January 29, 2020

Daily Senate Impeachment Trial Update: January 29

Compiled and presented by our colleagues at Hub Action (www.hubaction.org).


  • CNN: GOP concedes Trump may have withheld aid for probes but says it's not impeachable  |  “A growing number of GOP senators are now acknowledging that President Donald Trump may have leveraged US military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an announcement of investigations that could help him politically -- but they contend that even that conduct does not warrant removal from office or hearing from additional witnesses. Republicans are arguing that the latest reports -- that former national security adviser John Bolton's book manuscript says that Trump told him in August that he was withholding $391 million in aid until Ukraine announced a probe into the Bidens -- are likely true but simply confirm what is already known.”


  • Washington Post: “For months, Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill have argued that Democrats are relying on secondhand information to support their allegations that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former vice president and 2020 candidate Joe Biden. The House impeached Trump last month, adopting charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Many Republicans have even repeated Trump’s “no quid pro quo!” talking point. But in his forthcoming book, former national security adviser John Bolton said Trump tied aid to the probe of the Bidens, prompting Republicans to quickly change their message: On Tuesday, they latched onto an argument from Trump defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, that his actions don’t rise to the level of impeachment, even if the allegation is true.”


  • Politico: “Just days after former national security adviser John Bolton’s Ukraine revelations rocked Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans have regained their footing and are once again pushing for a quick end to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. A wave of panic swept through Republican ranks on Monday following a report that Trump told Bolton in August that almost $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine would only be restarted when Ukrainian officials assisted investigations into the Bidens… But by Tuesday, a “feeling of calm had been restored” to the Republican Conference, claimed GOP senators and aides. With a critical vote scheduled for Friday on whether to move forward with witnesses, Republican leaders were whipping the issue as they met Tuesday afternoon, their first gathering since Trump’s defense team finished its presentation on the Senate floor, according to GOP sources.”


  • Washington Post: Analysis: What Trump allies and Republicans said about quid pro quo before the Bolton news


  • Politico: Trump gets the impeachment payback he wanted  |  “President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team knew they were likely to win — and they proceeded accordingly. With a virtually negligible threat of conviction and removal by a Republican-controlled Senate, Trump’s legal team spent just a sliver of their 11-hour arguments rebutting the House’s charge that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his rivals. Instead, they tailored a defense that often mirrored the president’s pre-trial demands: to exact pain and revenge against his political nemeses, all on the Senate floor.”


  • NBC News: Trump defense team makes compelling case for Bolton testimony  |  “But if all of those figures are telling the truth, they should want Bolton to testify under penalty of perjury. And if the president has nothing to lose — if abuse of power isn't a real reason for removing a president from power and Trump didn't abuse his power, as his lawyers have argued — there's no harm in having Bolton testify.”


  • Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: Trump lawyer Sekulow makes a strong case for hearing from Bolton  |  “President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate has devolved into an utter farce. Here’s a very clear demonstration of this: Trump’s defenders are now incapable of undercutting John Bolton’s revelations about Trump’s conduct without simultaneously strengthening the case for calling Bolton as a witnesses.”


  • New York Times: Representative Adam B. Schiff said on Tuesday that the president’s own lawyers made the case for calling John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser. ‘I don’t think quite frankly that we could have made as effective a case for John Bolton’s testimony as the president’s own lawyers,’ Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead House impeachment manager, said at a news conference after the White House lawyers concluded their opening arguments.”


  • ABC News: McConnell tells GOP senators he currently doesn't have votes to block witnesses at Trump trial


  • Washington Post: “White House lawyers pleaded with senators Tuesday to acquit President Trump based on “the Constitution and your common sense,” concluding their defense even as Senate GOP leaders struggled to block demands for new witnesses that could throw the trial into turmoil. In a closed-door meeting following closing remarks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told colleagues he doesn’t have the votes to block witnesses, according to people familiar with his remarks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them. Just four GOP senators would have to join with Democrats to produce the majority needed to call witnesses — an outcome McConnell has sought to avoid since it could invite new controversy and draw out the divisive proceedings.”


