senate impeachment trial
January 29, 2020

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) isn't scared, and he doesn't think his fellow Democrats should be either.

Manchin on Wednesday suggested he's open to calling Hunter Biden as a witness in the impeachment trial. "Being afraid to put anybody that might have pertinent information is wrong, no matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican," he said during in an interview with MSNBC's Willie Geist. "If it's relevant then it should be there."

Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, has been present in President Trump's impeachment saga since the beginning. It was, after all, the Ukrainian gas company upon whose board he sat that Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate. Recently, there's been some theorizing that if former National Security Adviser John Bolton is brought into testify during the Senate trial, Republicans could counter by bringing in the younger Biden.

Democrats have largely decried the idea, but Manchin doesn't appear to share the majority of his party's perspective. He did, however, say he thinks Hunter Biden would be able to "clear himself" if he does testify. Tim O'Donnell

January 20, 2020

President Trump's lawyers filed a brief on Monday urging the Senate to dismiss the impeachment charges against him and calling the House's impeachment process a "perversion" of the Constitution, The Associated Press reports.

The 110-page brief calls the House's impeachment case "flimsy," insists Trump did "absolutely nothing wrong," and says he has "been the victim of an illegitimate partisan effort to take him down," The New York Times reports. The House filed two impeachment articles against Trump — abuse of power for withholding aid to Ukraine in order to pressure that country to investigate his political rivals, and obstruction of Congress for blocking the House's impeachment inquiry.

The brief "does not deny that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats," the Times writes. Instead it argues that this was within Trump's rights as president. As to the obstruction of Congress article, the lawyers say the president has a right to confidential deliberations.

The Senate trial on Trump's impeachment begins Tuesday. He is just the third sitting president to face such a trial. The Republican-controlled chamber is unlikely to convict him. Jessica Hullinger

January 14, 2020

The evidence from Lev Parnas has arrived.

Parnas is an indicted Soviet-born associate of President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who aided in Giuliani's campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump's domestic rivals. He previously turned over evidence related to Trump's impeachment in compliance with a congressional subpoena. Today, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) turned the documents over to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who will send the evidence over to the Senate, where it could possibly be used in Trump's upcoming impeachment trial.

Among the evidence provided by Parnas are handwritten notes he took during a meeting in Vienna, where he wrote that he needed to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce that Ukraine would launch an investigation tied to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Another revelation came in the form of a draft letter from Giuliani to Zelensky, in which Giuliani requested to meet with the Ukrainian leader. Notably, he said he was making the request with Trump's "knowledge and consent," though it's unclear from the letter if Giuliani and Trump had ever discussed the specifics of the meeting.

Parnas then allegedly sent a copy of the letter to a Zelensky aide, but the sit-down never actually came to fruition. Read the House Intelligence Committee's letter here. Tim O'Donnell

January 13, 2020

The White House thinks the Democrats will have the numbers.

White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told CBS News that the Trump administration is preparing for enough Republicans to defect and join Democrats in an upcoming vote to call witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial. Only four would need to do so to shift the majority, and the officials identified six lawmakers who might jump ship in this instance.

It's no surprise to see the names like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — who disclosed last week that she's been working with a small group of Republicans to ensure both sides are able to call witnesses in the trial — and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), or Mitt Romney (R-Utah), all of whom have displayed a willingness to diverge from Trump on occasion. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who have both called for a fair and impartial trial, are also seen as possibilities to vote for witnesses. The White House described Alexander as an "institutionalist." Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), meanwhile, is apparently considered the "wild card."

Whatever the combination, the officials said the White House's impeachment team and counsel consider a vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment without a trial to be bad optics, and they don't expect a quick dismissal. They do, however, reportedly expect the question of acquittal to come up pretty early in the proceedings. Read more at CBS News. Tim O'Donnell

January 7, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he has the votes he needs, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may still have the leverage.

McConnell announced Tuesday that Republican senators have enough votes to launch President Trump's impeachment trial without an agreement on witnesses with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his Democratic colleagues.

Pelosi is still holding on to the articles of impeachment, however, which is blocking the proceedings from getting underway. The Washington Post notes Pelosi is under increasing pressure to pass them over, including from some members of her own party. But in a Twitter thread Tuesday Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, laid out how and why Pelosi might not be in any rush. It has a lot to do with former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Bolton said Monday he'd be prepared to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed. With that in mind, Wittes wrote, McConnell's latest announcement may have provided Pelosi with a "strategic opening." Since a new witness is now saying he's available, Pelosi could theoretically announce she won't conduct the hand-off until Bolton provides testimony, and then have the House Intelligence Committee issue the subpoena instead. In this scenario described by Wittes, the House would hang on to the articles until Bolton testifies, while also retaining the right to pass superseding or amended articles of impeachment based off Bolton's testimony.

While not everyone agrees that Pelosi withholding the articles is a bad look for McConnell, Wittes doesn't think the senator wants it to play out this way. Tim O'Donnell

January 6, 2020

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton grabbed headlines Monday when he somewhat surprisingly said he was "prepared to testify" should the Senate call him as a witness in the upcoming impeachment trial. But Republican senators aren't quite sure if they want to hear from him.

Bolton's long been considered a potentially crucial witness since several current and former State Department and national security officials said in previous testimony before the House that he was concerned by President Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his domestic political rivals while withholding military aid from Kyiv.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dismissed the idea of issuing Bolton a subpoena, arguing the trial should be tied only to the evidence the articles of impeachment are based on. So, in that case, since Bolton didn't testify before the House, he shouldn't be able to testify before the Senate.

It's reasonable to think Rubio and other Republican want to avoid a scenario in which Bolton does some damage to Trump's defense, but not everyone in the GOP thinks that's the only way Bolton's time in the witness box could play out. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) thinks Bolton could actually help Trump, though he's iffy on whether he'd support a subpoena. Tim O'Donnell

January 6, 2020

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has his answer.

In a statement issued Monday, Bolton said he's willing to testify if called as a witness in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. It's purely hypothetical right now, but Bolton apparently wanted to get ahead of the potential debate. It sounds like he spent some time deliberating over a scenario in which he would have to choose between a congressional subpoena to testify and presidential directive to refrain from doing so. Bolton's attorney had previously said his client was awaiting guidance from the courts about whether he should testify, but he apparently reached the conclusion on his own.

"Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study," Bolton said. "I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify."

If Bolton is called by the Senate, The Washington Post reports, he would likely be asked about previous House inquiry testimony from State Department and national security officials who said Bolton was concerned about President Trump's efforts to push Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals while withholding military aid. Read Bolton's full statement here. Tim O'Donnell

December 28, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden made some waves Friday evening when he told The Des Moines Register he wouldn't comply with a congressional subpoena to testify in President Trump's upcoming Senate impeachment trial. But he eased the breaks on that Saturday morning.

Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, who is connected to the impeachment saga because of accusations from Trump's allies that he and his son Hunter were involved in corrupt activities in Ukraine, initially said he wouldn't comply because it would take attention away from Trump and possibly play a role in letting him off the hook. But on his Twitter account the next morning, the former vice president clarified that he would always comply with a lawful order — he just doesn't think the Republicans have any legal basis in this case, so as far as he's concerned it's a moot point.

Biden said the subpoenas should be sent to the White House instead, calling those who can actually provide testimony about Trump's interactions with Kyiv to the stand. Tim O'Donnell

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