Senate rejects bid to subpoena Mick Mulvaney for testimony
Senate rejects bid to subpoena Mick Mulvaney for testimony
Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt on Tuesday to issue a subpoena summoning Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, to testify in President Trump’s impeachment trial. The 53-to-47 vote, which fell along party lines, was the latest effort by Democrats to force the inclusion of new evidence in the proceeding.
Mr. Mulvaney could still be summoned later under Republicans’ proposed rules, but only after opening arguments and a period in which senators can ask questions of the House managers and president’s lawyers is complete. House Democrats subpoenaed Mr. Mulvaney in the fall during their inquiry, but he defied the order. Any similar attempt by the Senate is likely to set off a legal battle with the White House.
Few witnesses have greater access to Mr. Trump than Mr. Mulvaney, who serves as a White House gatekeeper and helped enforce Mr. Trump’s order over the summer to freeze almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate his political rivals. At one point, Mr. Mulvaney acknowledged on national TV that the two acts were connected, only to later recant his statement.
Democrats push to hear witness testimony from Mulvaney
After recessing for dinner, Democrats began debate over an amendment to subpoena Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, to testify in President Trump’s impeachment trial.
The push for his testimony raises the larger question of whether any Republican senators will join Democrats in insisting that senior administration officials appear before the Senate and recount what they knew about Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine. But Democrats are particularly interested in hearing from Mr. Mulvaney given his proximity to Mr. Trump and his role in enacting a freeze on vital military aid that Congress had appropriated to go to Ukraine.
“The Senate has always taken its duty to obtain evidence, including witness testimony, seriously,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, one of the House impeachment managers. “This is the only way to ensure fundamental fairness for everyone involved.”
A sketch artist captures the scene inside the chamber
Art Lien, a courtroom sketch artist, will be observing the impeachment trial from the press gallery and capturing scenes that might not appear on television, including senators catching a few winks during debate.
Mr. Lien has primarily covered the Supreme Court since 1976, but this is not his first impeachment. He drew scenes from President Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999.
Senators recess for dinner
Senators in President Trump’s impeachment trial have taken a dinner break, briefly putting on pause the acrimonious debate about the rules of the trial. The trial — only the third in history — has been underway for nearly seven hours as Democrats and Republicans wrangled over whether the Senate should seek additional documents and witnesses before both sides present their arguments.
So far, Democrats have failed to compel the Senate to subpoena documents from the White House, the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget. When the senators return, they will resume debate on a Democratic motion to subpoena Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
At 7:30 p.m., Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, announced a 30-minute break for senators to get dinner, though the lawmakers are likely to take longer than that to return.
Senate rejects a third bid by Democrats to subpoena records
The Senate turned back a Democratic effort to subpoena White House budget documents for President Trump’s impeachment trial. The move to table the effort succeeded along party lines, 53 to 47, with Republicans prevailing in the latest in a series of partisan votes to block new evidence demanded by Democrats from coming to light. Republicans had succeeded in tabling two other similar measures.
Democrats had argued that emails among officials at the Office of Management and Budget about the suspension of security aid from Ukraine had already been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. In particular, they noted communications between Michael P. Duffey, the associate director of the agency, and the Defense Department, in which Mr. Duffey requested that the Pentagon “hold off” on additional aid to Ukraine and to keep the information “closely held.”
The Trump administration had refused House attempts to secure emails and other communications among officials in the budget office and the Defense Department.
Senate rejects a Democratic push for State Dept. documents
The Senate blocked a Democratic attempt on Tuesday to subpoena State Department documents, emails and other correspondence for President Trump’s impeachment trial, including records involving Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union. The vote — the second push for documents — was 53 to 47, with the Republican majority prevailing.
Mr. Sondland, a wealthy business executive and Trump donor, told lawmakers that he did not have access to his written records before his testimony in the House impeachment inquiry. Mr. Sondland testified he worked with others to pressure Ukraine “at the express direction of the president” and confirmed that there was a clear “quid pro quo” linking a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president to the investigations Mr. Trump wanted.
The State Department had refused demands by House investigators to turn over documents from Mr. Sondland and other diplomats who testified in the impeachment inquiry. In arguments Tuesday evening, House managers said the documents were essential to fully understand Mr. Trump’s actions. White House lawyers argued that the administration had the right to assert privileges over documents like those from the State Department.
Democrats continue to press their case over Senate rules
The first party-line defeat, 53 to 47, of a Democratic demand for documents made it clear that Republicans have the votes to hold off Democrats in the impeachment trial for now. So why will Democrats continue to press their case with a series of proposals seemingly destined to lose?
