Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that the chamber was no closer to setting rules for an impeachment trial of President Trump than it was before breaking for the holidays, as he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) traded barbs during floor speeches.
In his remarks, McConnell chided the Democratic-led House for a delay in transmitting articles of impeachment and said his chamber would continue with “ordinary business” while it waits. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has held off sending the two articles — alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — as Democrats seek guarantees about witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed regarding Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.
At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump alludes to impeachment at Evangelical event, calls it a ‘hoax perpetrated on our country’
Addressing supporters during the launch of his new “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition at the El Rey Jesus Church in Miami, President Trump alluded briefly to his impeachment, which, he said, was based on “no crime, no nothing.”
He added that Republicans were “fighting tough.”
“We have great support because we’re on the side of right, this is a hoax, a terrible hoax, perpetrated on our country,” Trump said. “I used to call it a witch hunt, but it is — it was a witch hunt from the day I came down the escalator with our great first lady.”
Trump’s remarks come after the publication of a searing editorial from Christianity Today, a major Evangelical magazine, which declared that the president “should be removed from office.”
Trump has since sought to fortify his standing with Evangelicals — a group that voted overwhelmingly for him in the 2016 presidential election. Before he spoke, he prayed with several Evangelical leaders.
Speaking about that 2016 election, Trump said God have may have played a role in his victory.
“I really do believe we have God on our side,” Trump said of the election. “I believe that, I believe that.”
By Michael Brice-Saddler
January 3, 2020 at 4:00 PM EST
Pelosi calls for fair Senate trial, says President Trump is not ‘above the law’
In a Friday statement, Pelosi urged GOP senators to “proceed in a manner worthy of the Constitution and in light of the gravity of the President’s unprecedented abuses.”
Pelosi specifically cited McConnell, who she said “made it clear that he will feebly comply with President Trump’s coverup of his abuses of power and be an accomplice to that coverup.”
Earlier in the day, McConnell said the Senate would continue with its “ordinary business” until the Democratic-led House could “muster the courage” to transmit the articles of impeachment against Trump. Pelosi did not indicate in her statement when she planned to send the two articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“The American people deserve the truth. Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution,” she wrote. “The GOP Senate must immediately proceed in a manner worthy of the Constitution and in light of the gravity of the President’s unprecedented abuses. No one is above the law, not even the President.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told reporters that he did not expect Trump’s strike against an Iranian general to give lawmakers second thoughts about proceeding with a Senate trial on his possible removal.
“I think, if anything, it’s going to highlight the risk that the president continues to pose to our national security and keeping the country safe and keeping Americans safe,” he said. “And I think from the perspective of those who voted for impeachment, they’re going to think it’s even more urgent to restrict the president and hold the president accountable.”
Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who led a bipartisan push to include language in the House version of the annual defense authorization bill to restrict a president’s ability to strike Iran, added, “Frankly, the most impeachable offense that the president probably could commit is getting us into another war without a constitutional authorization.”
By Mike DeBonis
January 3, 2020 at 1:50 PM EST
McConnell departs Capitol without talking to Schumer
McConnell has left the Capitol for the day without talking to Schumer about the timing or scope of a Senate trial of Trump. He has no plans to return until Monday.
McConnell declined to comment to reporters when asked if and when talks with Schumer would begin. Instead, McConnell referred reporters to the remarks he made earlier on the Senate floor.
By Paul Kane
January 3, 2020 at 1:45 PM EST
Pelosi’s office distributes ‘talking points’ about choice facing senators
Pelosi’s office distributed “talking points” on the impeachment process to fellow Democrats on Friday, which argue that the senators must choose between holding a fair trial and setting a precedent that allows a president “free rein to do whatever he wants.”
“The House has fulfilled its constitutional duty and upheld our oath of office,” the talking points say. “It’s now up to the Senate to do their duty. The Senate has the constitutional obligation to hold a fair and honest trial … and act as jurors.”
The trial, according to Pelosi’s office, must include witnesses and “pursuing evidence Trump has withheld.”
“In coming weeks, Senate Republicans will be faced with a choice: Do they want to see a fair, bipartisan trial? Or do they want to set a precedent that allows the president free rein to do whatever he wants, including cheat our elections?” the talking points say.
