Franco Ordoñez

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.

Ordoñez has received several state and national awards for his work, including the Casey Medal, the Gerald Loeb Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is a two-time reporting fellow with the International Center for Journalists, and is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Georgia.

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The Senate impeachment trial kicked off today with arguments about the rules for the hours of arguments and debate to come in the days ahead. Today we got our first preview of President Trump's defense from White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday defended students who feel they can't pray in their schools — and warned school administrators they risk losing federal funds if they violate their students' rights to religious expression.

Trump held an event in the Oval Office with a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim students and teachers to commemorate National Religious Freedom Day. The students and teachers said they have been discriminated against for practicing their religion at school.

Updated on Jan. 17 at 9:30 p.m. ET

President Trump has picked some high-wattage lawyers to round out his defense team for the Senate impeachment trial — a group of attorneys who are as comfortable in front of the television cameras as they are in courtrooms.

Ken Starr, a Fox news commentator whose special counsel investigations led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment, will join the team. Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz also will help deliver opening arguments.

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The U.S. Department of Defense says Iran has launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against American military forces in Iraq. This attack against U.S. forces comes after Iranian leaders vowed to retaliate for the killing of an Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez joins us here in the studio.

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President Trump has often surrounded himself with lawyers whom he sees as being good on television. But Pat Cipollone, the attorney who will play a leading role in Trump's Senate impeachment trial defense, is better known for working behind the scenes.

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Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

A foreign service officer detailed to work in the office of Vice President Pence testified behind closed doors on Thursday in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Jennifer Williams was assigned to work on European and Russian issues with the vice president's team in the spring. She is the first person from the vice president's office to testify in the probe of whether the president withheld military aid from Ukraine while seeking a political favor.

Updated at 12 p.m. ET

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump turned its spotlight on Monday on four top White House officials, asking them to testify behind closed doors as Democrats probe whether Trump held up military aid as leverage to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

But none of them showed up, citing legal advice.

Updated at 11:25 p.m. ET

Tim Morrison, the top Russia official on President Trump's National Security Council, who is scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry on Thursday, is set to leave his White House post imminently, three sources familiar with the plan told NPR.

The top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council repeatedly raised concerns with his superiors and lawyers about President Trump's demands that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who is a veteran of the Iraq War and expected to testify Tuesday as part of the House impeachment inquiry, listened in on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

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Ambassador William Taylor delivered an explosive opening statement to congressional investigators Tuesday.

Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, described a shadow foreign policy operation being led by President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani where U.S. aid to Ukraine was contingent on the country undertaking investigations that could help Trump in his campaign for reelection in 2020.

Democrats onstage during their party's presidential debate were quick to condemn President Trump's abrupt and unilateral decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. But their responses as to what role the U.S. should play in the region were generally cloudier.

Trump's decision last week appeared to set in motion a Turkish incursion into northern Syria and the advancement of Turkish-backed militias against Kurdish forces that had helped the United States battle ISIS.

A disturbing video depicting President Trump shooting, stabbing and setting on fire critics and the media was played at a conference held by a pro-Trump group at his Miami resort.

The video rampage was shown during a three-day conference held by American Priority at Trump's National Doral Miami, according to the organizers.

Updated at 10:02 p.m. ET

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan is leaving his post, the latest casualty at the department responsible for protecting U.S. borders.

President Trump said in a tweet Friday night that McAleenan had done an "outstanding job" but that he wanted to "spend more time with family and go to the private sector."

Trump added that he would announce a new acting secretary next week.

The growing divide between President Trump and many of his fellow Republicans over his decision to move U.S. troops in Syria out of the way of a Turkish incursion threatens his delicate alliance with the congressional GOP at a time when he needs their support more than ever, party strategists say.

Some of Trump's closest allies, however, say the division may ultimately help him with an impeachment fight.

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And now here to talk about how that U.S. ambassador to the EU is wrapped up in the Ukraine affair is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez here in the studio.

Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

Republicans who support President Trump say the next three weeks are crucial to determine whether Trump can keep Republicans united behind him or if emerging cracks break open even wider.

Their growing concern is that the White House is not acting with enough urgency to combat the whistleblower fight.

They're calling for a more coordinated but also direct and aggressive strategy, similar to the one used when Republicans defended Brett Kavanaugh when Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court.

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 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.

The whistleblower complaint released Thursday charges that White House officials attempted to limit access to potentially damaging details about President Trump's call with Ukraine's president by using a classified system reserved for highly sensitive information.

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President Trump will return to the world's biggest stage this week to address heads of state at a time when U.S. global leadership is seen as waning.

When he takes the stage at the United Nations General Assembly for the third time on Tuesday, Trump is expected to "affirm America's leadership role" and "underscore that America is a positive alternative to authoritarianism," said a senior administration official.

Updated at 6:16 p.m. ET

President Trump's brand-new national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, will inherit a National Security Council struggling to attract talent, current and former U.S. officials tell NPR.

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