Showing posts with label Trump Impeachment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trump Impeachment. Show all posts

December 18, 2019

The Cards Speaker Pelosi Still Carries to Dissolve The GOP Bluff on Impeachment

Image result for impeachment
 Trump will be married to the man he loves Pres. Bill Clinton for all eternity while there is the US

In the weeks since the House impeachment hearings started, Republicans have flitted from one argument to the next to try to convince Americans that the process lacks validity. One point they have made repeatedly is that the evidence is largely hearsay, and therefore invalid.

I teach federal evidence law, and that argument doesn’t hold water. Much of the testimony in the record wouldn’t be hearsay at all under federal court rules, and other statements would be admissible under one or another hearsay exception. Moreover, as Senate Republicans have made obvious with their recent proclamations about how the Senate should proceed, an impeachment trial isn’t a federal court proceeding.

It’s an absurd situation. Republicans say the evidence isn’t up to snuff. Yet the very man under investigation, President Trump, is the one who has blocked the testimony of witnesses who might strengthen the case.

The time has come for congressional Democrats to call the Republicans’ bluff: They should go to court to compel testimony from key members of Trump’s inner circle who have firsthand knowledge of the president’s dealings with Ukraine, including former national security advisor John Bolton and White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. These witnesses should tell the House what they know, under oath, even if that means delaying a vote on the articles of impeachment.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s plain from the evidence already in the record that Trump should be impeached and removed for abusing his powers in badgering Ukraine’s newly minted president to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.

But on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear that he plans to serve as the president’s advocate in any Senate trial. And, as McConnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, he already believes there is “no chance” the president will be removed based on the current articles of impeachment and evidence. Other Republican senators made clear over the weekend that they will join McConnell, and not a single member of the majority leader’s party has spoken publicly against his plan.

It’s true that testimony from witnesses like Mulvaney, Bolton and former White House Counsel Donald McGahn isn’t necessary to the already strong case for removal. But it is important not to set a precedent that rewards the president for ordering administration officials to defy the House as it exercises its impeachment powers, and McConnell will try to do just that by ending the trial without testimony from these and other witnesses.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York has now proposed that Democrats be allowed to call the president’s recalcitrant witnesses to the stand at the impeachment trial. If that’s permitted, then the House should move forward promptly with an impeachment vote. 

But if McConnell and his band of Trump defenders in the Senate make clear they will suppress the very testimony that would answer their claims of weak evidence, then it’s time for Plan B.

What can House members do instead of walking into a rubber-stamp acquittal in the Senate?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could announce that the articles of impeachment voted by the House Judiciary Committee last week will be brought to the floor at a future appropriate, but unspecified, time.

The speaker could then hold a news conference announcing that — to address House Republicans’ evidentiary demands — the House will seek testimony from additional firsthand witnesses. It will do so by using every subpoena-defying witness in federal court, seeking court orders that these officials appear and testify under oath. Then the House should subpoena any others whose testimony could supplement the record.

True, it will take months to adjudicate these cases, which is why Democrats have decided up to now not to sue. But that decision was made back when some thought GOP senators might actually consider with an open mind the available evidence, including the president’s obstruction of lawful subpoenas. If the Senate GOP will allow only a whitewash, then Democrats’ calculus should be different.

At worst, a months-long pause will delay the inevitable. But in the meantime, the president’s abuses will stay in the news, and that might constrain Trump from further abusing his power, since adding additional articles of impeachment would be easier for the House before a Senate acquittal than after.

House Democrats should resist McConnell’s plan to produce only the barest mockery of a trial. They are standard-bearers of a coequal branch of government, and now the last line of defense for the rule of law.

Speaker Pelosi still has cards to play. She should use them to call the Republicans’ bluff.

Jonah B. Gelbach is a professor of law at UC Berkeley. He teaches evidence law and civil procedure.

