Senate blocks Democrats’ bid to subpoena documents

Senate blocks Democrats’ bid to subpoena 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

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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.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

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.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

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.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.’

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

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, Democrat of New York, criticized the rules the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, has proposed for President Trump’s impeachment trial.Image by Calla Kessler/The New York Times

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.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.”

Romney tells constituents not to expect him to support calling witnesses before opening arguments.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and former Republican presidential candidate, issued a statement to his constituents on Tuesday, pledging to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.” All senators took that pledge, but any votes were still expected to be along party lines.

Mr. Romney is one of a handful of Republicans who have said they would be open to a vote on whether to call witnesses, something the Democrats have been demanding. In his statement, Mr. Romney said he would not support efforts to hold a vote on whether to call witnesses until after opening arguments are complete, which, under the majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell’s plan could be next week.

On Monday, Mr. Romney said he supported Mr. McConnell’s proposed rules.

“The allegations outlined in the articles of impeachment passed by the House are extremely serious — did the president abuse his office for personal political gain, and did he obstruct Congress’ investigation by blocking subpoenas?” Mr. Romney said. “These allegations demand that the Senate put political biases aside, and make good faith efforts to listen to arguments from both sides and thoroughly review facts and evidence.”

Schumer promises a tough fight from Democrats.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, denounced his Republican counterpart on Tuesday, hours ahead of what is expected to be a marathon debate over the rules for the Senate trial of President Trump.

Mr. Schumer said Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has proposed a trial with “as little evidence as possible” and conducted in secrecy in “the dead of night.”

“The trial doesn’t even allow the evidence from the House to be let in,” Mr. Schumer said during an interview on CNN.

Mr. McConnell on Monday angered Democrats by breaking from his weekslong assertions that Mr. Trump’s trial should be conducted in the same manner as former President Bill Clinton’s 1999 trial. Mr. McConnell’s draft resolution proposes meaningful changes from the way Mr. Clinton’s trial was conducted, including not automatically admitting the Democrat-led House’s findings as evidence. McConnell aides said the majority leader never intended to follow the Clinton model exactly.

Senate Democrats intend to force votes on amendments to Mr. McConnell’s resolution today that will highlight the fact that it does not guarantee witnesses or new evidence.

Mr. McConnell does not want to hear from new witnesses, including testimony from John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser who most likely has firsthand accounts of the White House’s improper pressure on Ukraine.

Of a possible scenario in which senators hear testimony from Mr. Bolton in a closed, classified setting, but not in public, Mr. Schumer said, “Cover up, cover up, cover up.”

House managers call on White House counsel to disclose his knowledge of impeachment-related conduct.

Escalating a war of paperwork over their charges, the House managers insisted on Tuesday that Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel and his lead lawyer in the trial, disclose what he knows about the behavior underlying the impeachment charges.

“Evidence indicates that, at a minimum, you have detailed knowledge of the facts regarding the first article and played an instrumental role in the conduct charged in the second article,” the managers wrote. “The ethical rules generally preclude a lawyer from acting as an advocate at a trial in which he is likely also a necessary witness.”

The managers stopped short of calling for Mr. Cipollone to recuse himself from the proceedings. But they said their investigation had shown Mr. Cipollone had intimate knowledge of contemporaneous complaints within the White House about President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine and was instrumental in his attempts to block testimony and evidence from reaching the House — attempts the House deemed unconstitutional obstruction of Congress.

Trump escapes Washington for Switzerland and brags about the economy.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

On the day that the Senate begins his impeachment trial in earnest, President Trump is 4,000 miles away on a snowy mountain, talking trade and the global economy.

Mr. Trump arrived in Davos, Switzerland, at 2:21 a.m. Tuesday morning to address the World Economic Forum — slipping out of the Washington circus surrounding what he calls the “hoax” taking place in the Capitol.

The president did not mention impeachment in his 30-minute speech to the chief executives, celebrities and heads of state at the Alpine gathering. Instead, in remarks that felt like one of his campaign rallies without the red-meat, he bragged about an economic success in the United States “the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

He implicitly slammed climate change proponents — including teenager Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist — calling them the “heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.” But he did say the United States would join an initiative to plant one trillion trees around the globe.

Asked whether Mr. Trump was planning to watch any of the impeachment trial, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said: “He has a full day here in Davos, but will be briefed by staff periodically.”

Democrats are livid about the proposed trial rules.

The impeachment trial for President Trump will reconvene Tuesday afternoon with a raucous debate over proposed ground rules for the proceedings unveiled Monday night by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

Mr. McConnell’s proposal includes the following provisions: (1) House prosecutors and Mr. Trump’s defense team each get 24 hours over two days to argue their cases; (2) evidence collected by the House could be admitted into the record only by a majority vote; and (3) Republicans have the option to make a motion to dismiss the trial before arguments from either side are heard.

Democrats quickly attacked Mr. McConnell’s proposed rules as little more than what they called a “cover up” that would shorten the trial and allow the president’s allies to refuse to admit evidence collected by the House about Mr. Trump’s actions. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, promised to offer a “series of amendments” to alter them.

If it is adopted, Mr. McConnell’s resolution will also provide 16 hours for senators to ask questions after they hear presentations by the House prosecutors and the White House defense team. That would be followed by four hours of debate on whether to seek additional witnesses or other evidence. If no witnesses are called, the Senate would move quickly to deliberation and a final vote on the articles of impeachment.

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