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

February 5, 2020

A Lawless President Gets Acquitted Along Party Lines with One Exception

The Senate has acquitted President Trump of abuse of power and is expected to acquit him shortly of obstruction of Congress. Update: Acquitted of the two articles!
The big picture: This is the ending that was expected all along, but the way the Senate trial ended — with nearly every Republican declining to pursue new information about Trump's Ukraine activities — has raised alarms about the growth of presidential power and the refusal of Congress to stop it.
This story will be updated at the conclusion of the votes.
By the numbers: Every Democrat voted to convict Trump, along with Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — the only Republican to vote for conviction.
  • Abuse of power: 48-52
By bringing the trial to such a quick end without calling witnesses — even as new revelations about Trump's activities emerged on a near-daily basis — the Senate made it easier for Trump and future presidents to do whatever they want as long as they have enough allies in Congress, presidential historians and congressional experts say.
  • "This opens the door for not only President Trump but future presidents to use the vast powers of the federal government against political targets," said Ken Hughes, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia's Miller Center.
  • Justin Rood, director of the Congressional Oversight Initiative at the Project on Government Oversight, said the acquittal vote will "forcefully reduce Congress' power to its lowest point in modern history. And it virtually ensures it will stay there for a generation."
  • "It will be a long, difficult, grueling fight for both chambers to regain powers they once had," said Rood, who worked as an investigator for former Republican Sen. Tom Coburn.
One of the biggest concerns is that Trump was able to stall Congress successfully, not just on witnesses with direct knowledge of what happened, but on documents that could have provided more detailed evidence.
  • That means Trump would be an example of "stonewalling Congress with legal impunity," said Peter Shane, a law professor at Ohio State University and an expert on executive power. But the ultimate fallout is still to be determined, Shane said — because "if Trump loses in November or the Democrats retake Senate control, the precedent of 'acquittal' would become ambiguous."
The other side: Retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, whose legacy will now be shaped in part by his decision to block witnesses in the Senate trial despite stating that he thinks the president "did it," told Axios he disagrees with the experts. 
  • Instead, he thinks Trump's acquittal sends a message to the House of Representatives: "Don't send us half-baked, partisan impeachments," Alexander said. 
  • "If we allow the establishment of a weapon of perpetual impeachment, it would destabilize the presidency, it would bring business in the Senate to a halt, and it would make the House of Representatives much more powerful than the Constitution imagined."
  • Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana maintained Congress still has an oversight role: "Does anything anybody think that if the president proposed something that would be untoward his advisors would not push back vigorously?"
  • When reminded that Trump's advisors didn't push back vigorously, Cassidy said: "I’m using the future tense, okay? If people think that there's gonna be an oversight, they tend to mind P's and Q’s.” 
The bottom line: Trump's trial will serve as a precedent for future impeachments — and by Democrats' own admission, the impeachment effort, which they knew would fail in the Senate, will have a permanent impact on the power of congressional oversight.
  • "His continuing obstruction is a threat to the oversight and investigatory powers of the House and Senate, and if left unaddressed will permanently and dangerously alter the balance of power," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, said during his closing arguments on Monday. 
  • "What are the odds if left in office that he will continue trying to cheat? I will tell you: 100 percent," Schiff said. "If you have found him guilty and you do not remove him from office, he will continue trying to cheat in the election until he succeeds. Then what shall you say?" 
What to watch: Just because the impeachment trial has ended does not mean that the bitter debate over whether Trump's actions toward Ukraine were justified dies with it. 
  • Some Democrats have singled a desire to continue investigating Trump and pushing for more information from key aides, while some Republicans, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, are just as hungry for Hunter Biden's blood.
Axios' David Nather and Margaret Talev contributed to this story.