First, Democrats want to show their supporters that they are going to put up a fight and not be dismissed so easily by united Senate Republicans. Democrats have surrendered quickly in the past on other issues and drawn flak from the left.
Second, they want to force Republicans into a series of votes Democrats can then highlight to show the depth of what Democrats will portray as a Republican eagerness to shield President Trump from scrutiny. These votes will no doubt show up in campaign spots this year.
They also want to inflict a little punishment on their Republican colleagues for their refusal to give any ground and force them to listen to these arguments and vote. They do not want to give Republicans a pass.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, has indicated, though, that he won’t press the matter too far.
Lawmakers debate a Democratic amendment for more documents
After the Senate voted to block a bid to subpoena White House documents related to President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, Democrats tried again, mounting a new push to subpoena documents from the State Department.
That amendment, which is likely to be defeated along party lines, would cover a series of communications the administration has withheld, including messages between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials that Democrats say go to the heart of what they knew about Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.
Representative Val B. Demings of Florida, the first black woman to serve as a House impeachment manager, made her debut speech on the Senate floor, imploring Republicans to support the measure. “We’re talking about a specific, discrete set of materials held by the State Department,” Ms. Demings said.
Senate blocks Democrats’ bid to subpoena White House documents
The Senate voted Tuesday to block a Democratic bid to subpoena White House emails, memos and other documents related to President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that is at the heart of the impeachment case against him. The vote was 53 to 47 to table the amendment to the trial rules, with Republicans prevailing.
Mr. Trump’s administration refused to provide the documents — including correspondence among the president and his top national security aides — during the House impeachment inquiry. Democrats argued that the documents are necessary for a fair trial that would hold the president accountable.
Republicans have repeatedly said it was the House’s responsibility to gather all the evidence before sending articles of impeachment to the Senate. But the White House stonewalled every request made by the House investigators.
Flake says argument that president ‘did no wrong’ pains him
There was a familiar face in the gallery overlooking the Senate chamber on Tuesday: Jeff Flake, the former senator from Arizona who decided not to seek re-election in 2018 after concluding that there was no room in the Republican Party for a critic of President Trump.
Chatting with reporters, Mr. Flake — who also served in the House — said he was not certain whether he would have voted to impeach the president: Good arguments can be made, he said, both for or against the idea that the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals rose to the level of an impeachable offense.
But one argument that cannot be made, he said, is that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong.
“As a Republican,” he said, “it pains me when I see Republicans, House Republicans, try to maintain that the president did no wrong, that this is somehow normal. It’s not.”
McConnell offers decorum advice to his colleagues on an open microphone.
Moments before the Senate reconvened to debate a Democratic amendment this afternoon, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky offered his colleagues a lesson in decorum, Senate-style.
“I’d like to remind everybody to take their seats and when the chief justice comes in we really should all stand,” Mr. McConnell, the majority leader, told senators. The comment was caught on open microphones and broadcast through the Senate press gallery.
Shortly afterward, the cameras clicked on. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was once again seated at the dais and the senators were in their seats, ready to proceed.
Trump’s lawyers are a study in contrasts.
The two people arguing on behalf of Mr. Trump — Jay Sekulow and Pat A. Cipollone — are a contrast in style for a television-focused president. Mr. Cipollone, the low-key White House counsel, has almost no presence on the internet and has barely been photographed since taking on the role. His prominent role on the Senate floor was his first open-to-the-public speaking appearance in a year.
Mr. Sekulow, who helped install Mr. Cipollone in his White House role, has been Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer for nearly three years. Mr. Sekulow is used to talking before an audience, and it showed, as he hammered home points about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and what he argued was a systematic effort to legally ensnare Mr. Trump.
House’s impeachment evidence will automatically become part of the trial record.
In a significant change, the rules resolution submitted by Senator Mitch McConnell automatically enters the evidence collected by the House impeachment inquiry into the Senate record of the trial, in the same way that a similar resolution treated evidence during the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton.
Democrats had railed against a provision in the proposed rules that would not have automatically admitted into the official record the House’s evidence. They warned that Republicans were attempting to conduct a trial with “no evidence” at all.
The change was hand written into the resolution — one of two changes made before it was introduced to the Senate.
Trump’s team is preparing just in case witnesses like John Bolton are called.
White House lawyers are preparing contingencies for the possibility that witnesses are allowed at the impeachment trial and that John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, will be called, according to people working with President Trump’s legal team.
Objections to Mr. Bolton’s testimony would most likely involve a combination of arguing that portions of it are classified, and then taking that argument to federal court, according to the people working with the Trump team. They anticipate that such a move might go to the Supreme Court.
The prospect of Mr. Bolton testifying has caused alarm at the White House, even as some officials have played down how much direct knowledge he has about the events related Ukraine aid’s being withheld. Mr. Bolton, though his lawyer, has suggested he had additional relevant information pertaining to the Ukraine matter to share. He also said he was willing to testify.
White House counsel gets personal in remarks about Schiff, the lead House manager.
If there was any doubt that the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump would get bitter and personal, Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, dispelled it quickly.
The arguments on the articles haven’t yet begun. But as he argued on behalf of the trial rules proposed by Republicans, Mr. Cipollone lashed out — personally and directly — at Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager.
“It’s very difficult to listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,” Mr. Cipollone said. Referencing a summary of Mr. Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president Mr. Schiff once gave during a committee hearing — which Mr. Trump frequently mocks — Mr. Cipollone said that Mr. Schiff “manufactured a fraudulent version” of the call. (Mr. Schiff has said that his depiction of the call conferred “the essence” of the presidents’ exchange as a “classic organized crime shakedown.”)
In a chamber renowned for the faux-graciousness of the senators, who regularly address each other as “my good friend,” Mr. Cipollone spoke directly to “Mr. Schiff,” denying him his title as a member of Congress or even a House manager.
Senators are now held to a vow of silence.
With the Senate sergeant-at-arms uttering the proclamation “All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment,” the 100 senators are now held to a vow of silence and confined to their chairs for the duration of the day’s proceedings.
As Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Schiff began debating Mr. McConnell’s proposed rules, several senators in the chamber began scribbling notes at their desk, some using large white legal pads while others jotted down notes on the backs of small cards. Most of the desks in the chamber were stocked with pens, pencils and binders.
As they listened, some senators fiddled with pens in their hands while others like Senators Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas, and Bernie Sanders, Democrat of Vermont, folded their hands as they listened.
McConnell’s changes to the trial rules come after concerns from Republican senators.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, made changes to the proposed rules for the trial after Republicans senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, raised concerns about two provisions, according to a spokeswoman for Ms. Collins.
The aide, Annie Clark, said the Maine Republican wanted to ensure that the resolution as closely resembled the rules adopted by the Senate in the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton as possible.
Mr. McConnell’s initial plans had deviated in several ways from those carried out in Mr. Clinton’s case.
Last-minute rule change allows cases to be presented over 3 days, not 2.
Republicans made last-minute changes in their proposed organizing resolution for the impeachment trial after fierce attacks from Democrats that the proposed rules were unfair and part of an attempted “cover-up” of President Trump’s actions.
The initial proposal, unveiled by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, had set aside 24 hours for each side to argue the case — but said they had to complete the arguments in two days. Democrats said that would most likely force the debate well into the wee hours of the morning, when few Americans were watching.
When the resolution was read, however, the two-day limit was changed to three days. That would extend the length of the trial by allowing each side to spread their arguments over more, but shorter days.
The resolution submitted by Mr. McConnell also automatically enters the evidence collected by the House impeachment inquiry into the Senate record of the trial, in the same way that a similar resolution treated evidence during the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton.
Democrats had railed against a provision in the proposed rules that would not have automatically admitted into the official record the House’s evidence. They warned that Republicans were attempting to conduct a trial with “no evidence” at all.
White House defends the president’s counsel after calls for him to share documents about the Ukraine matter.
The White House responded angrily on Tuesday to demands by Democrats that Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, turn over documents relevant to the Ukraine impeachment inquiry — demands that suggest that Mr. Cipollone is intimately involved in the very inquiry for which he is serving as the president’s top lawyer.
Hogan Gidley, the deputy White House press secretary, issued a blistering statement on behalf of Mr. Trump, who is in Davos, Switzerland, attending the World Economic Forum.
“The Democrats are an utter joke — they have no case, and this latest political stunt proves it,” Mr. Gidley said. “The idea that the counsel to the president has to turn over protected documents and confidential information is ludicrous, and to imply he can’t represent the president of the United States in an impeachment proceeding is completely absurd.”
