Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is an election security editor with NPR's Washington Desk. He helps oversee coverage of election security, voting, disinformation, active measures and other issues. Ewing joined the Washington Desk from his previous role as NPR's national security editor, in which he helped direct coverage of the military, intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and more. He came to NPR in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously, he served as managing editor of Military.com, and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

The marathon of testimony in Democrats' impeachment inquiry this week confirmed that the Ukraine affair, like so many earlier subplots in the era of President Trump, boils down to two big questions:

What do the president's words mean? Can the president do what he did?

The answers to those questions have been a partisan inkblot test since Trump exploded onto the political scene, and now they are burning again as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats decide how they'll move ahead in a showdown over impeachment.

There's an unverified story that has circulated placing Donald Trump in the presidential suite of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton in 2013.

NPR has not detailed it because it remains unverified. Trump and his supporters have called it outrageous and ridiculous.

So where did it come from?

Seven Russian sources told British specialist Christopher Steele the hotel anecdote, write Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch in their new book, Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump.

Updated at 4:40 p.m. ET

Fiona Hill, who served as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council before resigning last summer, criticized Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee for advancing theories that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

Testifying on the third and final day of impeachment hearings before the panel this week, Hill said, "I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests."

President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and much of officialdom was "in the loop" throughout the Ukraine affair, a key witness told Congress on Wednesday in watershed testimony.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, rejected the idea that he was part of any back channel or shadow effort.

He said he conferred with the State Department and the National Security Council all this year as he and other envoys worked to try to get concessions for Trump from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

As House Ukraine hearings opened their second week Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there won't be enough votes to remove President Trump in the Senate if Democrats trigger an impeachment trial.

The Kentucky Republican told reporters he would convene a Senate trial as required by the Constitution if he receives articles of impeachment from the House — but he reiterated that he believes Trump would prevail.

"It's inconceivable to me that there would be 67 to remove the president from office," McConnell said.

Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, tied President Trump directly to conditioning a meeting with the Ukrainian president with "a public statement from President Zelenskiy committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election."

Updated at 8:40 p.m ET

Two witnesses called by Republicans in the House impeachment inquiry testified Tuesday, indicating they had reservations over the content of President Trump's July 25th phone call with the president of Ukraine, and his desire to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine told Congress on Friday she was recalled after a smear campaign led by President Trump's allies — and Trump criticized her on Twitter even as she testified live on television.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch appeared at Democrats' second open impeachment hearing to discuss her career and the circumstances under which her posting to Kyiv was prematurely halted earlier this year.

Updated at 5:21 p.m. ET

A State Department staffer overheard President Trump asking a top diplomat about "investigations" he wanted Ukraine to pursue that he believed might help him in the 2020 election, another senior diplomat told Congress.

That staffer is expected to tell his story directly to House investigators at a closed-door deposition on Friday.

The new subplot about the overheard phone conversation was one of a small number of new details to emerge from Democrats' first open hearing in their impeachment inquiry into Trump on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants are turning a new page in their impeachment inquiry this week based on a principle familiar to classics scholars: repetitio mater studiorum.

"Repetition is the mother of all learning."

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.

President Trump's friend and political adviser Roger Stone is set to go on trial Tuesday in a proceeding that could reveal just how close Trump world got to the Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Jury selection is scheduled to commence following months of unusual public silence from Stone, who has been gagged by the judge in his case following a flap this year over his posts on social media.

President Trump's efforts to pressure the government of Ukraine didn't sit well with some key members of his administration.

One of them, whose identity remains unverified, felt strongly enough to write down his concerns about the president's actions in a whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community's inspector general.

But he wasn't the only one who spoke up.

House Democrats crossed the Rubicon this week and committed, for the record, to their impeachment inquiry. Although they said impeachment isn't a foregone conclusion, they tried to underscore again that this is serious.

Meanwhile, more confirmations of the facts of the Ukraine affair meant the end of the investigation process may now be in view — and public hearings could be coming next.

Here's what you need to know about the events of a historic week in Washington and what may be around the corner.

Lt. Col. Vindman and Mr. Morrison

Updated at 5:33 p.m. ET

House Democrats won an important victory in federal court on Friday when a judge ordered the Justice Department to surrender now-secret material from the Russia investigation — and, more broadly, validated the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

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