February 2, 2020

Looks Like Trump Will Be Acquitted But Nixon Had Something to do with It


 Donald Trump (left) Richard Nixon (right)
            Image result for nixon and Trump

By James Robenalt, the author of "January 1973: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed American Forever"

When President Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974, he successor, Gerald Ford, told the nation that “our long national nightmare is over.” But with Alan Dershowitz’s arguments during President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on Wednesday that a president can do almost anything “that he believes will help him get elected — in the public interest,” it is clear that Nixon’s resignation left a serious gap in the precedents of impeachments.
Indeed, Dershowitz may have some of the last words on the matter. On Friday, the Senate voted to not allow new witnessesincluding John Bolton. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that the Senate will vote soon to acquit Trump. So what went wrong here, if you believed conviction was appropriate? The answer starts with the Nixon precedent, or better said, the lack of precedent. The precedents set by each impeachment are important. And what happened to Nixon can help explain what happened, however different, to Trump. 
The nation has only faced an official impeachment vote three times: President Andrew Johnson in 1868; President Bill Clinton in 1999; and now President Donald Trump. It is often incorrectly assumed that Nixon was impeached but resigned before the Senate could convict. Instead, the House Judiciary Committee sent the articles of impeachment to the full House, but the body never got the chance to vote on them. An intervening event, the Supreme Court order that Nixon turns over his tapes, started a chain reaction that led quickly to Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974
Nixon’s action, while saving the nation further agony in the short run, may be responsible for this trial’s mangling of the constitutional standards for impeachment. Trump’s lawyers have contended that “high crimes and misdemeanors” requires the showing of the commission of a crime. Dershowitz, contrary to his own statements during the Clinton impeachment, vehemently argued that a president cannot be impeached for “abuse of power” unless a crime is involved. 
Had Nixon fought his impeachment there may have been some clarity on these questions. The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of three articles: one on the cover-up of the Watergate investigation; a second on abusing the powers of his office; and a third on his willful disobedience of Congressional subpoenas.
The exact same arguments we see today broke out in 1974, also along party lines. The Democratic majority in the committee argued that a technical showing of the commission of a crime was not required. The question, rather, was what the English practice had been focused on: abuse of power. “The emphasis,” they wrote, “has been on the significant effects of the conduct—undermining the integrity of the office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process, adverse impact on the system of government.” 
The Republicans in the minority, on the other hand, insisted that impeachments “can lie only for serious criminal offenses.” The Republicans could find no provable crime with Nixon, even though they had John Dean’s testimony and transcripts of tapes that disclosed Nixon agreeing to the payment of “hush money” to criminal defendants to keep them from talking, to say nothing of dangling pardons for at least E. Howard Hunt. The Republicans quibbled about whether Nixon was really authorizing the payments or if there was enough proof of his misuse of the pardon power.
Had Nixon’s impeachment reached fruition in the Senate, a precedent would have been set, almost certainly establishing the majority view that impeachment is all about abuse of power.
But the Supreme Court intervened. In late July 1974, the court decided United States v. Nixon and ordered the president to turn over certain tapes. One tape of a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff on June 23, 1972, hit hard. In the conversation, Nixon agrees that the CIA should tell the FBI to end the Watergate investigation on the bogus premise that the FBI might be getting into CIA operations.
I don't agree entirely with the story I just posted above. The reason is that this impeachment and trial of Tump shows that any president can be impeached or set loose depending on how much he controls the senate. Most Americans know that Congress is full of people that are known for their mouths but not their courage. The only weapon they seem to have is their mouth a weapon they like to use with those who haven't been weaponized as well as them. The Republicans are as dirty as Trump. I'm sure they will soon be invited to the white house for cocktails. There is one way to bring justice and is less than a year away and is called elections.
ps: Watch Bolton book because this bird is not yet dead~~~