November 6, 2019

Trump's Impeachment Investigation, This is What We Know So far

The contents of the call were revealed in a whistleblower complaint by an intelligence official. Testimony by Trump administration officials past and present, a rough transcript of the phone call released by the White House, texts between U.S. diplomats and other documents have largely confirmed the whistleblower's account. (Graphic on inquiry: here
 He only meant that for Democrats not members of his party

 Trump denies wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a witch hunt by Democrats. 
Here’s what we know so far: 
- A rough transcript of the call on July 25 between Trump and Zelenskiy confirmed the whistleblower’s most damaging allegation - that Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company on which Hunter Biden, the son of JoeBiden, had served as a board member. Trump, a Republican, also asked Zelenskiy to “do us a favor” and investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that a hackedDemocratic National Committee computer server was in Ukraine, according to the transcript. 
- Text messages between Trump’s Ukraine special envoy, Kurt Volker, his European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, show that pressure was exerted on Zelenskiy to make a public statement committing himself to investigate Burisma before he would be allowed to meet with Trump at the White House, part of the “quid pro quo” - Latin for a favor - that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. 
- Sondland, a hotelier and Trump donor, testified to congressional investigators that Trump largely delegated Ukrainepolicy to Giuliani. He said Trump told him and other officials at a White House meeting to coordinate with Giuliani, who at the time was seeking to dig up dirt on Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Sondland expressed disquiet in his testimony about allowing a private citizen to have such an influential role in U.S. foreign policy.  - In testimony considered the most damning to date, the topU.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, said Trump made the release of U.S. security aid to Ukraine contingent on Kievpublicly declaring it would carry out the investigations that the U.S. president sought. 
Trump has contended that he did not hold up the $391 million in U.S. military aid to pressure Zelenskiy. Taylor also said Trump had made a White House visit by Zelenskiy contingent on his opening the investigations. 
- In remarks on Oct. 17 that stunned many in Washington, Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged that the aid to Ukraine was indeed linked to Trump’s request for investigations into the debunked conspiracy theory and HunterBiden. Mulvaney later contradicted himself in a statement from the White House that ruled out a quid pro quo. 
- The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified that Trump had ousted her from her position based on” unfounded and false claims” after she had come under attack by Giuliani. She was abruptly recalled from Kiev in May and told that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could not protect her from Trump any longer, according to a transcript of her testimony. She said she felt threatened by Trump describing her on his call with Zelenskiy as “bad news.” 
- Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, testified that he had helped to connect Giuliani with a top aide to Ukraine's president as the president’s personal lawyer continued to seek information damaging to the Bidens. Volker said he was unaware of Giuliani’s mission at the time and that in the now released text messages between him, Sondland and Giuliani there was no explicit mention of the Bidens. 
- Michael McKinley, a former adviser to Secretary of StateMike Pompeo, testified that he quit a few days before hisappearance to congressional committees because of departmental leadership’s unwillingness to defend Yovanovitchfrom the attacks on her. He also objected to what he said was the Trump administration using ambassadors to advance domestic political objectives, according to a transcript of his testimony. 
- Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton expressed alarm about Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine policy and the efforts to press Zelenskiy to give Trump political help, the U.S. president’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill testified. Democratic investigators want to talk to Bolton.  - A top adviser to Trump on Ukraine has testified that he was so alarmed after hearing Trump ask Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden in the July 25 phone call that he reported the matter to a White House lawyer out of concern for U.S. national security. Army Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman said the lawyer, John Eisenberg, took the unusual step of moving a transcript of the call into the White House’s most classified computer system. 
- Two foreign-born Florida businessmen who helped Giuliani investigate the Bidens in Ukraine have been indicted for a scheme to illegally funnel money to a pro-Trump election committee and other U.S. political candidates. They have pleaded not guilty.

October 29, 2019

What a Fu*up Week For Trump on His Impeachment Saga


President Trump kicked off his week much like he ended his last: deflecting damning revelations coming from within his own administration. 
Things got ugly Tuesday, when Trump’s own acting ambassador to Ukraine, a widely-respected career diplomat, delivered an “excruciatingly detailed” account of the president’s pressure campaign to swap military aid for politically-helpful investigations with Ukraine.  
Ambassador William Taylor’s testimony was especially troubling for Trump because he appeared to confirm, and expand upon, the lengths to which officials in Trump’s administration went to force Ukraine into launching such investigations.  
By Friday, federal investigators had blown the lock off a safe to access the contents in their intensifying probe of soviet-born businessmen who guided Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in his back-alley diplomatic escapades in Ukraine, according to CNN. One of those men explicitly tied his case to Trump in a New York courtroom, further challenging Trump’s claim not to know “those gentlemen.” 
And we’d be remiss not to mention Rudy’s not one, but two, embarrassing butt-dials to an NBC reporter, in which he complained about needing money and Vice President Joe Biden’s family. 
As signs emerged of softening support for Trump among GOP senators, Trump’s defenders in the House flailed, holding a bizarre pizza-fueled takeover of the secure room in the basement of the Capitol where the closed-door impeachment depositions are being held, even though several of them already have unrestricted access to the chamber. 
“At this point, it seems hard to imagine that the House won’t ultimately impeach the president,” said Richard Arenberg, a veteran Capitol Hill staffer who spent three decades working for Democrats. “Ambassador Taylor’s statement was devastating.” “Everything” depended on investigations
Taylor kicked the week off with a hair-raising account of his discovery of the “irregular” diplomatic pressure campaign on Ukraine, which involved Giuliani and Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. 
Taylor’s dramatic opening statement read like a mystery novel — and recounted how Sondland told Taylor that Trump wanted Ukraine’s president to personally announce politically helpful investigations.  
Trump wanted to put Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky “‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations,” said Taylor, who was appointed an acting ambassador to Ukraine last spring by the Trump administration. 
Taylor said Sondland told him that “everything” in U.S.-Ukraine relations depended on Ukraine announcing those investigations — including millions in vital military aid that the Trump administration withheld. 
“Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelensky and [Zelensky adviser] Mr. Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelensky did not ‘clear things up’ in public, we would be at a stalemate,” Taylor said. “I understood a ‘stalemate’ to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed assistance.”
Democrats emerging from Taylor’s testimony looked visibly agitated.
“All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress... this is my most disturbing day in Congress so far,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.). 
Republicans were left to argue that Taylor’s narrative hadn't held up as well during cross-examination, without pointing to any specifics. 
Instead, they stormed the hearing room the next day, stalling the deposition of a new witness, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper, for hours.
They complained loudly about the process, ordered pizza, and broke House rules by bringing cell phones into the secure room known as the SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility) in a security breach. 
Ultimately, they couldn’t stop Democrats’ impeachment momentum. 
Next week, the Dems will hear from Tim Morrison, a National Security Council official thought to be the first witness who was on the notorious July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, which helped kickstart the whole impeachment shebang. 

Meanwhile in New York

As if all that D.C. drama weren’t enough, a criminal case in New York against some of the central players in the impeachment scandal also raced forward. 
A report in Politico indicated that the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division has “taken an interest” in Giuliani, too, adding to the already-reported probes by the FBI and prosecutors for the Southern District of New York into Giuliani’s links to Ukraine. 
Prosecutors told a judge this week they’re sifting through the data of more than 50 bank accounts in the case against Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who’ve been accused, alongside two others, of attempting to buy political influence by splashing out on illegal GOP campaign donations. 
But to do that, he may just tie his case closer to the president. On Wednesday, Parnas’ lawyer told the judge that some of the voluminous evidence in his case might be covered by presidential executive privilege — remarks that threaten to drag Trump’s White House lawyers directly into the very courtroom. 
“Mr. Parnas was using Rudy Giuliani as his lawyer,” Parnas' attorney, Ed MacMahon, told the judge, according to CNN. “And then we have the issue of Mr. Giuliani working as personal attorney for the President.”
Cover: President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, before boarding Marine One for the short trip to Andrews Air Force Base. Trump is heading to South Carolina to speak at Benedict College in Columbia. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

