Day 1092: "Do impartial justice."
1/ The Senate opened the impeachment trial of Trump – the third presidential impeachment trial in history – with the swearing in of senators and the presentation of the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial, administered the oath to “do impartial justice” to all senators in the chamber. The Senate also issued a formal summons for Trump, informing him of the charges and inviting him to respond by Saturday evening. The Senate will now recess the trial until Tuesday, Jan. 21. A two-thirds vote is required to remove Trump from office, meaning 20 Republican senators would need to break ranks. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)
- Chuck Schumer said he will try to force a vote on whether to call witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Democrats want to call acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and two other White House officials, and also are seeking documents the White House has withheld. Schumer added that the disclosures by Lev Parnas raised “serious questions.” (Bloomberg)
2/ Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine, according to Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. Parnas said Trump was “aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.” While Parnas never spoke with Trump directly about his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, he met with Trump on several occasions, and was told by Giuliani that Trump was kept informed about his work. Parnas also said he warned an aide to then-Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky at the direction of Giuliani that the U.S. would halt aid to the country if it didn’t announce investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Parnas also implicated several senior officials in the scheme, including Mike Pence, John Bolton, Devin Nunes, and William Barr. Parnas claimed that Barr “had to have known everything” going on with Ukraine because “Barr was basically on the team.” Parnas also claimed that Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
Democrats released more evidence obtained from Parnas, including voicemails, photos, and text messages between him and high-level Trump associates, including a top official at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. The previously undisclosed documents, released by the House Intelligence Committee, show Parnas directly involved with efforts to get the Ukrainian president to announce investigations related to Biden. (Politico / Washington Post)
Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)
FBI investigators visited both the home and business of Robert Hyde. The visit comes days after the House Intelligence Committee released texts Hyde sent Parnas suggesting he was surveilling then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. (NBC News / CNN)
Trump threatened to withhold more than just military aid from Ukraine if Zelesnky refused to announce investigations into the Bidens. “The message was: It wasn’t just military aid,” Parnas said. “It was all aid.” Parnas also said that Trump’s efforts in Ukraine were “never about corruption,” they were “strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.” (MSNBC / NBC News / The Hill)
Takeaways from Parnas’ interview with Rachel Maddow. A day after the House published evidence provided by Parnas for the Senate impeachment trial, Parnas unveiled his take on what has been going on behind the scenes with the White House’s Ukraine policy. (The Hill / Washington Post)
3/ Trump denied knowing Parnas while also dismissing a photo of himself with the Giuliani associate as just one of “thousands” he’s taken with his supporters. Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said: “I don’t know him at all, don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know nothing about him.” Trump added: “Perhaps he’s a fine man. Perhaps he’s not.” Trump also claimed he knew nothing about a letter in which Giuliani told Zelensky he was seeking a meeting with the Ukranian president with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg)
- 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)
4/ The Trump administration violated the law when it froze military aid to Ukraine, according to a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. The Government Accountability Office said the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds that had been appropriated by Congress for a “policy reason.” The Office of Management and Budget claimed it “withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent ‘in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.’” The GAO, however, rejected the argument, saying “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)
- READ: GAO concludes OMB violated law in withholding Ukraine aid. (CNN)
5/ The Senate passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump’s signature trade deal designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. The deal now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature. (Politico / Axios / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
6/ Trump’s 2017 tax cuts are being investigated by the Treasury Department. The Opportunity Zone tax break was meant to help poor communities by encouraging investment in new housing, businesses, and jobs. Instead, money that was eligible for the tax break has been used to fund luxury development projects in wealthy neighborhoods, including projects by friends of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and members of the Kushner family. (NBC News / New York Times)
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