January 24, 2020

FACT Check: False and Misleading Claims at Impeachment Trial

 Impeachment Trial of President Clinton

White House lawyers distorted the facts on the impeachment process and other issues during the Jan. 21 Senate trial:
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone falsely suggested Republicans were barred from the closed-door depositions conducted by the House intelligence committee. But members of three committees — both Democrats and Republicans — participated.
  • Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump’s attorney, falsely said, “During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the president was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses … the right to access evidence and … the right to have counsel present at hearings.” The committee chair invited Trump and his lawyers to participate, but they declined.
  • Cipollone claimed Rep. Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chairman, “manufactured a false version” of the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president and “he didn’t tell” the American people “it was a complete fake.” Schiff indicated he was giving “the essence” of Trump’s remarks and about an hour later said it was “at least partly in parody.”
  • Sekulow said the special counsel’s report on Russian interference during the 2016 election found Trump committed “no obstruction.” That’s not what the report said. While the report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” it said, citing “multiple acts by the President that was capable of exerting undue influence.” 
In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his resolution outlining the impeachment trial procedures “tracks closely” with the rules of trials for other presidents. How closely McConnell’s resolution tracks with the procedures used in the past may be a matter of opinion. However, there are some differences between the rules for Trump’s trial and President Bill Clinton’s.
The lawyers and McConnell made their remarks during the opening comments and debate over the rules for the trial of the president.
Republicans Weren’t Blocked from Closed-Door Interviews
White House counsel Cipollone falsely suggested that Republicans weren’t given the same access as Democrats to the closed-door depositions in the fall led by the House intelligence committee.
Cipollone, Jan. 21: The proceedings took place in a basement of the House of Representatives. … Not even [House intelligence committee chairman Adam] Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF.
Cipollone was referring to the closed-door interviews conducted in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, a secure room used to discuss or view classified and sensitive material. But both Democrats and Republicans on the committees leading the impeachment inquiry in the House had access to the SCIF.
Transcripts of the closed-door proceedings, which were held before public hearings beganon Nov. 13, show Republican committee members asking questions of the witnesses. For instance, the Oct. 17 closed-door testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was later publicly released, and it shows several Republican lawmakers were present, including the ranking minority members of the intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees: Republican Reps. Devin NunesJim Jordan and Michael McCaul. They all asked questions of Sondland, the transcript shows. The House intelligence committee Democratic and Republican lawyers — Daniel Goldman and Steve Castor — also were present and questioned Sondland.
Similarly, the Nov. 16 deposition of Mark Sandy, the deputy associate director for national security at the Office of Management and Budget, shows both Democrats and Republicans from the committees were present and asked questions. 
During the Jan. 21 Senate proceedings, Schiff, who is also one of the House impeachment managers, later addressed Cipollone’s claim, saying: “He’s mistaken. Every Republican on the three investigative committees was allowed to participate in the depositions. And more than that, they got the same time we did.”
Cipollone may have been misleadingly referring to an effort by Republicans who weren’t on the intelligence, oversight or foreign affairs committees to gain entrance to the SCIF. That Oct. 23 event, led by Reps. Matt Gaetz and Steve Scalise, was held to protest the non-public aspect of the impeachment inquiry at that point, the lawmakers said.
Cipollone further complained that “the president was forbidden from attending” the closed-door depositions and that “the president was not allowed to have a lawyer present.”
The depositions weren’t hearings or trials, but rather a congressional inquiry. As we mentioned, Republican counsel — though not the president’s — did participate.
Trump Declined to Participate in Judiciary Hearings
In his opening remarks, Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal attorneys representing him at the Senate impeachment, criticized how the House Judiciary Committee conducted its impeachment hearings. But he got the facts wrong.
Sekulow’s comment came after Schiff spoke of “the trifecta of constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”
Sekulow, Jan. 21: Mr. Schiff also talked about a trifecta. I’ll give you a trifecta. During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the president was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, the president was denied the right to access evidence, and the president was denied the right to have counsel present at hearings.
None of that is true. Trump was offered all of that, but he declined to participate in the House Judiciary Committee hearings.
In a Nov. 26, 2019, letter, Rep. Jerry Nadler — the chairman of the Judiciary Committee — invited Trump and his lawyer to attend the committee hearings and ask questions of the witnesses (subject to Nadler’s approval).
The letter also offered to provide Trump with evidence gathered during the impeachment inquiry – including transcripts of the closed depositions and appending information and materials.
“I write to ask if — pursuant to H. Res. 660 and the relating Judiciary Committee Impeachment Inquiry procedures — you and your counsel plan to attend the hearing or make a request to question the witness panel,” Nadler’s letter said.