Elsewhere, Trump is referenced as “a continuing threat to our democracy and danger to our national security.”
By John Wagner and Rachael Bade
January 3, 2020 at 12:50 PM EST
Schumer says senators no closer to setting trial rules than last month
Schumer said Friday that senators are no closer to setting the rules for a trial of Trump than they were before breaking for the holidays last month.
His assessment came during floor remarks in which Schumer continued to press the case for subpoenaing documents relevant to Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine and calling several witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who declined to participate in the House impeachment inquiry.
Schumer said McConnell “hasn’t given one good reason why there shouldn’t be relevant witnesses or relevant documents.”
“Instead of trying to find the truth, he is still using the same feeble talking points that he was using last December,” Schumer said.
McConnell has argued that the Senate should wait to decide whether it needs to hear from witnesses until after opening statements from House managers and Trump’s lawyers.
Schumer called that “Alice-in-Wonderland logic.”
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 12:45 PM EST
Trump highlights commentator playing down importance of newly disclosed emails
Trump returned to Twitter early Friday afternoon to share a commentator’s assessment that newly published emails showing concerns from government officials about withholding military aid to Ukraine offer “nothing new.”
“It’s exactly what we knew before, which is that the White House & political figures wanted to cut off aid, Trump wanted to question aid to a number of different places that he thought were wasteful, and the career staff, as they always do, pushed back, and made a million excuses as to why they could not possibly stop spending U.S. taxpayer money,” Trump tweeted, quoting Christopher Bedford, a senior editor at the Federalist.
McConnell dismisses questions about timing of trial
After walking off the Senate floor, McConnell dismissed questions from reporters about whether he will meet with Schumer and when he expects the trial to start.
McConnell said he had already “addressed all of the relevant issues” in his floor remarks.
By Paul Kane
January 3, 2020 at 12:30 PM EST
McConnell says Senate will continue with ‘ordinary business’
McConnell said Friday that the Senate would continue with its “ordinary business” until the Democratic-led House can “muster the courage” to transmit the articles of impeachment against Trump.
“Their turn is over,” McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor. “They’ve done enough damage. It’s the Senate’s turn now to render sober judgment as the Framers envisioned. But we can’t hold a trial without the articles. The Senate’s own rules don’t provide for that. So for now, we are content to continue the ordinary business of the Senate while House Democrats continue to flounder. … If they ever muster the courage to stand behind their slapdash work product and transmit their articles to the Senate, it will then be time for the United States Senate to fulfill our founding purpose.”
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 11:30 AM EST
Federal appeals court struggles with whether to get involved in a fight between Trump and Pelosi
A federal appeals court in Washington struggled Friday with whether to get involved in a fight between the Trump administration and Pelosi over testimony Democrats say they need in the lead-up to a Senate impeachment trial and “ongoing inquiry into the president’s conduct.”
Judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit began reviewing two separation-of-powers lawsuits over a House subpoena for Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn and secret grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.
Two of the three judges on the panel — Thomas B. Griffith and Judith W. Rogers — seemed skeptical of the Trump administration’s broad claim that top presidential advisers like McGahn are “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.”
“Has there ever been an instance of such broad-scale defiance of a congressional request for information in the history of the Republic?” Griffith asked Justice Department Attorney Hashim Mooppan. “Has this ever happened before?”
Rep. Wasserman Schultz suggests timing of drone strike related to impeachment proceedings
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) suggested Friday the timing of the drone strike directed by Trump that killed Iran’s most powerful military commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was related to the impeachment proceedings.
“What I think is going on here, frankly, is this action was taken more in President Trump’s self-interest than our national interest,” Schultz said during an interview on CNN in which she referenced a new report that cited emails that bolster the case that Trump was directly involved in withholding military aid to Ukraine as he was seeking investigations that could benefit his reelection bid.
“We had damning developments in just the last day where emails came out that made it very clear that they covered up the real reason behind the withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars to Ukraine,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Donald Trump was just impeached a week and a half ago, and we need to get to the bottom of how and who helped him carry out this illegal coverup, to allow him to withhold aid, to help him politically and personally, to allow Ukraine to interfere in the presidential election in 2020.”
