⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened Saturday? Trump’s legal team began their opening arguments by seeking to cast doubt on Democrats’ case that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden. Over the course of a two-hour session, Trump’s lawyer Pat Cipollone and his deputy Michael Purpura argued that Trump had valid reasons for withholding military aid from Ukraine and that House prosecutors overlooked facts, noting that witnesses in the House’s impeachment hearings based their assessments on “presumptions” and “guesswork” rather than knowledge of Trump’s intentions. “We don’t believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they’re asking you to do,” Cipollone said. They also argued that the words Trump spoke on his July 25 call to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, conveyed no pressure — and that Ukrainians never publicly expressed any. Cipollone added that Democrats are “asking you to tear up all of the ballots all across the country” and “perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history.”

What happened today? Trump’s team continued with their opening statements, arguing about the basis of the House’s impeachment inquiry and the Trump’s rights of due process and executive privilege. Trump’s lawyers – ignoring John Bolton’s disclosure that Trump said he wanted to continue a freeze on military aid to Ukraine until officials helped with investigations into Trump’s political rivals – told senators that no evidence existed tying Trump’s decision to withhold security aid from Ukraine to his insistence on the investigations, arguing that Trump did nothing wrong and the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate from the start. Alan Dershowitz claimed that “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power, or an impeachable offense.” A handful of Republicans, meanwhile, appeared to be moving closer to joining Democrats in a vote to subpoena Bolton. Pam Bondi, one of Trump’s lawyers, accused Democrats of denying the legitimacy of investigations into the Bidens because the House case depends on the premise that Trump was only interested in the negative political impact on his rival. Jane Raskin, a member of Trump’s defense team, also called Rudy Giuliani a “colorful distraction.”


1/ Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until Ukrainian officials helped with investigations into Biden and other Democrats, according to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened.” Bolton’s account directly contradicts one of Trump’s defense arguments, that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son in the July phone call. Bolton’s account was included in drafts of a manuscript he circulated to close associates. A draft was also sent to the White House for a standard review process on Dec. 30 — 12 days after Trump was impeached. The White House ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)

  • Trump claimed that he “NEVER” told Bolton that military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on investigations into Biden and his son. Trump cited his first face-to-face meeting with Zelensky at the United Nations in September, and asserted that he “released the military aid to Ukraine without any conditions or investigations - and far ahead of schedule.” (Politico / New York Times / CNBC)

  • Mitch McConnell didn’t know that Trump’s administration had a copy of the Bolton manuscript. McConnell, who has said he’s in “total coordination” with the White House on the impeachment trial, reportedly isn’t happy. (Courier-Journal)

  • 💡 Takeaways from the John Bolton revelations. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 📚 The WTF Just Happened Today? Recommended Book List

2/ Congressional Democrats called for Bolton to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial following the report that Trump told Bolton last August that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it aided investigations into the Bidens. In a joint statement, the seven House impeachment managers called the report “explosive” and urged Senate Republicans to agree to call Bolton as a witness in Trump’s trial. Bolton has said that he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that because of the report that Bolton had firsthand knowledge of Trump’s decision that ran counter to the White House’s account, the “refusal of the Senate to call for him, other relevant witnesses, and documents is now even more indefensible.” (Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Senate Republicans have privately discussed a “one-for-one” witness deal. Patrick Toomey has privately spoken with several colleagues – including Mitt Romney – about possibly summoning two witnesses to Trump’s impeachment trial. Romney, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski have previously said they’re open to hearing from Bolton. Following the revelations from Bolton’s unpublished manuscript, Romney and Collins said it’s “increasingly likely” other Republicans will vote to call witnesses. (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Bloomberg)

4/ A video made public captures Trump saying he wants to “get rid” of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine during an April 2018 meeting that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The video, recorded on Fruman’s phone, contradicts Trump’s statements that he didn’t know Parnas or Fruman, who both worked with Rudy Giuliani to push for the ousting of Marie Yovanovitch, who was ultimately removed from her post in April 2019. Trump also asked how long Ukraine would be able to resist Russian aggression without U.S. assistance during the dinner. (New York Times / Associated Press / PBS NewsHour / CNN / BuzzFeed News)

  • 📌 Day 1100: Trump appeared to order two Rudy Giuliani associates to “get rid” of then-US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a dinner in April 2018 at the Trump International Hotel, according to a recording made by Igor Fruman. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump reportedly said of Yovanovitch after being told by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman that the career foreign service officer was “badmouthing” him in Kiev. Parnas turned over the recording to the House Intelligence Committee. Trump claimed in November that didn’t “know much” about Yovanovitch when he signed off on recalling her from Kiev. Pence defended Trump after the 2018 recording emerged, saying “All of the ambassadors for the United States of America serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.” (ABC News / New York Times / Daily Beast / Talking Points Memo)

  • 💡 Takeaways from the video of Trump’s private donor dinner. (New York Times)

5/ Trump tweeted that Rep. Adam Schiff has “has not paid the price, yet,” attacking Schiff as “a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man.” Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial, responded by urging Republican senators to find the “moral courage to stand up” to a “wrathful and vindictive president.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

6/ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly ended an interview with NPR after the reporter asked about the Trump administration’s firing of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Immediately after the question on Ukraine, Pompeo glared at Mary Louise Kelly for several seconds before leaving the room. A few moments later, an aide asked Kelly to follow her into Pompeo’s private living room at the State Department without a recorder. Inside the room, Pompeo shouted his displeasure for being questioned about Ukraine, repeatedly used the “f-word,” and challenged Kelly to find Ukraine on an unlabeled map, which she did. Pompeo then said, “People will hear about this.” Pompeo later accused Kelly of lying and being part of an “unhinged” media conspiracy “in a quest to hurt President Trump and this administration.” Email records, however, show Pompeo’s staff was aware that Kelly would ask Pompeo about several topics during the interview – including about Ukraine – and raised no objections. Pompeo never said whether he owed Marie Yovanovitch an apology. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • Trump questioned why NPR exists and appeared to threaten to cut off its federal funding. About 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget consists of “grants from Corporation for Public Broadcasting and federal agencies and departments.” (Mother Jones / The Hill)

  • Transcript: NPR’s Full Interview With Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo. (NPR)

poll/ 50% of Americans think the Senate should vote to convict and remove Trump, while 44% believe the Senate should not vote to remove Trump from office. (Fox News)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce its “public charge” rule, which makes it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the country because they have or might use public-assistance programs. (CBS News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  2. The Trump administration is working to roll back Obama’s efforts to combat racial segregation. Housing secretary Ben Carson has moved to scrap a policy that withholds federal funds from cities if they don’t address segregation, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed cutting back on collecting data that helps track discrimination in the mortgage market. (Politico)

  3. The Veterans of Foreign Wars demanded that Trump apologize for downplaying traumatic brain injuries sustained by U.S. service members in Iraq after Iranian missile strikes on American troops earlier this month. Trump previously said he doesn’t consider potential traumatic brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, saying some troops “had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it’s not very serious.” (CNN)

  4. Trump’s spiritual adviser called for “all satanic pregnancies to miscarry.” Paula White said she was speaking in metaphor. White recently joined the White House Office of Public Liaison as a religious adviser. (Washington Post)

  5. Obama called Trump a “fascist” in a phone conversation during the 2016 presidential election. The clip of Sen. Tim Kaine recounting the call with Hillary Clinton was caught on camera and appears in an episode of “Hillary,” a four-part documentary series that will be available on Hulu on March 6. (NBC News)


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