TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL

Managers emphasize national security concerns in second day of trial

WASHINGTON — The House impeachment managers laid the groundwork for the case against President Donald Trump Wednesday, emphasizing that the president’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine threatened U.S. security.

On the second day of the Senate impeachment trial, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the president had offered no explanation for the administration’s conduct with Ukraine “except the president can abuse his power all he likes and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Schiff, who opened the managers’ case, told the Senate that the House impeachment managers would make their case for convicting the president on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges in three parts over the next three days, providing evidence demonstrating Trump and his associates’ efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government into announcing an investigation into Trump’s political rivals, an explanation of the constitutional framework for impeachment and reasons why the president’s conduct met the benchmark to merit impeachment.

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, Schiff and his fellow managers outlined in detail the president’s interactions with Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky, frequently supplemented with video testimony of witnesses and subpoenaed documents. The managers framed Trump and associates including Rudy Giuliani as engaging in a pressure campaign against Ukraine and Zelensky, holding up military aid while asking for public statements from Ukraine implicating Hunter Biden in a corruption scandal and moving suspicion of Russian interference in the U.S. election upon Ukraine itself.

Schiff said the president’s conduct with Ukraine would serve to embolden Russia and weaken the United States on the global stage by destabilizing Europe and undermining the nation’s image as a champion of democracy.
“This isn’t just about Ukraine and its national security. This is about our national security. [Military aid] isn’t charity,” Schiff said.

House manager Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., added that withholding support from Ukraine could ultimately endanger the U.S. and reiterated that protecting Europe from Russian interference was “not a political game.”
“We help our partner fight Russia over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here,” said Crow.
But Trump’s refusal to comply with requests for documents and for appearances by White House staff in the House impeachment inquiry was even more serious than his conduct with Ukraine, Schiff said, and more significant than a simple dispute between two branches of government.

The managers emphasized the value of subpoenaing further documents and witnesses to support the House’s case. “The full and complete story is within your power to request,” Schiff said.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., called on senators to subpoena John Bolton, former national security advisor to Trump. Bolton is a witness to the president’s actions and conversations with Ukraine and did not wish to withhold aid from Ukraine, according to several testimonies.

However, Republican senators appeared generally unmoved by the impeachment managers’ argument.
“I hope the managers come up with something new rather than repeat the same arguments over and over again,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, adding he thought the impeachment managers were “undermining” their case.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said he was waiting for the Senate to return to normal business and called the managers’ case “flimsy.”

All Democratic votes and an additional three Republican votes are needed to get a majority vote to subpoena Bolton. So far, Sen. Mitt Romney, R- Utah, said he would vote to hear Bolton’s testimony. But Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said the House managers have so far failed to prove their case.

“I don’t know why they need anything else if they already have this ‘overwhelming case,’” Scott said. “I haven’t seen an [overwhelming case] because all they do is talk about other people that said certain things, and they don’t have anything that President Trump did.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas slammed House Democrats for having a double standard about the importance of aid to Ukraine, saying the House had not intervened when President Barack Obama had declined to supply “lethal” military aid to Ukraine while the Trump administration provided anti-tank missiles to the foreign entity.
While the Obama administration did not provide lethal equipment, it had committed to more than $120 million in security assistance and $75 million in equipment to Ukraine by March 2015, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Across the aisle, Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., reiterated the managers’ call to subpoena further evidence and appealed to their Republican colleagues to stand up to the president.
“At some point, they have to allow witnesses, at some point they have to acknowledge that they do not serve at the pleasure of the president,” Klobuchar said. “My Republican colleagues, they’re here to respect the power of the people that sent them to Washington.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Democrats are “simply seeking the full story.”

“In fairness to the president, I’m still listening and I hope he’ll come forward,” Blumenthal said.  “I see a pretty good case here for guilt.”

On Saturday, Trump’s legal team will respond to the charges.

SENATE APPROVES IMPEACHMENT TRIAL RULES AFTER MARATHON SESSION

WASHINGTON – Eleven times Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rose before Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday and Wednesday morning to introduce amendments to allow more evidence in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Each time, those amendments failed. But acceding to some Republican rumblings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to extend the time both sides have to present their cases and to allow evidence from the House investigations into evidence without a vote.

In a marathon session that started Tuesday at 1 p.m. and didn’t end until about 2 a.m. Wednesday, Senate Republicans voted down amendments that would have allowed Democrats to subpoena documents and call witnesses and regulate submitting new evidence in the trial of the president, who is accused of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. The charges stem from a telephone conversation in which Trump asks the president of Ukraine to do him a favor by investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son; at the same time, military aid for Ukraine ordered by Congress was put on hold by the White House.

Schumer repeatedly introduced amendments to McConnell’s rules resolution that sets the procedural structure of the trial. The amendments called on the Senate to issue subpoenas to numerous departments and key figures at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

The Republican-supported resolution does not permit evidence other than that already obtained by the House to be entered into the Senate record. McConnell originally wanted the Senate to have to vote to allow the House evidence, but removed that language after some swing Republican senators voiced concerns. But the rules do state the Senate will wait until later in the trial to decide if it will collect more evidence. The resolution allows time to consider issuing subpoenas after both the House-appointed managers and the president’s defense team argue their cases and the 16-hour question-and-answer period has concluded.

Schumer introduced amendments to issue subpoenas to the White House, State Department, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Defense, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, White House official Robert Blair, OMB official Michael Duffey and former national security advisor John Bolton. Every one of those amendments was tabled by a 53-47 vote.

Democrats have criticized the rules package, saying it would prevent important evidence from being included in the trial.

“No Republicans explained why less evidence is better than more evidence,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

Impeachment managers and members of Trump’s legal team alternated making arguments during two-hour blocks to debate each amendment. As the day progressed, each side emphasized the same key points on the different amendments.

The Democratic impeachment managers said all previous Senate impeachment trials included witness testimony and that the House was blocked by the President from obtaining important evidence.

Lead manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., accused the president of hiding “graphic evidence of his dangerous misconduct.”

The President’s legal team contended that further subpoenas would likely violate the Trump’s rights to executive privilege and due process. The lawyers also said it was the House’s job to compile all the evidence before coming to the Senate with its case.

“They have no case,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said. “Frankly, they have no charge.”

Later amendments introduced by Schumer would regulate other matters of the trial.

Schiff said one amendment, the seventh one introduced during the session, was intended to prevent the president from “cherry-picking” and selectively introducing evidence into the record.

Around 1 a.m., Chief Justice John Roberts exerted his power for the first time and called on both sides to raise their level of civility.

His admonishment came after a lengthy speech on the floor from impeachment manager Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and harsh rebukes from Cipollone and Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. Roberts told both sides to “remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

The Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. Wednesday to continue the trial with presentations from the House managers.

Senators sworn is as jurors as trial gets under way

WASHINGTON – Stating that senators should render “impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday administered an oath to senators for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Nearly a month after the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment against the president, Roberts asked all members of the Senate to raise their right hands and take the oath that would make them jurors. The trial is expected to begin with oral arguments Tuesday at 1 p.m.

It was only the third time that the impeachment of a president has reached this phase. Chief Justice William Rehnquist was the last to administer the oath in 1999 during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. The first time the Senate held an impeachment trial of a president was in 1868 for Andrew Johnson.

Roberts, wearing the traditional black judicial robe, was escorted onto the Senate floor by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Patrick Leahy, D-VT.

The Senate clerk after the oath called Senators up alphabetically to sign their names to the “oath book.”

The Senate will not meet again until the start of the impeachment trial Tuesday, when it is expected to pass a resolution that will outline the structure of the impeachment proceedings.

That resolution will likely allow time for Trump’s legal team and the impeachment managers appointed by the House Wednesday to present their cases. Senators will have the opportunity to submit written questions for either side that will be presented by Roberts.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said such a structure would closely resemble Clinton’s trial.

Trump has until 6 p.m. on Saturday to send the Senate his written response to the articles. The president and the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to file trial briefs by early next week.

The decision on whether to call witnesses will be made later in the process, McConnell has said. It takes approval from 51 senators to call a witness, meaning Democrats would need to garner support from at least four Republicans to call any witnesses.

McConnell has thus far rebuffed Democrats’ requests to include witnesses in the initial rules package. On Monday, he called the witness question a “more contentious issue” and said the decision will hang on the “feeling of the Senate.”

“We’re going to vote on that at the appropriate time after we listen to the arguments,” McConnell said.

Democrats’ calls for witnesses have gained traction over the course of the week. On Tuesday, House Democrats released evidence related to Lev Parnas, a central figure in Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government. In an interview Wednesday night, Parnas further implicated Trump as well as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr.

From the floor of the Senate Wednesday evening, McConnell called on his colleagues to put aside the partisan squabbling of previous weeks.

“This is a difficult time for our country, but this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate,” he said. “I’m confident this body can rise above the short term-ism and factional fever and serve the long-term best interests of our nation.”

Pelosi says new GAO report, Parnas claims reaffirm impeachment charges

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said new information related to the impeachment charges against President Donald Trump is evidence of “this tangled web to deceive that the administration has engaged in.”

“Every day that we’re involved in this impeachment is a sad day for America,” Pelosi said.

Thursday’s press conference was held hours before the House impeachment managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Republican-controlled Senate. On Wednesday, Pelosi signed the two articles of impeachment against the president, three weeks after the House passed them. Pelosi apparently delayed sending the articles to the Senate for a trial in an unsuccessful effort to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call witnesses.

“No future president would ever think that she or he could get away with what President Trump has been getting away with,” Pelosi said.

The seven impeachment managers about to enter the Senate chambers to deliver the articles. (Sneha Dey/MNS)

The Government Accountability Office released a report Thursday morning alleging further legal breaches by The White House. The report concluded the Office of Management and Budget violated the law by withholding congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine.

Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump attorney Rudy Guliani, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Trump was aware of his actions in Ukraine.

Pelosi said Republicans who fail to acknowledge allegations by Lev Parnas are “avoiding the facts and truth.”

After Pelosi’s press conference, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appeared before reporters, who questioned him about his relations with Parnas, has donated thousands of dollars to McCarthy’s campaign.

“I do not know the man… I learned from the media that he provided money,” McCarthy said. “Of learning of that information, we gave that (money) to charity.”

House approves impeachment managers: Pelosi to sign articles next

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a resolution appointing and authorizing managers for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

The vote comes nearly one month after the House voted to impeach the president — a month of sparring between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the Democrats’ desire that witnesses be called in the Senate trial.

Pelosi announced Wednesday morning the names of the seven impeachment managers who will present the Democrats’ case before the Senate. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., — key decisionmakers throughout the House impeachment process — will serve as managers, along with Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Val Demings, D-Fla., Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and Jason Crow, D-Colo.

McConnell has said he expects the Senate trial to begin on Tuesday. In order to subpoena witnesses, a decision McConnell has said he’d rather address after opening arguments, Democrats will need four Republican members to defect from the majority party.

During the House floor debate on authorizing the impeachment managers, Republicans painted the proceedings as something the Democrats have planned since Trump was elected— an effort going back to before the Democrats were the majority in the chamber. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., accused Nadlerof having worked to get appointed to the Judiciary Committee for the eventual investigation into the president.

“This is a political impeachment, this has nothing to do with the facts,” Collins said. “The only real emergency here is that there’s a 2020 election, in which the Democrats cannot stand the fact that this president is going to win again.”

As the debate wound to a close, Pelosi — standing next to a picture of the American flag with the phrase “To the republic for which it stands” etched below it — stood at the podium to urge her colleagues in the lower chamber to vote to send the managers before the Senate.

“This is as serious as it gets for any of us,” Speaker Pelosi said. “It’s not personal, it’s not political, it’s not partisan. It’s patriotic.”

The vote comes on the heels of the release of documents from Lev Parnas — an associate of Rudy Giuliani who helped search for dirt on Hunter Biden in Ukraine.

The documents, released by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, show multiple efforts to exert influence over the Ukraine for the president’s personal gain, Democrats say.

Marie Yavanovitch — former ambassador to Ukraine — was a target of stalking and surveillance by associates of Giuliani, documents show. Along with encrypted messages, the released items included correspondence between Giuliani and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Schiff emphasized the importance of such documents on Wednesday morning. While witnesses not tell the truth, the California Democrat said “documents don’t generally lie.”

As the trial gets set to begin, Pelosi said Wednesday morning that the Senate shouldn’t be “frivolous” with the constitution.

“(Trump’s) been impeached forever,” Pelosi said. “They cannot erase that.”

Pelosi names impeachment managers: Schiff, Nadler and five others will take case to Senate

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday named House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and five other House members as the impeachment managers who will present the case against the president in the Senate trial.

“Time has been our friend in all of this because it has yielded incriminating evidence, more truth into the public domain,” Pelosi said.

President Trump quickly criticized the House Democrats on Twitter.

“Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats. All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!” the president wrote.

In addition to Schiff, D-Calif., and Nadler, D-N.Y., Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Val Demings, D-Fla., Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and Jason Crow, D-Colo., will manage the Democrats’ case.

How long they will have to do that will depend on rules expected to be finalized by the Senate on Tuesday. After the House on Dec. 18 passed two articles of impeachment against President Trump, Pelosi declined to send the articles to the Senate, a move Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has criticized as being politically motivated.

Schiff defended the decision on Wednesday, saying McConnell — who has said he’s “not an impartial juror” — made it clear he didn’t want a “fair trial” in the Senate.

“We could have waited years to get further testimony from all the people the President has been obstructing,” Schiff said. “But essentially that would negate the impeachment power.”

Democrats have continued to urge Republican Senators to allow more witnesses to testify in the Senate trial.

John Bolton, previously blocked by President Trump from testifying in the House impeachment investigation, said on Jan. 6 he would comply if issued a subpoena to testify in the Senate trial.

Since the House approved the articles of impeachment in December, more information about potential witnesses and documents has emerged.

Pelosi highlighted some of the evidence Wednesday, citing emails released by the Pentagon on Dec. 20 that show about 90 minutes after President Trump’s July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelenksy of Ukraine, the White House budget office had ordered the Pentagon to suspend previously allocated military aide to the U.S. ally.

Schiff and Nadler were prominent figures in the impeachment process as chairmen of their respective committees.

Schiff garnered national attention as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, where he led the investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that eventually led to the articles of impeachment.

Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee drafted and approved the articles of impeachment before they went to the full House.

Lofgren, Chair of the House Committee on Administration and a member of the Judiciary Committee, is a veteran of the impeachment process. The California Democrat was a Judiciary Committee staffer during the Nixon impeachment and a member during the Clinton impeachment. She previously was a lawyer and law professor.

Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, is an “accomplished litigator,” Pelosi said.

Demings, who serves on both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, was the first female police chief in Orlando, Fla.. Crow, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is a former Army Ranger and lawyer. Garcia, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, previously served as director and presiding judge of the Houston Municipal System.

Democrats to send articles of impeachment to Senate on Wednesday

WASHINGTON – The Democrat-controlled House will vote Wednesday to send its two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, Democratic leaders said Tuesday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell swiftly responded that the Senat trial will begin next Tuesday.

The Democrats said impeachment managers also will be decided when they send the articles to the Senate. The House passed the articles of impeachment before it left for the holidays in December, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi had waited to send over the articles, apparently in hopes of pressuring Senate Republicans into agreeing to trial procedures more favorable to her party.

Hours after House Democrats’ announcement, McConnell said he expects the Senate trial to begin in earnest next Tuesday.

The Senate will complete some preliminary steps this week, which likely will include senators being sworn is as jurors by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, McConnell said.

McConnell expects the Senate to pass a resolution that finalizes the rules of the impeachment proceedings on Tuesday.

“I announced last Tuesday that all 53 of us in our conference had agreed on the initial resolution of how to go forward,” McConnell said. “That remains the case.”

Democrats had been hoping that the rules package in the Senate would call for witnesses. Instead, the initial resolution likely to be passed by Senate Republicans would start the trial without weighing in on whether witnesses would be called.

McConnell again emphasized that the resolution is modeled after the rules of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Each side will have a chance to make its case, followed by written questions submitted by senators through the Chief Justice.

The Senate will weigh the witness issue following the presentations by HouseDemocrats and the president’s defense team as well as the written question period, McConnell said. He added that the witness question will depend on the “feeling of the Senate” at that point.

“We will be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial,” he said. “And I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses that they want to hear from.”

On Tuesday, Democrats expressed optimism that witnesses would be part of the Senate trial.

“I believe at the end of the day we will have a critical mass of Republican senators who will join with the Democratic senators in calling witnesses and producing evidence,” G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C., said.

Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he hoped Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton both would testify.

“The American people deserve a fair trial in the Senate,” Jeffries said.

The impeachment managers who present the Democrats’ case are also expected to be determined Wednesday in the House.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT., declined to name who he thought the impeachment managers would be, but speculated that “whoever the Speaker designates as managers will be people who had some significant involvement in the case.”

He expected House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Chairman JerryNadler to continue to play a role in the impeachment process in some capacity.

“There’s enormous confidence in both of them,” he said.

 


 

Medill Today | March 2, 2023