“That’s outrageous, and I think that has a lot to do with what this attack was about,” she added.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) also referenced impeachment as she tweeted about the drone strike on Friday.
“The Occupant was JUST impeached for abuse of power for political gain & now he is leading us to the brink of war because he believes it will help his re-election,” Pressley said. “We are sick of endless wars. Congress has the sole authority to declare war and we must deescalate.”
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 9:00 AM EST
Trump focuses on Iran in morning tweets, makes no mention of impeachment
“General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more … but got caught!” Trump tweeted. “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 8:30 AM EST
Gabbard says impeachment has bolstered election prospects for Trump, House Republicans
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), a Democratic presidential candidate, pressed her argument Friday that impeachment has bolstered the chances that Trump gets reelected and that Republicans regain control of the House.
“This impeachment has only proven to further strengthen Trump,” she said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “It’s increasing the likelihood that it will be harder for us to defeat him. It’s increasing the likelihood that the Republicans take the House and the Senate, which I don’t think is a good thing for the country.”
Gabbard, who voted “present” last month on the two articles of impeachment, said she would prefer to “remove [Trump] from office at the ballot box.”
Her comments echoed those in a video she tweeted earlier in the week in which she said impeachment had “greatly increased the likelihood Trump will remain the president for the next five years.”
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 8:00 AM EST
RNC says backlash to impeachment bolstered fundraising
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel asserted Friday that backlash against the Democratic-led impeachment of Trump had helped boost fundraising totals for the president and his party.
“Democrats’ baseless impeachment charade has only made support for @realDonaldTrump stronger,” McDaniel said in a tweet. “His accomplishments combined with the largest grassroots, data-driven ground game in @GOP history puts us in prime position for victory on Nov 3!”
McDaniel pointed to a Washington Post report that Trump’s political operation headed into 2020 with nearly $200 million on hand, according to party officials, giving him a financial war chest that vastly outstrips the resources of his Democratic opponents.
Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican Party and two joint fundraising committees together raised a record $154 million in the final three months of the year, party officials told The Post.
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 7:30 AM EST
Trump scheduled to appear at event with evangelicals
Trump plans to travel to Miami on Friday afternoon for an event marking the launch of an Evangelicals for Trump Coalition.
The group’s formation comes in the wake of an editorial last month in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today calling for Trump’s removal from office. In the weeks since, Trump has sought to shore up his standing among a group that voted overwhelmingly for him in the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump has no other public events on his schedule Friday but could address the nation earlier in the day regarding the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani. He has been staying at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., where he spent the holidays, and he plans to return there after the event in Miami.
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 7:00 AM EST
McConnell, Schumer plan to address impeachment in addresses on the Senate floor
The two leaders did not communicate over the holidays about how to break the impasse on the scope of an impeachment trial, according to congressional aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share the status of private deliberations.
Schumer has been pressing for a guarantee that the trial will include subpoenas of certain documents as well as some witnesses who did not participate in the House impeachment proceedings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
McConnell has said that the Senate should wait to decide about witnesses until after hearing opening statements from House impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys, and the senators have an opportunity to submit written questions to both sides. That is the model that was used during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, and McConnell has argued that there is no reason to deviate from that.
McConnell has also said he would be unconcerned if a trial never takes place.
By John Wagner
January 3, 2020 at 6:00 AM EST
Americans roughly divided on whether voters should decide Trump’s fate rather than the Senate
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans think Trump has committed an impeachable offense, but the public is more evenly split on whether voters should decide his fate in this year’s elections rather than have the Senate remove him from office, according to a new poll.
The 538-Ipsos poll also finds that congressional Democrats, Republicans and Trump alike get low marks from the public for how they are handling the impeachment process.
The poll finds that 57 percent of Americans think Trump has committed an impeachable offense, while 40 percent think he has not. Of those who think he has, 50 percent are “absolutely certain,” while 31 percent are “pretty certain.”
Meanwhile, 51 percent say voters should ultimately determine Trump’s fate, while 47 percent say he should be removed from office by the Senate. Separately, a Washington Post average of 16 national polls in December found 47 percent supported impeaching and removing Trump, while 48 percent were opposed.