Trump Impeachment Watch
January 21, 2020

In 1998, when the Senate held an impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz argued that "if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime" to impeach. Now that he's part of President Trump's defense team, he argues that "without a crime, there can be no impeachment." Anderson Cooper asked Dershowitz about the apparent discrepancy between those views on CNN Monday night.

Dershowitz said he still believes you don't need a "technical crime," just "criminal-like behavior akin to bribery and treason." He said his argument is consistent, and when Cooper pointed out it isn't, he insisted he "wasn't wrong" in 1998, he just has "a more sophisticated basis for my argument now." Cooper wasn't persuaded by Dershowitz's logic and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin didn't agree with his legal argument that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress aren't impeachable offenses.

"What is clear is that Alan was right in 1998 and he's wrong now," Toobin said. "The idea that you can only impeach a president for criminal or criminal-like behavior is absurd on its face." Dershowitz disagreed and insisted again he hasn't changed his views. "I wasn't wrong, I'm just far more correct now than I was then," he said. "And I think your viewers are entitled to hear my argument without two bullies jumping on everything I say."

Cooper also spoke with Dershowitz's former Harvard Law colleague Lawrence Tribe, who said Dershowitz is clearly wrong and, sadly, appears to be "selling out, I don't think for money but just for attention." He "was a great teacher," Tribe added and "he's perfectly entitled to defend the president, although I don't like that he pretends he's defending the Constitution instead of the president. He's not the Constitution's client."

On MSNBC, former federal prosecutor Maya Wiley agreed that Dershowitz is dangerously "wrong" while anti-Trump conservative Rick Wilson compared Dershowitz to "a prank character on a reality TV show" spouting "performative B.S." on cable news to make his client happy. Watch below. Peter Weber

December 18, 2019

After President Trump's angry six-page letter lashing out at impeachment, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says he "appears not well."

Schiff spoke to CNN on Wednesday as the House of Representatives is poised to approve two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at Democrats in a letter, accusing them of "declaring open war on American democracy." He also lashed out specifically at Schiff in the letter, accusing the Intelligence Committee Democrat of having "cheated and lied all the way up to the present day."

"It is a long, angry, rambling letter of someone who appears not well," Schiff said Wednesday. "I'm not sure of any other way to describe it."

Schiff also responded to Trump in the Oval Office suggesting he should be harshly punished for his "parody" of the infamous Ukraine call that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

"This is not a president above threatening anyone who gets in his way," Schiff said. "...He is not going to intimidate me." Brendan Morrow

December 13, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is prepared to start an impeachment trial in lockstep with the White House.

McConnell told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night that if there is an impeachment trial, "my hope is that it will be a shorter process rather than a lengthy process," adding, "there will be no difference between the president's position and our position in how to handle this." Whether the trial lasts one day or one month, McConnell is confident Trump will be acquitted. "There's no chance the president will be removed from office," he said. "My hope is there won't be a single Republican who votes for these two articles of impeachment."

Earlier in the day, McConnell met with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and they agreed to coordinate on impeachment trial plans, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. They weren't able to agree on a final strategy, though, CNN reports, as Trump wants witnesses to testify while Senate Republicans are afraid of the can of worms that would open. McConnell and Cipollone were able to reach a consensus on trial proceedings, establishing that House Democratic impeachment managers would present their case first, followed by Trump's lawyers with his defense. Catherine Garcia

December 2, 2019

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone informed House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Sunday that President Trump and his staff won't participate in the first Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday. He did not rule out White House participation in future impeachment hearings, but suggested House Democrats would first need to make concessions. Nadler has set a Friday deadline for the White House to state its intentions on participating in the House impeachment process, and Cipollone said he would respond to that deadline separately.

Cipollone noted in his five-page letter that the list of Wednesday's witnesses — four constitutional law experts, three picked by Democrats and one by Republicans, are expected to discuss impeachment law and history — has not yet been released, proclaimed Trump's innocence, said pointedly that Trump will be out of the country on Wednesday, and lodged several historically dubious complaints about the "purported" impeachment process up to this point. Nadler has "afforded the president no scheduling input, no meaningful information, and so little time to prepare that you have effectively denied the administration a fair opportunity to participate," Cipollone wrote.

Republicans are not in agreement on "the extent to which Trump and his congressional defenders ought to engage" in an impeachment process they are aggressively pushing as "corrupt and unfair," The Washington Post reports. Some Republicans say any engagement legitimizes the impeachment inquiry, while "other Republican lawmakers said Trump could benefit from availing himself of the due-process protections that Nadler has offered, including the right to present evidence, suggest wit­nesses, and cross-examine those called by Democrats to testify."

