Day 1098: "Protect our democracy."
1/ House Democratic managers began formal arguments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, presenting the case for convicting Trump and removing him from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. During opening arguments, House managers outlined how “Trump solicited foreign inference” to “cheat” by abusing “the powers of his office” and “seeking help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home.” And, when Trump “was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s efforts to get a foreign government to announce an investigation into his political rival “a gross abuse of power,” urging Republicans to “protect our democracy” by joining Democrats in voting to remove Trump from office. Throughout the day, Schiff and impeachment managers methodically outlined Trump’s “corrupt scheme and cover-up,” calling on Senators to “decide what kind of democracy […] we ought to be” and what Americans can expect “in the conduct of their president.” Schiff closed the day by rehashing the facts of the case as presented over the last eight hours, urging senators to learn the “full truth” and warning that the “truth is going to come out.” (Associated Press / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / The Guardian)
WHAT’S NEXT: Starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, the Senate will meet again to hear House managers present their arguments for why Trump should be removed from office. The managers will present their case for about eight hours.
READ: Adam Schiff’s opening argument at Senate impeachment trial. (Politico)
Trump tweeted more than 140 times as House managers presented their case in his impeachment trial, surpassing his mid-December record for the most daily tweets and retweets during his presidency. (Politico)
2/ Trump said he’s open to new witnesses at his impeachment trial, before immediately backtracking. At a news conference in Davos, Trump suggested he’d prefer his impeachment trial to go the “long way” with testimony from a “a lot of people,” including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and his acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Trump then dismissed the idea, saying it could never happen because it would create “a national security problem” and that testimony by Bolton in particular could hurt his presidency, because “you don’t want someone testifying who didn’t leave on the best of terms.” The White House instructed many witnesses, including Bolton, not to testify in the House inquiry. (Politico / NPR / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)
Trump “bragged” about withholding materials from Congress during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying “we have all the material. They don’t have the material.” One of the articles of impeachment the House approved was obstruction of Congress, based partly on the administration’s refusal to provide documents or allow certain officials to testify. (Rolling Stone / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Vox)
Chuck Schumer said an impeachment witness trade is “off the table.” Some Senate Democrats had privately discussed trading the testimony of Hunter Biden for the testimony of John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. (NBC News / New York Times)
3/ The Office of Management and Budget released 192 pages of documents related to the withholding of Ukraine military aid, “including records that have not been produced to Congress in its impeachment investigation.” The night before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy, emails show that OMB officials shared a “Ukraine Prep Memo” with Michael Duffey, a political appointee who played a role in Trump’s move to freeze the aid. That same evening, it appears the general counsel’s office prepared a footnote for budget officials – a mechanism officials at the budget office used to pause the funding. The documents also detail communications between Duffey and other OMB aides, including Mark Sandy and Paul Denaro, discussing the details on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the emails — dated from early August to Sept. 30. Emails from acting OMB Director Russell Vought are also included. (American Oversight / CNN / Axios / New York Times / NBC News / The Hill)
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ukraine next week. Pompeo canceled a previously planned trip to Ukraine in early January amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. During the previous plan, Pompeo was scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy. (CNBC)
poll/ 68% of Americans think Trump should allow his top administration aides to appear as witnesses at the impeachment trial, while 30% think he shouldn’t allow his aides to appear witnesses. (Associated Press)
poll/ 51% of Americans want the Senate impeachment trial to result in Trump’s removal from office, while 46% say the result should lead to Trump remaining in office. (Pew Research Center)
The District of Columbia is suing Trump’s inaugural committee and business, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at the the Trump International Hotel – over the objections of its event planner – that its staff knew was overpriced. (ABC News / Washington Post)
Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from the personal account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A digital forensic analysis found it “highly probable” that an unsolicited video sent on May 1 by Crown Prince Mohammed infected Bezos’s phone with spyware that enabled surveillance. United Nations human rights experts suggested the hack was an attempt to “influence, if not silence” news coverage of the kingdom by the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Six months after the hack, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered after criticizing the Saudi crown prince in his columns. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered the assassination. Weeks after the murder, Bezos received a message from MBS that included a photo of a woman who strongly resembled Lauren Sanchez, who Bezos was having an affair that had not been made public. In Feb. 2019, the National Enquirer obtained and published private text messages and photos from Bezos’s phone showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship. The United Nations called on the U.S. and “other relevant authorities” to open an investigation into the hack of Bezos’s phone, citing a pattern of similar surveillance of perceived critics of the Saudi government. Trump and Jared Kushner have maintained close ties with the crown prince despite international outcry over Khashoggi’s death and the assessment by Trump’s own intelligence services that the crown prince was likely involved. (The Guardian / New York Times / TechCrunch / Wall Street Journal / Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
Trump demanded that Apple unlock iPhones for investigators in criminal cases, complaining that Apple has refused to build a “backdoor” that would give law enforcement access to the devices. Yesterday, the Department of Justice and Attorney General William Barr criticized Apple for a lack of “substantive help” in its investigation of a shooting at a Florida Naval base. In a statement, Apple said it provided information to law enforcement related to the Pensacola case but that it would not build a “backdoor” or specialized software. (CNBC / CNET / USA Today)
Trump claimed that U.S. economic growth would be closer to 4% if it weren’t for the Federal Reserve. Trump called the rate hikes “a big blip that should not have taken place,” and said the stock market would be even higher — “I could see 5,000 to 10,000 points more on the Dow” — if the Fed hadn’t raised rates so quickly before cutting them three times in 2019. (CNBC)
The State Department imposed visa restrictions for pregnant foreign women in an effort to restrict “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a U.S. passport. (NBC News / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)
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