October 22, 2019

"The Three Amigos" Update on Impeachment of Trump

 President Trump deputized lawyer Rudy Giuliani to run a shadow foreign policy for Ukraine outside the State Department, witnesses told Congress this past week — and the White House said people should "get over it."
It has been a busy week. Here's what you need to know about the latest in the Ukraine affair and the impeachment investigation.
Image result for Ukraine three amigos
 These dudes ran the show under Mayor Giuliani in the Ukraine and Trump as
Chief in Law-Breaking and Bandolero ( Tres Amigos + dos bandoleros)
 Mister mayor and Bandolero in Ukraine
Giuliani has been an important figure in Trump world for years, but what investigators heard was how central he was in the plan to get Ukraine's government to launch investigations that Trump wanted.
Trump wanted Ukraine's new government, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate a conspiracy theory of Trump's about the 2016 cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, ostensibly over "corruption."
In exchange, it appears, Trump was prepared to engage with Zelenskiy and continue the flow of military assistance, appropriated by Congress, that had been flowing to Kyiv since it was invaded by Russia in 2014.
Although Trump may not have told many officials about that plan in real time, Trump did ask early on for many of them to work with Giuliani in their dealings with Europe and with Ukraine, the witnesses said.
The "hand grenade"
Top aides including then-national security adviser John Bolton and Trump's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, may have worried about the Ukraine pressure strategy on its merits. Ukraine is a U.S. ally resisting a military incursion by an adversary, its neighbor Russia.
Because the depositions are closed, it still isn't fully clear what witnesses have told Congress.
But what has become clear is how unhappy the national security and foreign policy professionals were at being asked to involve someone they viewed as an interloper in Giuliani.
Bolton warned he was a "hand grenade" in danger of blowing up and hurting everyone around him, Hill told members of Congress, according to people familiar with her testimony. She also was said to have flagged concerns within the National Security Council about what she considered departures from official process.
Bolton and Hill resigned earlier this year.
People still within the administration, however, also are said to resent what they considered the interference represented by Giuliani — along with what may have been incomplete awareness in real time about what Trump was orchestrating with U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
Three top current and former State Department officials — Michael McKinley, George Kent and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland — are understood to have told House investigators they thought foreign policy should be conducted by diplomats and professionals.
McKinley said he resented the scourging — led by Giuliani — of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, which resulted in her being discredited inside the administration and withdrawn from Kyiv prematurely.
Members of Congress earlier reviewed materials submitted by a State Department whistleblower that were described as "propaganda" about Yovanovitch that led to her ouster. She testified on Oct. 11
Why did Trump sideline the diplomats?

Kent told members of Congress that the White House wanted a reliable cadre of "three amigos" handling the Ukraine portfolio, according to one account of his testimony given by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.
If correct, this suggests the president or Giuliani did not consider Yovanovitch, Hill or others trustworthy enough as the White House was shaping its pressure campaign for Ukraine.
Instead, Trump or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney commissioned the "amigos:" Sondland; Kurt Volker, another State Department envoy to Ukraine; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Sondland talked to Congress on Thursday. Volker appeared on Oct. 3
Perry has been subpoenaed, but it isn't clear whether he'll appear. He said on Thursday that he's resigning at the end of this year. Trump has reportedly credited — or blamed — Perry for the call with Zelenskiy.
Game of telephone
Many details still aren't clear and accounts differ as to who decided what and when or communicated which version of events. The public could get a clearer picture if and when members of Congress release the full transcripts of the depositions they've been conducting with the witnesses. 
According to an anonymous intelligence community whistleblower, whose complaint about the pressure scheme was what animated this saga, Ukraine's president was primed before his July 25 call with Trump about the need to "play ball" with Trump's requests for the investigations.
Investigators want to know who primed him and how. This week brought more of that into focus. Giuliani, Volker and Sondland all are known to have been in touch with Zelenskiy or people in his camp.
But what Sondland told Congress was that he was kept in the dark about the full dimensions of Trump's plans for Kyiv. Once he and the others learned military assistance to Ukraine had been frozen, Sondland said he opposed the picture he was piecing together.
Who knew what when
Sondland's account is important for two reasons: First, he told members of Congress that the account he was given of Trump's call with Zelenskiy did not mention the request for investigations about the Democrats' server or Biden.
That suggests, if correct, that the White House was hiding those details even from members of its own administration handling Ukraine.
Second, it's important for Sondland's sake because he's the one who sent a text message — among those released earlier by Democrats — that declared to other diplomats dubious about the Ukraine pressure scheme that Trump had made clear it was not a quid pro quo.
What Sondland told members of Congress on Thursday was that as he and others within the State Department realized that Trump expected concessions from Zelenskiy and then had frozen the military aid, Sondland phoned Trump to ask personally about what they were doing.
In what Sondland described as a brief conversation with a grouchy Trump, the diplomat recalled the president repeating the words "no quid pro quo with Ukraine."
Sondland reportedly was prepared to tell House investigators that all he was doing in his subsequent text message was conveying to the others what Trump had said, not validating or endorsing that position.
The question about a "quid pro quo" is important in case there are legal issues for the diplomats involved, Giuliani or, theoretically, Trump — although one lesson from the Russia imbroglio was that Trump needn't worry about indictment by the Justice Department.
That's why some Democrats argue their only recourse now is the quasi-legal, mostly political — and historically rare — path toward impeachment.
"Get over it"
What also makes the Ukraine affair unusual in the pantheon of Washington scandals is how quickly the facts about it flashed into public view and how readily the White House has acknowledged so many of them.
Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, told reporters on Thursday that, yes, Trump expected concessions from Zelenskiy in exchange for engagement with the United States — but that's how this game is played, he said.
And as for what Mulvaney called the complaints by the State Department and national security officials about Trump giving the Ukraine portfolio to Giuliani, he called it sour grapes by jealous bureaucrats.
The administration works for the president, all foreign policy is political and everyone, Mulvaney said, needs to "get over it."
Trump's campaign later put that epigram on a T-shirt.
Mulvaney later sought to walk back some of what he said in his press conference — specifically that Trump's request that Zelenskiy investigate the Democrats' "server" was a "quid pro quo."
But the words already were out in the open, and another point he made also endures: The Ukraine affair, for everything else it is, isn't a cover-up.
The investigation wears on
Republicans have faulted the impeachment inquiry as illegitimate and White House counsel Pat Cipollone vowed that the administration wouldn't participate in it — but the stream of witnesses into the Capitol hasn't slowed.
Although Cipollone's objections may mean that members of Congress don't hear from some of the boldfaced names they might request, including Pompeo, Bolton, Giuliani and Vice President Pence, investigators do have a full dance card.
Starting on Tuesday, House investigators are scheduled to hear from the current top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who took over the mission to Kyiv after Yovanovitch was withdrawn and whose texts were among those released earlier.
On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to hear from another State Department official, Ambassador Philip Reeker, as well as Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs within the Office of Management and Budget.
On Thursday, investigators are set to take depositions from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And that's not all, according to one official working on the impeachment inquiry.
"The committees are in ongoing discussions with other witnesses, and we look forward to their testimony," the official said.

