January 23, 2020
Daily Senate Impeachment Trial Update: January 23
JANUARY 23 UPDATE
Washington Post: Analysis: After Republican senators block new impeachment evidence, Trump boasts about what he’s withholding.
“In total, the Senate took 11 votes on amendments to the rules aimed at broadening the evidence that would be included in the impeachment trial of President Trump… In each case but one, the proposed amendments were tabled on a 47-to-53 vote… Democrats hammered at the significance of rejecting the proposals: Were Senate Republicans saying that they were disinterested in knowing the truth about what happened?... Trump wasn’t in Washington for any of this. As the votes unfolded, he was in Switzerland, having given an address at the World Economic Forum’s annual event in Davos. On Wednesday, [Trump] offered his thoughts during a news conference at the event.
‘I got to watch enough. I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”
That quote, in that context, in that moment, is potentially problematic. Trump appears to be saying that he has material reinforcing how his position of innocence is warranted — material that “they,” presumably Democrats, can’t see. Which, of course, was largely Schumer’s point. There is a lot of evidence that has been withheld by Trump and his administration.
McConnell’s twin goals in the impeachment process are to protect Trump and protect vulnerable swing-state GOP senators. The former effort seemingly necessitates limiting the evidence presented at trial; the latter, ensuring that voters see the trial as fair and thorough. The Senate majority leader worked late into the night to line up 11 victories on the first point — only to see Trump himself undercut the second point from Switzerland a few hours later.”
Mother Jones: Trump Taunts Democrats: “We Have All the Material. They Don’t Have the Material.”
The Week: Trump outright brags he's withholding 'all the material' to beat impeachment
Trump’s budget office released a new trove of documents, two minutes before a midnight deadline that stemmed from a FOIA lawsuit, depicting OMB beginning to implement the Ukraine aid freeze the night before the Trump-Zelensky call – a tip-of-the-iceberg illustration of the kind of key evidence Republicans are blocking.
New York Times: Emails Show Budget Office Working to Carry Out Ukraine Aid Freeze
“The same morning last July when President Trump had his fateful call with Ukraine’s president, White House officials were working behind the scenes to impose the freeze sought by the president on military assistance to Ukraine, reviewing the legal wording they would use to implement the hold, emails released late Tuesday night show. The emails were released as a result of a Freedom of Information lawsuit, even as the Senate was rejecting a series of resolutions introduced by Democrats intended to force the disclosure of some of these same materials from [OMB]’ and other agencies involved in the aid freeze… The White House aides, in the documents, did not offer an explanation for the aid freeze, and instead simply worked to figure out who should respond.”
“The documents depict the back-and-forth at OMB and with the Department of Defense and others as the holdup on more than $200 million of congressionally appropriated military assistance to Ukraine dragged on from late summer, until around the time a whistleblower came forward in September about the President's political pressure on Ukraine… Tuesday's disclosure, part of a public records access lawsuit from American Oversight, comes as Democrats hammered the Trump administration throughout the day and night for stonewalling their subpoenas for documents related to the President's impeachment and handling of Ukraine. This public records lawsuit, among others, has managed to pry hundreds of pages of never-before-seen potential evidence into the public eye as the Senate trial of Trump begins. Public records suits are rarely the first way Congress gains access to documents of interest for its investigations. The Trump White House has refused to turn over documents to the House, claiming immunity from congressional subpoenas.”
Business Insider: Trump staffers planned the Ukraine aid freeze the night before his call to Zelensky, further undermining defense
New York Times’ Trip Gabriel: “Senators Portman and Inhofe demanded last summer to know why OMB withheld aid to Ukraine, new emails released last night show — just as both R’s were voting not to subpoena new evidence from OMB for impeachment trial”
Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin: Adam Schiff’s brilliant presentation is knocking down excuses to acquit
“Given how firmly some Republican senators are ensconced in the right-wing news bubble, and how determined they are to avoid hearing facts that undercut their partisan views, it is possible many of them are hearing the facts on which impeachment is based for the first time. Impeachment manager and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) took them through in meticulous detail the scheme President Trump devised to pressure Ukraine to help him smear former vice president Joe Biden… Schiff stacked one fact upon another until an impenetrable wall of evidence confronted Republicans. What will their excuse for acquittal be? The facts turn out to be a lot stronger, by gosh, than the House Republican apologists said!”
Politico: ‘Corrupt scheme and cover-up': Schiff lays out the case for impeachment “Schiff pressed the case that Trump endangered national security — jeopardizing the U.S. relationship with Ukraine, which is in an active war against a Russian invasion — to boost his political prospects… Schiff also knitted together the Ukraine scandal with another one that has dogged Trump since the start of his presidency: allegations that his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that he lacked evidence to charge any American in the scheme but indicated that Trump welcomed and exploited Russia’s involvement in the election.”