The House Intelligence Committee is expected to approve its report on Trump's potentially impeachable abuses of power on Tuesday night and send it to the Judiciary Committee, which could draw up articles of impeachment and vote on them within two weeks. That timeline could allow the full House to vote on impeaching Trump before Christmas. Peter Weber

October 23, 2019

On Tuesday, William Taylor, a career U.S diplomat and the top U.S. official at America's Ukraine embassy, was deposed by House impeachment investigators. His testimony, described by Democrats as extremely damning, was conducted behind closed doors, but his opening statement was made public. In his 15-page statement, Taylor detailed how he came to learn that President Trump was withholding both U.S. military aid approved by Congress and also a White House meeting until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly committed to investigating a company that hired Hunter Biden and a conspiracy theory involving the Democratic National Committee.

ABC News ran through the highlights of Taylor's "explosive testimony" Tuesday night.

"If this were a trial you'd call Ambassador Taylor the star witness," congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes said at CBS News. "What he's been describing in great detail all day is exactly the quid pro quo that the president had been denying."

NBC News anchor Lester Holt said "Trump's oft-repeated impeachment defense that there was no quid pro quo may have crumbled today under the weight of [Taylor's] explosive testimony." CNN's Anderson Cooper said Taylor "revealed in great detail and no uncertain terms that President Trump himself directed his people to push for a quid pro quo with the president of Ukraine," making Tuesday perhaps "one of the most consequential days in the impeachment inquiry as well as, possibly, this presidency."

At Fox News, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) argued, unchallenged, that "there is no quid pro quo until someone from the Ukraine says 'We knew military aid was being withheld during the July 25 call' [between Trump and Zelenksy], and that testimony hasn't come and it's not coming." CNN's Chris Cuomo saw the upside to America finally learning the truth.

"The real only question that remains," Cuomo said, is "what should the consequence be" for Trump. Peter Weber

October 9, 2019

The White House informed the House on Tuesday that it does not intend to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, in what The Washington Post describes as a "scathing eight-page letter" that "lacked substantive legal arguments and echoed Trump's political broadsides." Gregg Nunziata, a former counsel for Senate Republicans and staffer for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), called the letter "bananas," "a barely-lawyered temper tantrum," and "a middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities."

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), a recent GOP exile, agreed.

"The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded in a statement. "Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable."

For their part, the Post notes, "Republicans have rallied to defend the president and support the White House's assertion that the impeachment inquiry 'suffers from a separate, fatal defect' because the House has not yet taken a floor vote to establish formal procedures for the impeachment inquiry." But when reporters asked a senior administration official if the White House would cooperate after Pelosi held such a vote, the answer definitely wasn't yes.

In fact, "Trump has regularly told White House officials that he does not want to cooperate with the House committees conducting oversight," the Post reports, quoting a White House official who said Trump "was livid last week after the release of text messages from Kurt Volker [special envoy to Ukraine], and news accounts from testimony that seemed to undercut his administration's case." Peter Weber

September 26, 2019

At least 218 members of the House now support at least an impeachment investigation into President Trump's actions regarding Ukraine, according to the tallies of several news organizations. That means a majority of the 435-member chamber is on board with the path House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) embarked on Tuesday evening.

It's not at all clear that there are the necessary 218 votes to actually impeach Trump, setting up a trial in the Senate, but the momentum has clearly shifted in the House. Nearly 60 House Democrats shifted toward impeachment after Pelosi's announcement, Politico reports. The numbers of impeachment inquiry supporters varies — The Washington Post and The New York Times put it at 218, Politico counts 219, and NBC News found 220 House members.

The only non-Democrat in all the tallies is Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who recently left the Republican Party. According to the Post's count, 25 House Democrats are ready to impeach Trump now, but most say they want to start the process and see whether it leads to articles of impeachment being filed. House leaders have no plans to vote on the impeachment process unless and until such articles are drafted, the Times reports. How the inquiry will be structured and its scope are open questions that House Democratic leaders are trying to cobble out "expeditiously," as Pelosi said. Peter Weber

August 9, 2019

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) publicly confirmed Thursday night that his committee is currently engaged in "formal impeachment proceedings" against President Trump, after weeks of saying as much in court filings. Nadler made his comments on CNN, stressing that "it's important not to get hung up on semantics" and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "has been very cooperative" with his committee's investigation, even if she doesn't publicly back impeachment.

When CNN's Erin Burnett pressed him, "So in your mind, you're saying this is exactly the same as what we all call 'formal impeachment proceedings' by another name?" Nadler replied: "This is formal impeachment proceedings. We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence. And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now."

Nadler said articles of impeachment have already been referred to the Judiciary Committee, but the committee might write its own articles that "more closely fit the evidence," both evidence growing out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and other possible crimes dug up by the committee's own investigations. As of last week, a majority of House Democrats back impeachment hearings. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads