The House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers are presenting polar opposite arguments about potentially calling witnesses to testify in the trial.
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin warned that calling witnesses could set a dangerous precedent by transforming the Senate into an investigative body.
But lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff replied, “Think about the precedent you would be setting if you don’t call witnesses in a trial. … That to me is the much more dangerous precedent.”
Gardner opposes witness testimony
Cory Gardner, a Republican senator who is facing a difficult reelection in Colorado later this year, has issued a statement saying he does not support witness testimony in the impeachment trial.
“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” Gardner told Colorado Politics, referring to the officials who testified during the House impeachment inquiry.
“I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”
During a meeting with other Republican senators yesterday, Gardner expressed a fear that a prolonged trial could lead to more Democratic attacks on vulnerable incumbents.
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin made the dubious claim that Mick Mulvaney’s comments at his October press conference, at which he infamously confirmed a quid pro quo in the freeze on Ukraine’s military assistance, were “garbled or misunderstood.”
In reality, Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, repeatedly said during the press conference that the aid freeze was tied to a request for an investigation into the 2016 election.
Mulvaney later walked back those comments, but there was nothing “garbled” about them.
Democrats’ first question focuses on Bolton
The first question from Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer was posed to the House impeachment managers and centered on the potential testimony of John Bolton.
Schumer asked whether it was possible to have a fair trial without senators hearing more information about the former national security adviser, who has reportedly alleged that Trump directly tied Ukraine’s military assistance to investigations of Democrats.
“The short answer to that question is no,” said lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff. The House intelligence committee chairman argued that Bolton’s testimony was “essential” to determining Trump’s motivation in holding up Ukraine’s aid.
“Don’t wait for the book,” Schiff said. “Don’t wait until March 17, when it is in black and white, to find out the answer to your question.”
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin responded to the question from Republican senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney by arguing the impeachment managers had not met their burden of proof for the first article of impeachment.
Philbin said the evidence showed Trump was acting, at least partly, out of “legitimate public interest” in his interactions with Ukraine and thus his pushing for investigations into Joe Biden and the 2016 election was justified.
The impeachment managers would have to show there was no public interest concern to make their case, Philbin said, claiming that the managers had failed at that task.
First question comes from Collins, Murkowski and Romney
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said questions should be kept to five minutes, and questions will alternate between Republicans and Democrats.
The first question is from three Republican senators who appear to be currently leaning toward allowing witness testimony in the trial: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney.
The three senators posed a question to the president’s legal team: “If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct … how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of article I?” The first article of impeachment is abuse of power.
Impeachment trial resumes with question-and-answer session
Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts has assumed his post, and the Senate impeachment trial has now officially resumed.
Today will be the first of two eight-hour sessions in which senators can submit questions, read by Roberts, to the impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers.
White House letter claims Bolton’s book contains classified information
The White House has indeed sent a letter to John Bolton’s attorney saying his client’s book cannot be published in its current form, confirming CNN’s earlier scoop.
The letter claims Bolton’s manuscripts contains “significant amounts of classified information” and “may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”
Bolton’s team has said the former national security adviser does not believe the manuscript contains classified information, but he still submitted it to the national security council as a precaution.
Senior House Democrat says Bolton raised concerns about Yovanovitch ouster
Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House foreign relations committee, has just put out a statement contradicting Trump’s claim that John Bolton did not raise concerns about Ukraine when he left the administration in September.
“President Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn’t say anything about the Trump-Ukraine Scandal at the time the President fired him,” Engel said in the statement. “He said something to me.
“On September 19, shortly after Ambassador Bolton’s departure as national security advisor, my staff reached out to him at my request. …
“He and I spoke by telephone on September 23. On that call, Ambassador Bolton suggested to me—unprompted—that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv.”
Yovanovitch’s removal as ambassador to Ukraine has become a key point of interest in the impeachment trial, after the longtime diplomat testified that she was ousted due to a smear campaign led by some of Trump’s allies, including Rudy Giuliani, as they pushed for investigations into the Democrats.
“It’s telling that, of all people, John Bolton is now the target of right-wing ire,” Engel concluded. “It underscores just how important it is that the Senate subpoena Ambassador Bolton as a witness.”
The impeachment trial is set to resume with the first of two question-and-answer sessions in about 30 minutes.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Trump lashed out against John Bolton, as questions lingered over whether Republicans had the votes to block witness testimony in the impeachment trial.
- Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani who has been indicted on campaign-finance charges, arrived at the Capitol but was not allowed into the Senate chamber where the trial is being held because of his ankle monitor.
- Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, hailing the deal as a “colossal victory” even as economists voiced skepticism of its ultimate benefits.
The blog will have much more coming up, so stay tuned.
White House reportedly threatens Bolton not to publish book
According to CNN, the White House has threatened John Bolton not to publish his book, which reportedly includes an allegation that Trump directly tied Ukraine’s military assistance to investigations of Democrats.
Trump has been tweeting about the former national security adviser’s book today, confusingly arguing that the unpublished memoir includes both false and classified information.
The book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is set for publication on March 17, likely after the Senate votes on whether to remove Trump from office.
Senate Democrats have insisted Bolton should testify in the impeachment trial to make the details of the book available before the vote on acquittal.
Trump signs USMCA trade deal
Trump has officially signed the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, hailing the deal as a “colossal victory” that replaces the “nightmare” of NAFTA.
However, a number of economists have noted that the deal’s greatest selling point is putting an end to the market uncertainty caused by Trump’s repeated threats to kill the North American trade agreement.
After a very dramatic arrival at the Capitol, Lev Parnas will not be allowed to enter the Senate chamber where the impeachment trial is being held, because of his ankle monitor.
His attorney will be allowed to enter the chamber, and Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, will watch the proceedings elsewhere.
Although Lev Parnas has arrived on Capitol Hill, it appears the former associate of Rudy Giuliani may not be able to actually enter the Senate chamber where the impeachment trial is being held.
A spokesperson for Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said the lawyer of Lev Parnas reached out to request tickets for the impeachment trial.
Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, was just spotted on Capitol Hill and told congressional reporters that senators should call witnesses in the trial.
Parnas appears on Capitol Hill
As Trump continues to speak at the USMCA signing ceremony, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry has appeared on Capitol Hill.
Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani who has been indicted on campaign-finance charges, arrived at the Capitol and immediately went to the office of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.
Asked what he wanted to tell senators, Parnas replied, “Call the witnesses.” A reporter followed up by asking what he would want senators to know if he wasn’t called to testify.
“The president knew everything that was going on in Ukraine,” Parnas replied, adding that there were “many quid pro quos.”