The Hill: Toobin: Schiff's courtroom address was 'second best' I've ever seen | “CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin described House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's opening statement at the Senate impeachment trial Wednesday as ‘dazzling.’ ‘I thought that the way that he wove through both the facts of the case and the historical context was really remarkable,’ Toobin said during the trial's first recess of the day. Toobin added that it was the second best courtroom address he's heard in his life.”
Pew Research: By a Narrow Margin, Americans Say Senate Trial Should Result in Trump’s Removal:
Majority says Trump has definitely or probably done things that are illegal
70% say Trump acted unethically
63% say Trump broke the law
51% say Trump should be removed from office
Washington Post's Greg Sargent: This poll underscores the risk the GOP is taking on a sham trial
“Pew Research has a new poll out that underscores why. It’s packed with new data on public attitudes towards impeachment, and shows surprising support for it among particular voter groups that Republicans probably can’t afford to alienate too deeply this year… For instance: 53% of college educated whites also support removal… a stunning 63% of voters aged 18-29, and 55% of voters aged 30-49, support removal… If a clear majority of college educated whites and an overwhelming majority of young voters want to see Trump removed, acquittal after a sham trial could conceivably work against Trump and Republicans even in swing states, if it helps keep the anti-Trump backlash running strong through November.”
NY Mag's Jonathan Chait: Senate Republicans Will Pay a Price for Helping Trump Conceal Evidence
“Whatever value this position has to the GOP, it is not a political asset. Polls show some three-quarters of the public want the Senate to admit new evidence… With Mueller, Trump was hiding from the truth and foisting it on his lawyers. Now he is foisting it on Senate Republicans. McConnell has held his handful of wavering members together by delaying any decision on new evidence. It is obviously not a choice he relishes. The impeachment trial is an exercise in displaying the Republican Party’s institutional culpability in Trump’s contempt for the rule of law. At some point, they will have to decide to damn the president or to damn themselves.”
When Trump’s legal defense team castigated Democrats Tuesday for refusing to wait for the judiciary to resolve disputes between Congress and the White House, they directly contradicted DOJ’s argument in federal court for blocking testimony from Don McGahn, heightening the chances of a high-stakes ruling against them.
Washington Post: How Trump’s Senate trial lawyers could complicate the case his DOJ lawyers are making in court
“President Trump’s legal team took House Democrats to task in the opening hours of the Senate impeachment trial for refusing to defer to the federal courts and rushing to impeach the president without waiting for judges to resolve lingering disputes over witnesses and evidence. But that doesn’t sound at all like the Trump Justice Department’s team that is actually navigating those courts. In fact, it’s pretty contradictory, some legal experts suggest, and could affect the administration’s efforts in those cases.”
Politico: “In other words, Trump’s case against his removal from office on charges of obstructing Congress — the second article of impeachment that House Democrats adopted last month — relies on an argument that his Justice Department and White House lawyers have explicitly rejected… That jarring reversal, in an effort to slap down Democrats’ push to remove Trump from office, could spill into multiple ongoing legal fights between Congress and the White House — including one that could have immediate ramifications on the impeachment trial: the Trump administration’s challenge to a House subpoena seeking testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.”
The Hill: Nadler Gets Under Republicans' Skin. “After enduring party-line votes for simple requests for documents and testimony from first-hand witnesses, Nadler called out the Republican votes for exactly what they were. This prompted some pearl-clutching from Republican-senators worried over ‘decorum’ while they stayed silent over blatant lies were thrown out by the Trump defense team.”
Vox: “The tension that led to those remarks seemed to have little to do with either side forgetting where they were, however, and more to do with Democrats’ frustration over the counsel’s willingness to misrepresent key facts — and, at times, to simply lie. Deception and misrepresentation have been key aspects of the president’s impeachment defense strategy so far; for instance, he responded to Tuesday’s proceedings by tweeting that everyone ought to ‘READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!’ These transcripts do not exonerate him — instead, they provide evidence that Trump did indeed attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals. But Trump has argued the opposite is true, and Tuesday, his counsel signaled it will pursue a similar strategy in defending the president against removal.”
Slate: “By the time Nadler spoke, McConnell’s promise to work hand in glove with Trump’s defense counsel had effectively been endorsed by every Republican senator. Nadler was merely describing the reality that a vote to block evidence and witnesses is a vote to hide the facts of Trump’s abuses of power.”