June 21, 2019

Impeachment Whip Count

If you were to go by the main media you might get the feeling
all democrats on the hill are for impeachment.
When you go by the numbers a different picture emerges. Yes many are
for impeachment but many are with the Speaker in wanting to get more
facts to the american people to get them behind the process.
72 House Democrats and one House Republican now publicly support launching an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, according to an Axios analysis.
Why it matters: The whip count surged in the aftermath of Robert Mueller's statement last week, and again after Trump told ABC News that he would consider accepting intelligence on opponents from foreign nationals. But even still, pro-impeachment Democrats still only amount to slightly over a quarter of the 235-member caucus. 
  • That figure is likely to stay well below the threshold necessary to launch impeachment in the House until the moment — if it ever comes — that Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives her blessing.
By the numbers:
  • 14 of the 24 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee publicly support an impeachment inquiry. 21 are needed to refer an impeachment resolution to the House floor.
  • Of the 8 Democrats that Axios identified as "influential" — the 3 top members of leadership and 5 committee chairs investigating Trump — only one publicly supports impeachment: Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters. Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler has reportedly pushed privately to open an impeachment inquiry.
  • None of the 17 Democrats running in "toss-up" districts in 2020 are pro-impeachment, according to the Cook Political Report.
The big picture: Pelosi has long wagered that impeachment would be fruitless without overwhelming public support, and right now, the public isn't there. 41% of the public supported impeachment as of May 31, down significantly from an all-time high of 47% in September 2018, according to a CNN poll.
  • That doesn't account for the conventional wisdom that a Republican-controlled Senate would never vote to convict Trump and remove him from office even if the House impeached him.
The bottom line: Many of the Democrats who publicly support impeachment are the same ones that are already known for being outspoken critics of the president. That masks the reality that 75% of the caucus, including its leader, remains opposed. 
Editor's note: The graphic has been updated to clarify that the list includes both House members who have called for impeachment and those who support launching an inquiry Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon, Lazaro Gamio/Axios 
218 needed to impeach
362 are against, or have no public position
164 Democrats, 198 Republicans 

73 are for an impeachment inquiry
72 Democrats, 1 Republican:  ↡↡↡see below

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