The resolution itself, which was included in the letter, said: “The House authorizes the Committee on the Judiciary to conduct proceedings relating to the impeachment inquiry referenced in the first section of this resolution pursuant to the procedures submitted for printing in the Congressional Record by the chair of the Committee on Rules, including such procedures as to allow for the participation of the President and his counsel.”
In a section of the letter that bears the headline “Impeachment Inquiry Procedures in the Committee on the Judiciary,” Nadler laid out the procedures – including this offer to the president and his legal team:
Nadler letter to Trump, Nov. 26, 2019: The President’s counsel shall be furnished a copy of the report(s), record(s) or other materials referenced in section 2(5) and (6) or section 3 of H. Res. 660, and any material furnished to the Committee pursuant to this section. The President and his counsel shall be invited to attend and observe the initial presentations, and the President’s counsel may ask questions, subject to instructions from the chair or presiding member respecting the time, scope and duration of the examination.
Section 2 of H. Res. 660 refers to these records:
(5) The chair is authorized to make publicly available in electronic form the transcripts of depositions conducted by the Permanent Select Committee in furtherance of the investigation described in the first section of this resolution, with appropriate redactions for classified and other sensitive information.
(6) The Permanent Select Committee is directed to issue a report setting forth its findings and any recommendations and appending any information and materials the Permanent Select Committee may deem appropriate with respect to the investigation described in the first section of this resolution. The chair shall transmit such report and appendices, along with any supplemental, minority, additional, or dissenting views filed pursuant to clause 2(l) of rule XI, to the Committee on the Judiciary and make such report publicly available in electronic form, with appropriate redactions to protect classified and other sensitive information. The report required by this paragraph shall be prepared in consultation with the chairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The records referenced in section 3 described “additional materials” that may be transferred from the House intelligence committee to the Judiciary Committee.
Nadler gave the president until Dec. 1 to respond — three days before the first hearing, which was scheduled for Dec. 4.
Cipollone, the White House counsel, replied by the Dec. 1 deadline with a letter that said the president and his legal team would not participate in the Dec. 4 hearing, but reserved the right to decide if he will attend future hearings. Cipollone criticized the hearing format, which he described as “an academic discussion” that would not “provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”
The Dec. 4 hearing was limited to testimony from four constitutional scholars on the constitutional grounds for impeachment.
“[A]n invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process,” Cipollone wrote. “Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”
On Dec. 6, Cipollone wrote a second letter to Nadler called the impeachment inquiry “completely baseless” and a “waste” of time. He didn’t say whether the White House would participate in any future hearings, but that same day an unnamed White House official toldCNN: “The letter communicates that we will not participate in this process.”
The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Dec. 9 that was limited to testimony from the majority and minority committee lawyers for the House intelligence and judiciary committees.
On Dec. 13, the committee voted along party lines, 23-17, to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump.
In a 658-page report, “Impeachment of Donald J. Trump President of the United States,” the committee said, “Consistent with House precedent after the evidence arrived at the Judiciary Committee, the Committee invited President Trump and his counsel to participate in the process. Notably, and unlike past Presidents, President Trump declined to attend any hearings, question any witnesses, or recommend that the Committee call additional witnesses in his defense.”
Schiff’s Dramatic Reading, Misrepresented
Cipollone repeated a false talking point about a dramatic interpretation Schiff once gave of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Cipollone, Jan. 21: Let’s remember how we all got here: They made false allegations about a telephone call. The president of the United States declassified that telephone call and released it to the public. How’s that for transparency? When Mr. Schiff found out that there was nothing to his allegations, he focused on the second telephone call. … When Mr. Schiff saw that his allegations were false, and he knew it anyway, what did he do? He went to the House and he manufactured a fraudulent version of that call. He manufactured a false version of that call; he read it to the American people, and he didn’t tell them it was a complete fake.
On Sept. 25, Trump did release a White House memo of his July 25 phone call, which was at the heart of an anonymous whistleblower complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry. That memo backed up the main points the whistleblower made about the phone call. In fact, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified that the complaint “is in alignment with” the memo. 
There was a second, previous phone call on April 21, for which Trump released a memo in mid-November, but that call wasn’t the focus of the complaint.
Schiff did give an embellished rendition of the White House memo of the July phone call at the start of a Sept. 26 House intelligence committee hearing. As we’ve explained before, Schiff said he was recounting “the essence of what the president communicates” and “in not so many words.”
We leave it for readers to judge whether or not it was immediately clear that Schiff was giving his own take on the call. Some of what he said was similar to the memo, and some of it wasn’t. But it was clear to at least one Republican member in the hearing, who called outSchiff for the embellishments about an hour after the chairman’s dramatized remarks.