  • Politico: Trump team warns vulnerable senators: Stand strong or prepare for an endless trial  |  “The White House is delivering a stern warning to Republican senators: Make a wrong move and your spring could be ruined by the stain of impeachment. With the latest revelations from former National Security Adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s aides are trying to keep more Republicans from caving to the demands of Democrats who want witnesses in the president’s impeachment trial. Taking that step could drag proceedings out for weeks if not months due to legal fights, according to five people familiar with the situation, yet still end up with the same verdict: acquittal.”


  • Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly tells Sarasota crowd ‘I believe John Bolton’  |  “‘If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton… Every single time I was with him ... he always gave the president the unvarnished truth,’ Kelly said of Bolton, who has become a figure of intense interest in the impeachment inquiry… There are growing calls for Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial, something GOP leaders have resisted. Kelly said he supports calling witnesses during the trial… I think if there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt ... I think they should be heard,’ Kelly said, adding: ‘I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate but I wasn’t there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from.’”


  • CNN: Ex-WH chief of staff Kelly says he believes Bolton's account of Ukraine allegation


  • Syracuse.com: John Kelly wants witnesses in Trump impeachment trial: ‘I believe John Bolton’


  • Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone  |  “[E]fforts to construct a partnership between the Zelensky and Trump administrations, one focused on fighting corruption, crumbled. It crumbled in part because the Zelensky team was pulled into an American domestic political fight spurred by Trump’s push to have Ukraine investigate his rival Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter, and supposed interference in the 2016 election. That’s according to Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who said the requests ‘rattled’ Zelensky’s team. Danylyuk spoke to The Daily Beast last week in his first on-the-record conversation since impeachment proceedings began in Washington, saying he resigned from his post in Kyiv in September in part ‘because of the situation with the U.S.’... Looking back almost four months after his resignation, Danylyuk says there’s one person in the Trump administration he trusted to help secure a new pathway forward for the U.S. and Ukraine: former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton departed the Trump administration in September, just two weeks before Danylyuk left his post.”


Two new polls – one from Navigator Research and one from Quinnipiac – added to the overwhelming body of data showing that sweeping majorities believe witnesses must be called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.



  • 82% of Americans think it’s important for John Bolton to testify if he has first-hand knowledge of Trump’s actions in Ukraine.


  • By a 2-to-1 margin (60%-32%) voters prefer a full Senate trial with new evidence and witness testimony over a quick vote to dismiss the case.


  • By a 2-1 margin (54%-27%), voters disapprove of Senators like Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Cory Gardner refusing to commit to allowing new witnesses or evidence from appearing in the Senate trial.


  • By a 23-point margin (58%-35%), voters believe Trump has committed a crime at some point during his presidency.



  • 75% of voters – including half of Republicans – want to hear from witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.


  • By double-digit margins, voters believe that Trump abused power; that he obstructed Congress; that his withholding of aid to Ukraine was not justified; and that he is lying about his actions. On every one of those questions, the margins are even larger among independent voters.


  • By a 22-point margin (51%-29%), voters think the charges against Trump are more serious than those against President Clinton when he was impeached.


Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) comments on Impeachment, Biden and Iowa:


  • CNN: Analysis: Joni Ernst just said the quiet part out loud about the Senate impeachment trial  | “Sometimes politicians can't help themselves. They get careless. They say stuff they shouldn't say. They tell the truth that they have been trying to disguise. So it went for Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on Monday night. Following an afternoon at the Senate impeachment trial in which President Donald Trump's legal team made the case -- without any established factual basis -- that former Vice President Joe Biden had acted inappropriately in 2016 when he called for the resignation of the top prosecutor in Ukraine, Ernst told reporters this: ‘Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers. Will they be supporting VP Biden at this point?’ Whoops!”


  • Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin: Joni Ernst says the quiet part out loud  |  “She is not supposed to be cheering in public for Biden’s demise as a result of already debunked conspiracy theories. Her confession however, like then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) letting on that the Benghazi hearings would bring down Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers, reminds us that the Trump extortion plan and the defense his legal team is conducting are very much — make that entirely — about undermining a rival who he became convinced would be his most dangerous opponent.”


  • MSNBC: Describing attacks on Biden, Iowa’s Ernst ‘gave up the game’

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