January 30, 2020

Daily Senate Impeachment Trial Update: January 30

Compiled and presented by our colleagues at Hub Action.


Trump’s impeachment lawyers put forward their most sweeping, dangerous, and legally baseless defense of the president Wednesday, arguing that anything he does to boost his reelection would inherently be done in the public interest, and therefore, it cannot be grounds for impeachment.


  • CNN: Alan Dershowitz argues presidential quid pro quos aimed at reelection are not impeachable


  • New York Times: Anything a president does to stay in power is in the national interest, Dershowitz argues.  |  “Mr. Dershowitz’s comments were in response to a question from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, about whether posing a “quid pro quo” — conditioning one thing on another — could ever be appropriate conduct for a president, particularly in the realm of foreign policy… But the response went far further, suggesting that nothing a president did could ever be considered a corrupt abuse of power as long as he or she considered it in the national interest.”


  • Washington Post: Trump’s impeachment team argues that anything he does to win reelection isn’t impeachable  |  “Over the course of two responses to those questions, Trump’s legal team made a remarkable claim. First, that if an action includes any element of public interest, it can’t be impeachable under the terms set by the House. And, second, if Trump thinks that his own reelection is in the public interest — which he certainly does — that’s a valid claim… It’s an obviously ridiculous argument… Had Trump, for example, asked Zelensky to have his eventual 2020 Democratic opponent arrested and detained — an obvious solicitation of benefit — it’s a clear violation of law. But Dershowitz would argue that it’s inherently unimpeachable since all Trump wanted was to be reelected for the benefit of the country. It’s what a better lawyer might call an inadvertent reductio ad absurdum. Dershowitz is extending the president’s leeway to such a degree that it becomes hard to take seriously his claims.”


  • Vox: Alan Dershowitz’s latest defense of Trump would let presidents get away with almost anything


Witness vote to come this Friday:


  • New York Times: Republicans are growing confident they will block witnesses and win a speedy acquittal.  |  “Republican leaders signaled they were regaining confidence on Wednesday that they would be able to block new witnesses and documents and bring the trial to an acquittal verdict as soon as Friday, after revelations from John R. Bolton threatened to knock their plans off course. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican, told reporters that if they were successful in holding off new witnesses, Republicans planned to move directly to a vote on the two articles of impeachment themselves.”


  • The Hill: “Senate Republicans are eyeing a quick acquittal of President Trump that could have the trial wrap as soon as Friday. If GOP senators are able to defeat an effort on Friday to call new witnesses or compel new documents, Republicans are signaling they could move quickly to the final votes on acquittal. “


  • Colorado Politics: IMPEACHMENT: Gardner says he doesn't want to hear from witnesses


  • Philadelphia Inquirer: Pat Toomey is ‘very, very skeptical’ he’ll support calling witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial


  • New York Times: “Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, acknowledged on Wednesday that winning enough Republican votes to allow witnesses to testify was unlikely.”


Bolton’s book:


  • CNN: White House has issued formal threat to Bolton to keep him from publishing book  |  “In a letter to Bolton's lawyer, a top official at the National Security Council wrote the unpublished manuscript of Bolton's book ‘appears to contain significant amounts of classified information’ and couldn't be published as written. The letter, which is dated January 23, said some of the information was classified at the "top secret" level, meaning it ‘reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security.’”


  • Politico: Trump claims Bolton book is ‘classified national security’  |  “President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that his conversations with John Bolton are entirely classified, setting up a new line of defense against potentially devastating testimony from the former national security adviser should he be called as a witness in the ongoing Senate impeachment trial. Trump also suggested that Bolton, long regarded as a hawk within GOP foreign policy and national security circles, would have entangled the U.S. in multiple major world conflicts if not for the president’s refusal to heed his counsel.”


  • Yahoo! News: “What appeared to be a White House bid to stop former national security adviser John Bolton from publishing his book, which may have explosive claims about his interactions with President Trump, is really just a standard letter regarding classification review, according to legal experts, albeit one launched into the middle of a high-stakes political struggle… While the letter may not be a direct bid to stop publication, it is still a significant development in the confrontation between the White House and Bolton, with implications for the ongoing Senate impeachment trial, since it raises the issue of what the former national security adviser could be allowed to divulge publicly.”


  • NBC News: White House, Bolton lawyer spar over questions about classified info  |  “Cooper responded to the White House in a letter dated Jan. 24, which he released on Wednesday. In the letter, Cooper said that Bolton is ‘preparing’ to testify and that he would likely discuss some of the material contained in a chapter of his book on Ukraine. Cooper said he did not believe any of the material was classified but wanted to White House to review it ‘as soon as possible.’ Cooper said Wednesday he had yet to hear back from the White House.”


Lack of evidence of Trump raising the corruption issue before Biden got in the race.


  • TPM: Murkowski And Collins Draw Blood In Pointed Question On Trump’s Political Motives  |  “Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) pitched President Donald Trump’s lawyers a curve ball Wednesday, asking a question that underscored the political motive behind Trump’s sudden interest in Ukrainian corruption. The senators asked if Trump ever mentioned the Bidens in connection to corruption in Ukraine before the former Vice President announced his candidacy for president in April 2019. Deputy Counsel to the President Patrick Philbin struggled to defuse the loaded question… Philbin eventually answered: ‘…I can’t point to something in the record that shows President Trump at an earlier time mentioning specifically something related to Joe or Hunter Biden.’”


  • HuffPost: Trump Defense Can’t Offer Evidence He Cared About Corruption Before Biden 2020 Run  | “ In a closely watched exchange during Wednesday’s Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump’s defense team struggled to point to any instances of his interest in rooting out corruption in Ukraine or Joe Biden’s involvement with that nation before the former vice president launched his Democratic presidential campaign last April. The key moment came in response to a question posed to Trump’s lawyers by Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two Republicans who may prove crucial to whether the chamber agrees to hear from witnesses and allow the presentation of new evidence in the case. For that to happen, Democrats need at least four GOP senators to break with their leadership”


Debunking Trump’s claim that Bolton never raised alarm when he was fired, Rep. Eliot Engel revealed for the first time that the former national security adviser suggested that they probe the improper ouster of Ambassador Yovanovitch in a conversation on September 23rd.


  • CNN: House Foreign Affairs chairman reveals he spoke with Bolton about Yovanovitch ouster  |  “House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel revealed publicly for the first time on Wednesday that he spoke with former national security adviser John Bolton in September about the ouster of former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In a statement, Engel, a New York Democrat, said that during a phone conversation on September 23, Bolton suggested to him that the Foreign Affairs panel "look into" the ambassador's recall and "strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv.’ While Engel said in his statement that he informed investigative colleagues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office told CNN she was not aware of the conversation before a formal impeachment inquiry was announced on September 24, the day after the Engel-Bolton call occurred.”


  • Politico: Eliot Engel says Bolton implied Yovanovitch ouster was improper  |  “Engel’s disclosure of the phone call — which he says he described to the House’s investigative committees last year — appears timed to ramp up pressure on Senate Republicans debating whether to vote in favor of calling additional witnesses as part of the impeachment trial. Trump wrote on Twitter earlier Wednesday that Bolton said “nothing” about his apparent concerns over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — including, as was reported earlier this week, Bolton’s contention in his unpublished book that Trump told him that military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on the country’s willingness to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents.”

See previous daily updates:

January 29, 2020

January 28, 2020

January 27, 2020

January 24, 2020

January 23, 2020

Executive Power, Separation of Powers and Federalism