercest congressional defenders, nearly all men, about a campaign by other male allies of the president to force her from her post," The Washington Post notes. "The symbolism of that conflict underscores the significance of the historic probe, which was initiated by the female speaker of the House — Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — and made possible by female voters who helped deliver the House to Democrats in the last election."

"Seeing someone like Masha Yovanovitch come forward is going to be an extremely difficult moment for Trump," Nancy McEldowney, a former ambassador to Bulgaria who now teaches at Georgetown University, tells the Post. "What I suspect the world will see when she walks into that hearing room is an individual who is not tall physically but really is a towering figure of integrity, inner strength, and unswerving devotion to public service and telling the truth." Peter Weber

5:01 a.m.

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended three judges this week over an incident in May that involved a night of drinking, an unsuccessful attempt to visit an Indianapolis strip club, and a 3 a.m. altercation outside a White Castle that left two of the judges with gunshot wounds, NPR News reports. The unanimous eight-page opinion from the Supreme Court "lays out the events as soberly as possible, but the details remain spicy," NPR notes, singling out this part of the document:

While in town to attend a statewide educational conference for judicial officers, 10 hours before the program convened, respondents walked the streets of downtown Indianapolis in a heavily intoxicated state. When Judge Bell extended her middle finger to a passing vehicle, neither Judge Adams nor Judge Jacobs discouraged the provocation or removed themselves from the situation. [Indiana Supreme Court]

Judge Sabrina Bell flipped off two men in a truck, Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser, after she and three other judges arrived at the White Castle. While the fourth judge was inside the White Castle, Vazquez and Kaiser parked and confronted Bell and Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs. The men started fighting, then Kaiser allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Adams in the stomach and Jacobs twice in the chest. Both underwent emergency surgeries.

Jacobs, who was in the hospital for two weeks, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and served two days of his 365-day jail sentence. Kaiser has been charged with 14 crimes in connection with the incident, NPR reports.

Adams, Jacobs, and Bell "engaged in judicial misconduct by appearing in public in an intoxicated state and behaving in an injudicious manner and by becoming involved in a verbal altercation," the high court said, and their actions "gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana's judiciary." Jacobs and Bell were suspended for 30 days without pay, while Adams was suspended for 60 days without pay. Peter Weber

4:20 a.m.

An average of 13.1 million people tuned in to the six major networks during Wednesday's live coverage of the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry, according to preliminary numbers Nielsen released Thursday. If you add PBS, Telemundo, CNN, and HLN to the numbers for Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS, the average viewership rises to 13.8 million from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

To put those numbers in perspective, nearly 13 million people watched former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's testimony in July, while about 20 million people tuned in for former FBI Director James Comey's post-firing hearing in 2017 and 2018's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Wednesday night's CMA Awards drew 11.1 million viewers to ABC.

Fox News, somewhat ironically, drew the highest viewership numbers, with an average of 2.89 million people tuning in, followed by MSNBC's 2.7 million. Next came ABC (2 million viewers), CBS (1.97 million), CNN (1.9 million), and NBC (1.7 million). ABC won the coveted 25-54 demographic, with an average of 496,000 viewers, followed by Fox News and NBC. The numbers don't include C-SPAN or most streaming viewers.

These numbers fall "far short of blockbuster level," Vulture notes, but given the obscurity of the two witnesses — U.S. Ambassador William Taylor and State Department official George Kent — and today's "era of audience fragmentation and streaming services," Wednesday's hearings actually "drew a big audience by 2019 standards." Peter Weber

2:53 a.m.

Acting U.S. Ambassador William Taylor tied President Trump directly to the campaign to bribe Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in Wednesday's public impeachment hearings, and that testimony led to a second "bombshell" Thursday, news of a second witness to Trump's overheard phone call, Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "So Taylor's testimony was historic — unless you ask Kellyanne Conway, who was not entertained," telling Fox News the hearings were a snoozefest starring "a bunch of gossip girls." Colbert was confused: "Well, is it boring or is it Gossip Girl? Because it can't be both! Gossip Girl was a very successful show."

"But it wasn't just Kellyanne," Colbert said. "Even NBC News tweeted the testimony 'lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention.'"

"What do you mean, it lacked pizzazz?" asked Seth Meyers on Late Night. "The only politicians who have ever been entertaining were the ones in Hamilton. What do you want them to do, show up with their own backup dancers?" Ironically, he added, "Trump's defenders in the Republican Party and on Fox News" were the most invested in working "to dismiss the entire thing as a fake scandal invented by Democrats for TV."

"There are a lot of hot takes out there right now — one of the dumbest is that these impeachment hearings aren't interesting enough," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "These were two career civil servants giving sworn testimony about a potential attempt to undermine our democracy — they're also supposed to have 'pizzazz'?" Amazingly, he said, that actually "seems to be an emerging line of defense for Republicans," who very clearly "don't want to talk about the facts."

"Even though millions of people have been talking about these hearings," Fox News seems determined to get people to tune out, Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. Their main argument is that "Americans are too dumb to follow these impeachment proceedings," but "sometimes if you watch Fox, it looks like they're straight-up trying to hypnotize their viewers into not caring," he added. If those fail, "Fox has come up with another reason to ignore the impeachment hearings": They're "boring and unsexy."

"These hearings are investigating whether the president of the United States committed high crimes or misdemeanors," Noah said. "They're supposed to be serious, not about excitement. Impeachment is like a family reunion: If it's sexy, something has gone horribly wrong." Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads