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.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump's defense team began its arguments today in his Senate impeachment trial. NPR election security editor Phil Ewing has been covering the story. Phil, thanks so much for being with us.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

President Trump will go on abusing his office and imperiling elections unless the Senate removes him, House Democrats argued on Friday as they wrapped their opening presentation in Trump's impeachment trial.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., warned in some of his strongest language yet that what he called Trump's venality and moral bankruptcy would only grow worse if Congress allows him to remain president after what Democrats say he's committed.

Updated at 9:43 p.m. ET

Congress has the power to impeach and remove a president over conduct that may not violate black-letter law — and President Trump's actions qualify, House Democratic impeachment managers argued Thursday.

The Constitution doesn't specify that a president must technically have broken a law in order to be impeached, said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., although Democrats also underscored that Trump did break at least one law in the Ukraine affair.

Updated at 9:49 p.m. ET

The matter before the Senate isn't just President Trump's conduct; it is no less than the fate of the Constitution and America's role in the world, House managers said on Wednesday.

With the ground rules having been settled in the early hours after sometimes-bitter litigation between the House delegation and Trump's legal team, senators returned Wednesday afternoon to hear the formal opening of the case.

Democrats are going first with 24 hours over three days to present their arguments for removing Trump from office.

Threats to U.S. elections this year could be broader and more diverse than before, warns the spy world's boss for election security — and she also acknowledged the limits of her ability to tackle them.

Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community's election threats executive, told NPR in an exclusive interview that more nations may attempt more types of interference in the United States given the extensive lessons that have since been drawn about the Russian attack on the 2016 presidential election.

Updated at 1:57 a.m. ET on Wednesday

After more than 12 hours of action Tuesday, the Senate adopted the ground rules for the coming weeks in President Trump's impeachment trial. It brought a reminder that even this highly scripted ordeal may include a few surprises after all.

Last month, the House of Representatives voted for only the third time in history to impeach the president. Then something else unusual happened:

Nothing.

President Trump, members of Congress, much of Washington and millions of Americans effectively pushed pause on a once-in-a-generation political saga to take off for the holidays.

So for those just tuning back in for the first full workweek of 2020, nothing substantive has changed in the story — but that also means the coming month may churn into a whirlwind.

Updated at 1:07 p.m. ET

President Trump ordered a bold strike against Iran this week that jangled the Middle East and Washington, drawing praise from allies, skepticism from critics and, most of all, questions about what comes next.

Updated at 9:27 p.m. ET

House lawmakers voted to impeach President Trump on Wednesday in only the third such rebuke in American history.

The move triggers a trial for Trump in the Senate, expected in January — one in which majority Republicans are likely to permit him to retain his office.

The vote was 230 to 197 on the first of two articles of impeachment — abuse of power — with one member voting present. The House then passed the second article — obstruction of Congress — with a vote of 229 to 198, with one member voting present.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

The secret court that oversees intelligence collection upbraided the FBI and Justice Department on Tuesday with a highly unusual order for them to re-validate their work.

Updated at 10:50 p.m. ET

House Democrats began work on completing their articles of impeachment against President Trump Wednesday evening, setting the stage for a vote by the full House.

The Judiciary Committee convened to amend the impeachment legislation introduced Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with its chairman, Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., calling the facts against Trump "overwhelming" and that Congress must act now to protect the integrity of U.S. election and its national security.

Updated at 6:51 p.m. ET

Democrats in the House took the next step toward impeachment on Monday with the presentation of what they call the evidence of President Trump's improper conduct in the Ukraine affair.

"President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security," said Daniel Goldman, the Democratic staff counsel who presented the Democrats' case in the Judiciary Committee hearing.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Wednesday marked the beginning of a new phase in House Democrats' efforts to impeach President Trump.

What members called the fact-finding portion of the process is complete, so the House Judiciary Committee began assessing what action to take and what articles of impeachment to draft, if it decides to draft them.

Updated at 7:02 p.m. ET

The White House pursued a "months-long effort" involving top officials to extract concessions from Ukraine's government aimed at helping President Trump's reelection in 2020, House Democrats charged in a new report.

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."

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