He added: “Further, the man Democrats appointed to lead these proceedings is Adam Schiff — who has been caught lying multiple times about Russia collusion evidence that didn’t exist, made up a totally phony phone conversation about Ukraine that never happened, and lied that his staff didn’t have contact with the whistle-blower. If there’s anyone who should be disqualified from leading this proceeding, it’s Mr. Schiff.”
Partisanship reigns outside the Senate chamber.
Even before the trial got underway Tuesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee posted a blistering pro-Trump video on Twitter painting Democrats as an impeachment-hungry mob — a sign that naked partisanship still reigns outside the chamber.
“An angry mob is at the gate, but the United States Senate has the watch,” the announcer intoned gravely, adding, “The sham is over. A fair trial starts now.”
The 2 minute and 17 second video opens with the voices of those shocked by Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016. When Mr. Trump was sworn in, “the left lost it,” the announcer said, as images of a black limousine on fire and riots in the street flickered across the screen.
“This impeachment sham started the day he was elected,” the announcer went on, adding, “Let’s be clear: This is not some neutral judgment that Democrats came to reluctantly. It’s not some somber moment or serious exercise for the left. It is the predetermined end of a partisan crusade.”
McConnell discourages Democratic attempts to change his rules using an old trick.
Senator Mitch McConnell employed one of the oldest tricks in the Senate book to discourage Democrats from mounting time-consuming challenges to his proposed ground rules for the impeachment trial. As the Senate opened Tuesday, Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader warned senators that they should be prepared to stay as long as possible to enact a resolution setting the parameters for the trial.
That is a not-so-veiled threat to stay into the wee hours if Democrats offer a long string of proposed changes. Senators are already unhappy with having to sit quietly at their desks with no phones or computers.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, had already said he would propose a series of changes but promised he would not be dilatory.
House managers file a 34-page rebuttal of Trump’s defense.
The seven House managers submitted one final written brief at noon on Monday, just an hour before the Senate was set to reconvene as a court of impeachment. The 34-page filing included a point-by-point rebuttal of arguments put forward by President Trump’s lawyers in his defense on Monday, and an appeal to senators to convict him based on the House charges.
“President Trump continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong,” the managers wrote. “President Trump’s view that he cannot be held accountable, except in an election he seeks to fix in his favor, underscores the need for the Senate to exercise its solemn constitutional duty to remove President Trump from office.”
The managers asserted that the view put forth by Mr. Trump’s team that abuse of power is not an impeachable office was not only legally and constitutionally “wrong” but “dangerous.” The Constitution, they argued, does not require that an impeachable offense be a crime, and its framers specifically included the impeachment clause to deal with president’s who put their own interests above the country.
“That argument would mean that, even accepting that the House’s recitation of the facts is correct — which it is — the House lacks authority to remove a president who sells out our democracy and national security in exchange for a personal political favor,” they wrote.
The managers likewise rejected the argument that Mr. Trump’s attempts to block testimony and witnesses from the House’s impeachment inquiry was lawful and appropriate. Their inquiry was properly authorized, they said, and Mr. Trump never actually asserted executive privilege, merely instructing witnesses not to cooperate without justification.
Taken together, the filings provide a clear map for what live arguments on the Senate floor will look like when they begin later this week.
McConnell challenges senators with remarks about fairness over partisanship.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, in his opening remarks said the day’s proceeding would serve as a critical test for senators.
“This initial step will offer an early signal to our country: Can the Senate still serve our founding purpose?” he said. “Can we still put fairness, evenhandedness and historical precedent ahead of the partisan passions of the day? Today’s vote will contain some answers.”
Mr. McConnell then encouraged senators to support his proposed rules for the trial that have infuriated Democrats, who have described them as tantamount to a “cover-up.” And he again threw cold water on the idea of hearing from new witnesses like John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser.
“Pursuing those witnesses could indefinitely delay the Senate trial and draw out the body into a protracted and complex legal fight over presidential privilege,” he said.
Senators will not be able to speak during the trial.
Regular viewers of Senate proceedings will likely notice something very odd when debate begins: Senators will not be doing the debating themselves.
Because the rules of the trial require senators to remain silent at virtually all times, the motions made by either side will be debated by the House managers and the White House lawyers instead. That leaves the normally loquacious senators in quite a bind. No matter how strongly they feel about their motions, there will be no fist-pounding or stirring speeches in an attempt to convince their colleagues.
At least, not by them.
House manager says the president’s trial is ‘not a joyful moment for me.’
Representative Zoe Lofgren, one of the seven Democratic House impeachment managers, said she was not relishing in her role of prosecuting President Trump.
