Here are the 10 most important developing highlights as President Donald Trump faces impeachment proceedings.
- Former envoy's texts show a bombshell -- Text messages released on Thursday between US diplomats and a senior Ukrainian aide show how a potential Ukrainian investigation into the 2016 election was linked to a desired meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Donald Trump. The text messages, which were released by the House Intelligence Committee, underscore how Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was closely connected to US policy on Ukraine and was involved in setting up the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, in which Trump urged an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. They show how cognizant the Ukrainians were about the importance of the election investigation to Trump and Giuliani's role. "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Bill Taylor, a senior US diplomat in Ukraine, said in one of the texts, raising concerns behind the scenes.
- Trump raised Biden with China in June - During a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 18, Trump raised Biden's political prospects as well as those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who by then had started rising in the polls, according to two people familiar with the discussion, CNN's Kylie Atwood, Kevin Liptak, Pamela Brown and Jim Sciutto report. In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.
- Trump's plea to China - On his way to Florida to talk about health care, Trump made a public plea for China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over dealings in those countries. CNN's Fact check
- Complaints from Giuliani triggered ambassador's recall from Ukraine - The Wall Street Journal has new details on why Trump recalled the US ambassador to Ukraine this past spring. She is scheduled to be deposed on Capitol Hill next week. Read it
- Volker warned Ukraine, Giuliani after July 25 phone call - The former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker was the first witness in the impeachment probe. He told House investigators he warned Ukrainians not to meddle in the US election after Trump's phone call with Zelensky, according to reporting by CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb. And he warned Giuliani that the conspiracy theories he was spreading about Biden were not credible, according to the Washington Post.
- Trump envoys pushed new Ukraine President to investigate rivals -- Two of the President's top diplomats to Ukraine drafted a statement for the Ukrainian President that would have committed his administration to investigations into Trump's political rivals, The New York Times reported on Thursday night. Volker and Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, drafted the statement but it's not clear if it was ever sent to President Volodymyr Zelensky and no statement was released under his name, the Times reports. Read it
- Whistleblower is registered Democrat - CNN's Jake Tapper reported Thursday that, according to one source, the Inspector Community Inspector General's reference to possible political bias relating to the Ukraine whistleblower is that the person is a registered Democrat. The IG's report, however, also said there was no reason to question the whistleblower's credibility.
- Pence defends Trump - Vice President Mike Pence often goes silent at moments like this, but he defended Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian President during a trip to Arizona. He said Trump's request of Zelensky was part of his effort to drain the swamp in DC. Read it
- Giuliani's text chains - Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani released his text messages with US diplomats on Twitter, showing his meetings with Ukrainians were set up through official channels. See them
- The State Department IG's urgent documents - The State Department inspector general released to Congress documents that Giuliani gave to Pompeo about Biden and Ukraine. The documents put Trump and Giuliani's political conspiracy theory into the official US government bloodstream. LINK
Trump's defense is offense
Attack, attack -- Trump's overt effort to normalize foreigners interfering in US elections goes along with his increasing attacks on Democrats; he says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is a "lowlife" and a "liar." He attacks the whistleblower as totally wrong, but he's admitted the rough transcript of his phone call, which is the bulk of the whistleblower complaint, is completely right.
Make it normal -- And by publicly doing what he did on the phone transcript, Trump's trying to make it OK.
Repeat it over and over because it worked last time -- "It worked with the Mueller investigation in a lot of ways," said New York Times reporter Michael Shear on CNN's Inside Politics. "He spoke so many words about it. He literally made it such an everyday occurrence that by the end of it, people were kind of numbed and it was normal and he exhausts you... and it's not impossible to imagine the same thing could happen here where, a week from now, two weeks from now, a month from now, two months from now, we're all just sick and tired of Ukraine."
Will Republicans buy it? -- Republicans have mostly held their noses when it comes to concerns about Trump's interactions with foreign leaders. The key question going forward in this impeachment inquiry is whether they -- especially those in office, but also those who vote -- buy into the idea that it's okay to ask foreign governments for political oppo.
A favor from China, too
Asked what he wanted from Ukraine's President, Trump said: "It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. Because how does a company that's newly formed and all these companies, if you look -- by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
What it means: Trump either truly does not understand that a President should not be coordinating with foreign powers or he's trying to make it OK by saying it over and over again and in public. See! He's not trying to hide a thing! Except it's still not OK according to US law.
What does he want for it: The subtext for every Trump interaction with China is the trade war he started with that country and the trade deal he hopes to secure with it before he faces reelection in 2020. So it's a serious question, as he negotiates with China, whether he'd trade something for an investigation into Biden.
Note: There is still no evidence of any wrongdoing by either Biden. But the entire apparatus of conservative media and Republican Trump supporters are turning around to aim directly at Biden and his credibility. This is going to be their mantra.
Why not ask China for help?
Biden supporter Nick Burns, a former career diplomat who worked for Republicans and Democrats at the State Department, explains on CNN:
"The President is asking this morning China, an authoritarian dictatorship to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden who I'm supporting in this campaign. That is corruption. No prior president would ever go there. It's legally wrong. It's morally wrong. And the President has to hear that from people on Capitol Hill, especially from Republican senators and Republican members of the house. His own party."
Trump targets Schiff on process
House Intelligence Committee chairman and Pelosi's impeachment front man Adam Schiff is quickly becoming the top target both for Trump and his supporters on Capitol Hill.
First, Schiff read satirical quotes attributed to Trump at a House hearing with the director of national intelligence.
Then, The New York Times reported Schiff's committee had some contact with the whistleblower and told the whistleblower to seek counsel, ushering his complaint forward. Trump was carrying that story around in his pocket Wednesday and alleging Schiff may have helped write the complaint (both the whistleblower's attorneys and Schiff deny this).
On Thursday, Trump called Schiff a liar and he and other Republicans called on Schiff to resign from his committee and the impeachment inquiry. More
Republicans issue impeachment demands
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called for a halt to the impeachment inquiry unless certain demands are met, including a vote to officially authorize the inquiry and subpoena power for Republicans, as minorities had in previous impeachment efforts. He had other demands, but since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved to the inquiry without a vote and by fiat, it's unlikely McCarthy's letter will have any effect.
Protect the whistleblower
John Dean, the Watergate whistleblower, writes for CNN about how he was protected by the US Marshal's Service when he was about to drop a dime on Nixon. He says the whistleblower today should get the same treatment, except quietly, since he's concerned about Bill Barr -- the top law enforcement official in the country -- or Trump -- the President -- knowing about it.
FEC shade for Trump
After Trump's plea to China and Ukraine, FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub retweeted herself from this summer.
"Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election," Weintraub said back in June. "This is not a novel concept."
If an investigation into his rival is of value to Trump, his request to China and Ukraine would be illegal.
What's happening: Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson will testify behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.
What to watch for: Details about the additional information supporting the whistleblower Atkinson uncovered.