Things will change — We have a basic outline of how we think the trial will go, but it’s clear things will change as the trial progresses. For instance, much or all of Tuesday could be taken up by debate between the House managers and the defense team over how the trial will progress. Democrats are expected to seek to force a vote on including witnesses (more on that below) even before the opening arguments take place. According to aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, those opening arguments are now expected to begin on Wednesday afternoon.
Parliamentary squabbling — We have some idea what to expect, but the rules have not been set. The rules of the trial have not been released by McConnell nor have they seen a vote. The details of those rules, and whether McConnell can get a majority of 51 senators on board with them, will be very important.
Tight media control — Reporters on Capitol Hill have complained that portions of the building normally open to them have been shut. In particular, senators will be able to walk around the second floor of the building without having to answer any questions from the media. That’s a break from the long-standing tradition of Capitol Hill. In addition, the Senate controls cameras inside the chamber, so it will be able to control the angles seen during the trial. Only the person talking will be pictured, for instance.
This should be a bigger deal — NSA and CIA accused of possibly withholding evidence
This allegation from House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff is quite troubling and should perhaps be getting more attention.
He’s essentially accused the US intelligence agencies of being cowed by Trump into holding on to facts for political reasons.
The California Democrat added: “There are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course. We are counting on the intelligence community not only to speak truth to power, but to resist pressure from the administration to withhold information from Congress because the administration fears that they incriminate them.”
Amanda Schoch, the assistant director of National Intelligence for Strategic Communications, said in response to Schiff’s remarks, “The Intelligence Community is committed to providing Congress with the information and intelligence it needs to carry out its critical oversight role. The IC is working in good faith with (the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) to respond to requests on a broad range of topics and will continue to do so.”
The arguments that will be made
They’ll leave further arguments over new information for the trial, apparently.
But Trump tried to block cooperation with the impeachment inquiry and has kept all documents he possibly could from lawmakers. So what’s new in the filings his team presented in advance of the trial is an actual defense. They argued he was right to talk to the Ukrainian President about US elections in part because he, Trump, was trying to protect them.
There was a crime, according to GAO
Much of Trump’s defense has relied on the idea that no crime was committed in his conduct regarding Ukraine. But the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ nonpartisan investigative arm, has determined that withholding the security aid from Ukraine violated the law. When asked about the GAO report that the Trump administration broke the law in withholding aid to Ukraine, sources working with Trump’s legal team said it would not “get into something that is not in the articles of impeachment, except to point out that it’s not in the articles of impeachment.”
New CNN poll: Half support removing Trump
Clear majority favors witnesses
Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) say the trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry. And as Democrats in the Senate seek to persuade at least four Republican senators to join them on votes over allowing witnesses in the trial, the Republican rank and file are divided on the question: 48% say they want new witnesses, while 44% say they do not.
Note from me — 51% is not a supermajority
It takes a supermajority in the Senate to remove a president, and half of Americans do not equal anything close to 67 senators. But the number of Republicans favoring witnesses is really interesting and important, and makes clear that the GOP is not the monolithic pro-Trump being he says it is.
The poll is the first major national telephone survey since the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, formally launching Trump’s trial there. They are also the first such poll results since Parnas publicly implicated the President in the Ukrainian pressure campaign during a series of television interviews.
Trump’s approval rating is at 43% in the poll
That’s a low in polling for a president in January of an election year. Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton polled at 46% approval in the January before they faced voters. Ford lost after Richard Nixon had resigned rather than be impeached. Clinton won reelection, but that was before his impeachment. After Clinton was impeached, his party lost the White House.
Bloomberg is no fan of impeachment
The late self-financed entrant to the Democratic presidential primary said he would ultimately, if he were a senator, vote to remove Trump from office.
But Michael Bloomberg wouldn’t exactly be happy about it.
Meet the lawyer behind Lev Parnas
Alan Dershowitz is defending the Constitution and not the President, he says. But it’s hard to keep up with his thinking. He’ll present constitutional arguments on the President’s behalf during the Senate trial, but he’s made clear he’s not completely a part of the defense team.
He’s making these principled arguments about the Constitution, but when Clinton faced impeachment he held the opposite view, that a crime is not 100% required to impeach a president.
With regard to Trump, he’s not even willing to say whether power was abused. That’s irrelevant, according to 2020 Dershowitz. Read this exchange from MSNBC:
Q: Do you believe that Donald Trump abused the power of his office, yes or no?
A: It’s irrelevant. Abuse of power is not the criteria for impeachment, any more than dishonesty.
Q: Do you personally believe Donald Trump right now, with the evidence you’ve seen in front of you as one of his attorneys, abused his power, yes or no?
A: I’m not going to answer that question yes or no, it’s irrelevant.
Kellyanne Conway: MLK Jr. would oppose impeachment
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats impeached him for it. A Senate trial is next. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.