“It is upsetting that the president has engaged in this behavior,” Ms. Lofgren said Tuesday on CNN. “It’s not a joyful moment for me — far from it.”
Ms. Lofgren and her fellow managers will be arguing Tuesday over the trial rules with Mr. Trump’s defense team.
Ms. Lofgren comes to her job with previous impeachment experience as a member of the House Judiciary Committee during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and as a law student helping the Judiciary Committee draft its Watergate charges against President Richard M. Nixon.
McConnell counts enough votes to defeat any Democratic changes to the trial rules.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said in a news conference that he would demand that the Senate subpoena both witnesses and documents for the trial — including any records of President Trump’s call with the leader of Ukraine, and any records relating to the White House decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
But his Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said he counted 53 votes in favor of his rules, suggesting that any Democratic plan to change them would probably fail.
Mr. Schumer said he wants records of meeting or calls involving John Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, among others, adding that the president may have been party to some of those communications.
“The witnesses I’ve requested have gotten a lot of attention and rightly so,” Mr. Schumer said. “The documents are of equal importance.”
Schumer calls Republican rules for the trial ‘a national disgrace.’
Senator Chuck Schumer on Tuesday called the Republicans’ plan for President Trump’s trial part of a cover-up and “a national disgrace,” and said he would move to amend to mirror the resolution used for President Bill Clinton as soon as the trial begins at 1 p.m.
Mr. Schumer, the minority leader, was reacting to rules set out by his Republican counterpart, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who pledged to run Mr. Trump’s trial in accordance with the organizing resolution used during the Clinton trial, but has instead proposed a much speedier trial that would not include evidence gathered by the House in the trial record.
“McConnell seems to want a trial with no existing evidence and no new evidence,” Mr. Schumer said, adding, “A trial with no evidence is not a trial at all — it’s a cover-up.”
Callers urged to flood the Senate switchboard to demand witnesses and evidence.
Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, on Tuesday urged people to flood the Senate switchboard with calls demanding that senators allow new witnesses and evidence to be considered as part of the impeachment trial of President Trump.
“202-224-3121 is the number and ask for witnesses and documents,” Mr. Schatz wrote on Twitter.
The social media request was part of a Democratic effort to attack the trial rules proposed by Republicans as part of a “cover-up” designed to move the impeachment trial to a rapid acquittal of the president.
Democrats are hoping that the public will pressure Republicans to alter their proposed rules, which would condense arguments to just two days for each sides and postpone votes on witnesses until after arguments and questions from senators.
A new poll from CNN found that 69 percent of Americans believe that the impeachment trial should include new witnesses and evidence that were not part of the House inquiry that led to the president’s impeachment.
Giuliani says he would testify at the trial if called.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a key player in the Ukraine pressure campaign at the heart of the impeachment case, said Monday night that he would happily testify in the Senate trial if called as a witness.
“I wouldn’t mind being called as a witness for a lot of reasons, including being able to reveal the unbelievable amount of corruption that went on between the Democratic Party and Ukraine all throughout the Obama administration,” Mr. Giuliani said on “The Ingraham Angle” program on Fox News.
Mr. Giuliani led a rogue group of people inside and outside the government to push Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. He also orchestrated a smear campaign to oust Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine. There is no evidence that the former vice president did anything improper regarding Ukraine during his time in office.
During the Fox News interview, Mr. Giuliani said he was lied to by Lev Parnas, an associate who worked with him in Ukraine. Mr. Parnas, who is under criminal indictment for campaign finance violations, has provided documents about the Ukraine pressure campaign to House investigators.
“Obviously, I was misled by him,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I still feel sorry for him.”
House managers accuse McConnell of trying to hide Trump’s misconduct.
The House managers on Tuesday morning issued a statement blasting the resolution from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, setting forth rules for the Senate trial, saying it “deviates sharply from the Clinton precedent — and common sense — in an effort to prevent the full truth of the president’s misconduct from coming to light.”
The statement came just hours ahead of what is expected to be a divisive debate about the resolution, which would accelerate the trial by limiting the time for oral arguments. It also declines to automatically enter the evidence gathered by the House into the official record of the Senate trial.
“A White House-driven and rigged process, with a truncated schedule designed to go late into the night and further conceal the president’s misconduct, is not what the American people expect or deserve,” the managers said in their statement. “There should be a fair trial — fair to the president, yes, but equally important, fair to the American people. Any senator who wants the same, should reject the McConnell resolution.”
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