Ukraine

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

A federal watchdog concluded that President Trump broke the law when he froze assistance funds for Ukraine last year, according to a report unveiled on Thursday.

The White House has said that it believed Trump was acting within his legal authority.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

Iranian authorities have arrested an undisclosed number of people over the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner. The move comes as Iranians continue to protest against the government over the tragedy. Hours after the arrests, a new video emerged that purportedly shows two missiles hitting the passenger jet.

On the same night that Iran launched a ballistic missile strike against bases used by U.S. troops in Iraq, a Ukrainian jetliner crashed near Tehran, killing all 176 people onboard. Iranian authorities have said the plane suffered a mechanical failure, but the U.S. and other Western governments believe it was shot down, possibly by mistake.

"The evidence indicates the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a news conference Thursday. "This may well have been unintentional."

The question can be phrased simply: What happened to Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752? Answers, more than two days after the airliner carried 176 people to their deaths near Tehran, have proven much more difficult to come by amid a globe-spanning tangle of accusations, denials and generally heated rhetoric.

Updated at 8:36 p.m. ET

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that evidence suggests an Iranian missile strike brought down the Ukrainian jetliner that plunged from the sky Wednesday outside Tehran.

"We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile," Trudeau said during a news conference in Ottawa, one day after all 176 people aboard — including dozens of Canadian passengers — died in the crash.

When he was still commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges displayed a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag on his black backpack. The ribbon was a gift from an elderly woman who gave it to him during a joint military exercise in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met for the first time on Monday in Paris, in peace talks meant to resolve the simmering war in eastern Ukraine.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the Russian insurgency in the region since it began five years ago with Putin's annexation of Crimea.

Among Ukraine's goals are prisoner exchanges, a cease-fire along the front, and Ukrainian control of the eastern border. Russia would like an end to Western sanctions that have led to economic stagnation.

Updated at 4:49 p.m. ET

Prosecutors could bring more charges in the case of two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani — although it wasn't precisely clear when, what or who else might be involved after a conference in New York City on Monday.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman face charges of conspiracy, false statements and falsification of records in connection with two alleged schemes to violate U.S. election laws. But it's their work helping Giuliani dig up dirt in Ukraine that has put the pair under intense public scrutiny.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he thinks the U.S. should investigate a conspiracy theory — debunked by American intelligence services — that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee's computer server in 2016.

"Anytime there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right, but a duty, to make sure we chase that down," Pompeo said at a news conference Tuesday when asked whether the U.S. and Ukraine should launch a probe into the matter.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday released the rough transcript of a brief, 16-minute congratulatory conversation he had on April 21 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, timed to coincide with the beginning of the second day of open hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.

The White House released Friday the rough transcript of the April 21 call between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the then-newly elected Ukrainian leader.

The 16-minute call was conducted from Air Force One and came three months before the July 25 conversation between the two men that prompted the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

In the April 21 call, Trump congratulates Zelenskiy, a political outsider, for the campaign he ran and invites him to the White House at an unspecified date.

Updated at 2:21 p.m. ET

White House officials filed the record of President Trump's now-famous call with his Ukrainian counterpart on a "different, more secure system" from the one they normally used, a key witness told House impeachment investigators.

NPR

Join NPR and WRVO online this Wednesday, November 13 for live coverage of the public hearings of the House Impeachment Inquiry. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has announced the first public hearings of the House Impeachment Inquiry into President Trump. The public hearings will begin on Wednesday with Ambassador William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent to testify.

House investigators have released the deposition by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, who talked behind closed doors about the Ukraine affair.

According to those who heard his testimony, Kent told investigators that the White House picked "three amigos" — diplomats Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry — to run Ukraine policy.

The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Trump have released the transcript of their interview with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

John Sullivan, a senior State Department official and President Trump's nominee to be the next ambassador to Russia, faced questions from lawmakers Wednesday about his connection to events at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Sullivan, currently the deputy secretary of state, has bipartisan support for his appointment. But the open confirmation hearing provided a window into the discussions at the State Department over dealings with Ukraine — at a time when the impeachment testimony hearings are happening behind closed doors.

Billy Carter appeared to relish his role as the president's colorful kid brother, raking in money through personal appearances, guest shots on TV's Hee Haw and even his own eponymous brand of beer.

When it came out that he had also accepted money for lobbying from the Libyan government, his financial dealings no longer seemed quite so funny.

Being related to a high-ranking politician can be lucrative, as former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter has discovered.

Two of Rudy Giuliani's associates appeared in federal court Wednesday in Manhattan, where they pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally funneling foreign donations to U.S. political candidates.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are both U.S. citizens born in the former Soviet Union: Parnas in Ukraine, and Fruman in Belarus.

In an interview with ABC News that aired Tuesday morning, Hunter Biden said his involvement in the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma was, in retrospect, "poor judgment on my part," although he said he did "nothing wrong at all." Biden asked, "was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is ... a swamp in many ways? Yeah."

Biden also reiterated that he will not work for any foreign companies should his father become president.

Former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled an ethics plan on Monday that directly targets President Trump, accusing him of creating the "most corrupt administration in modern history." It's a sign the Democratic presidential candidate is ramping up his defense ahead of the fourth Democratic debate in Ohio on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors say two businessmen had a motive for making illegal contributions to U.S. political campaigns. The two men sought to remove an American diplomat in Ukraine, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

The two men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were associates of President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. They also have business interests in Ukraine.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told three House committees in a closed deposition that President Trump pressured the State Department to remove her from her post, according to prepared remarks reported by multiple outlets.

Updated 9:50 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has blocked Gordon Sondland, President Trump's ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before Congress on Tuesday.

Sondland has been a key figure in the widening Ukraine scandal involving the president, members of his Cabinet and high-ranking diplomats.

Updated at 6:21 p.m. ET

President Trump now says China should investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Trump brought up China, just days before restarting trade talks with Beijing, while answering questions about his call with his Ukrainian counterpart and what specifically he hoped Ukraine would do about the Biden family.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

House Democrats defended their impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Wednesday, while opening another front in the ongoing battle with the White House over documents they are seeking for their probe.

Three House committee chairmen threatened to issue a subpoena for the documents.

"We're not fooling around here," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said at a news conference with fellow California Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Updated at 5:17 p.m. ET

House Democrats postponed the first of their planned series of depositions about the Ukraine affair after objections by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, had been expected to meet with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on Wednesday — but that has been moved to Oct. 11, a committee official said.

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

A government whistleblower received information from "multiple" officials that President Trump "is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."

An unclassified version of the whistleblower's complaint, made public Thursday by the House intelligence committee, says that the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, "is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General [William] Barr appears to be as well."

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

President Trump told Ukraine's president that "a lot of people want to find out" about the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden's family in Ukraine and asked its leader to be in touch with lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General Bill Barr.

That's according to a briefing for correspondents about the contents of the July 25 phone call, on Wednesday at the Justice Department.

Updated at 3:43 p.m. ET

Former Vice President Joe Biden called for President Trump's impeachment unless the White House complies with congressional requests for information about a call the president made to a Ukrainian leader.

"We have a president who believes there is no limit to his power," Biden said. "We have a president who believes he can do anything and get away with it. We have a president who believes he is above the law."

Pavel Baev is a leading international expert on Russian foreign and security policy.  He grew up and studied in the former Soviet Union, worked in the Soviet Ministry of Defense, and is now a professor at Oslo's Peace Research Institute, as well as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.