A few minutes later, Schiff responded: “My summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody.”
Mueller Report on Collusion, Obstruction
Sekulow also made a misleading claim about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The Mueller report concluded that “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” in a successful attempt to help elect Trump.
Russia did this through two operations: “a social media campaign that favored … Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,” and “computer-intrusion operations” that allowed Russia to steal and then release emails and documents that were damaging to the Clinton campaign.
The special counsel’s office also investigated whether Trump or his campaign associates and allies coordinated with Russia on any of this illegal activity. Sekulow said that part of the investigation came up “empty.”
Sekulow, Jan. 21: And then we had the invocation of the ghost of the Mueller report. I know something about that report. It came up empty on the issue of collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. In fact, the Mueller report — to the contrary of what these managers say today — came to the exact opposite conclusions of what they say.
It’s true that the Mueller report did not conclude that Trump committed a crime by either coordinating with the Russians or obstructing justice, but the investigation did not come up “empty” on either obstruction of justice or collusion.
On obstruction of justice, the Mueller report documented 11 “key events” where the president attempted to influence the investigation.
“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that was capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” the report said. “The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”
The report, however, said there were “difficult [legal] issues that would need to be resolved,” in order to reach a conclusion on Trump’s conduct.
Factoring into his decision not to weigh in on prosecution, Mueller wrote, was an opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel finding that “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.”
Mueller reportBecause we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
The special counsel’s investigation also “did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.” But it presented evidence of “multiple contacts … between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.” 
Those contacts included Donald Trump Jr.’s eagerness to accept “very high level and sensitive information” that promised to “incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” as laid out in an email Trump Jr. received from a Russian acquaintance. “[I]f it’s what you say I love it,” responded Trump Jr., who days later attended a meeting expecting to obtain the material from a Russian lawyer who “had previously worked for the Russian government and maintained a relationship with that government throughout this period of time,” the Mueller report said. 
Among other incidents, Trump Jr. also made direct contact with WikiLeaks’ Twitter account and Trump confidant Roger Stone exchanged Twitter messages with Guccifer 2.0, which the Mueller report describes as one of two “online personas” used by Russian military intelligence to release hacked Clinton campaign emails to media outlets and WikiLeaks.
“In sum, the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russia offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away,” the report said. “Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”
Differences Between Trump and Clinton Trial Rules
Senate Majority Leader McConnell claimed that his resolution outlining the Senate impeachment trial procedures “tracks closely” with the rules in trials of former presidents.
McConnell, Jan. 21: The organizing resolution we’ll put forward already has the support of a majority of the Senate. That’s because it sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded, and tracks closely with past presidents that were established unanimously.
But the proposed Senate impeachment trial procedures that McConnell released on Jan. 20 — and the amended ones the Senate later adopted in a party-line vote the next day — differ from the unanimously approved Clinton trial rules in a few ways.
For example, McConnell’s original resolution does not automatically admit into evidence records from the House impeachment inquiry, which is what happened during the Clinton impeachment trial. Instead, McConnell was pressured by Democrats and some Republicans into amending his resolution to state that materials from the House inquiry “will be admitted into evidence,” rather than “maybe" admitted into evidence” based on a vote. Still, McConnell added language stipulating that the admission of such evidence was subject to an objection from Trump’s defense team.
McConnell’s original proposal also called for members of the House and the president’s defense team to make their respective opening cases for or against impeachment in 24 hours, over no more than two days. But during the Clinton trial, House managers and the president’s lawyers were given 24 hours to do the same, with no restriction on the number of days it could take.
McConnell ended up changing his resolution to permit both sides up to three days to make their arguments.
And while the Clinton trial rules called for senators to vote on a motion to dismiss the impeachment, that same language was not included in the rules for the Trump trial. It’s possible, though, that Trump’s defense could still propose such a motion.
During Trump’s trial, after both sides make their opening case, senators will be given 16 hours to ask questions. That is to be followed by an additional four hours of arguments, split equally between the House managers and the team representing the president. This will occur before the senators' debate and then vote on whether to subpoena new witnesses or documents not already admitted into the record.
Those additional rules are much like those for Clinton’s trial in 1999.

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.

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