Day 1105: Public interest.
⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:
What happened today? Trump’s impeachment trial moved to written questions. Senate Republicans opened the day with Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney – three Republicans who have hinted they could vote to hear from witnesses – asking Trump’s legal team how they should consider abuse of power if Trump had “had more than one motive for his alleged conduct.” Trump attorney Patrick Philbin argued that if there were a motive “of the public interest, but also some personal interest,” then it “cannot possibly be the basis for an impeachable offense.” Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz also argued that because Trump’s re-election is in the public interest, if Trump “does something that he thinks will help him get elected” – and even if he had political motivations to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens – it “cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was unlikely that Democrats will be able to win over enough Republican votes to call witnesses and documents. Republican leaders, meanwhile, signaled that they were confident that they would be able to block new witnesses and documents and bring the trial to an acquittal verdict as soon as Friday.
What’s next? The Senate will return Thursday for another question-and-answer session, followed by four hours of debate, and then a vote on whether the Senate should seek witnesses and documents. If the Senate defeats that resolution, the trial is likely to head to a quick acquittal.
📝 Articles: New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Washington Post / NPR
💻 Live blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NBC News / CNN / The Guardian / Politico
⚡️ Impeachment.wtf — The internet’s most comprehensive guide to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Maintained by the WTF community. Updated daily.
1/ The White House moved to block publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, claiming it contained “TOP SECRET” and “significant amounts of classified information” that could “cause exceptionally grave harm” to U.S. national security. The letter from the National Security Council’s senior director for records says “the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information” and that the White House will be in touch with “additional, more detailed guidance regarding next steps” on how to move forward. Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is currently scheduled for publication on March 17. (CNN / Axios)
2/ Trump accused John Bolton of making false allegations, tweeting that he “NEVER” had a conversation with Bolton in August that he wanted to keep aid to Ukraine frozen until the country helped with investigations into Democrats, including Biden. Trump urged Republicans to reject calling witnesses and called Bolton’s unpublished book “nasty & untrue.” Trump also suggested that if Bolton were still in the White House, the U.S. “would be in World War Six by now.” (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press)
- 📌 Day 1103: 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)
3/ The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said Bolton told him during a Sept. 23 phone call – shortly after Bolton left his post – to examine the ouster of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Rep. Eliot Engel said Bolton “strongly implied that something improper had occurred” related to Marie Yovanovitch’s removal. Engel added: “Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn’t say anything about the Trump-Ukraine scandal at the time the President fired him. He said something to me.” (NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
4/ Rudy Giuliani claimed he “never ever” discussed Ukraine military aid with Trump, directly challenging former national security adviser John Bolton’s claims that Trump tied the hold on military aid to an investigation into Trump’s political rivals. Giuliani called Bolton “a backstabber,” adding that Bolton never told him “’‘I’ve got a problem with what you are doing in Ukraine.’” During congressional testimony, Fiona Hill, a former White House aide, said Bolton complained to colleagues about Giuliani’s work, which he called “a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.” (CBS News)
- In late 2018, Rudy Giuliani said he delivered a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham calling for sanctions on a host of Ukrainian government officials. The letters claim that several Ukrainian political figures and businesspeople were part of an alleged “organized crime syndicate” that was “actively involved in the siphoning of funds appropriated by the American government for aid to Ukraine.” (Daily Beast)
5/ Three moderate Senate Democrats are reportedly undecided on whether to vote to remove Trump from office and are “struggling” over the decision. In an interview, Joe Manchin said: “I know it’s hard to believe that. But I really am [undecided]. But I have not made a final decision. Every day, I hear something, I think ‘this is compelling, that’s compelling.’” Doug Jones has said he’s “troubled” that the House didn’t fight harder to hear from administration witnesses. Unlike Manchin and Jones, Kyrsten Sinema has made no comments since the trial began. (Politico)
Manchin said he believes Hunter Biden is a relevant witness in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Manchin called it an opportunity for Biden to clear himself. (Axios)
A growing number of GOP senators acknowledge that Trump may have leveraged military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an announcement of investigations that could help him politically, but they say that it’s not impeachable and doesn’t warrant the hearing from new witnesses. (CNN)
6/ Members of Trump’s legal defense team have made thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to GOP senators overseeing the impeachment trial. Ken Starr and Robert Ray gave thousands to Mitch McConnell last year before joining Trump’s team, months before McConnell announced that he would be working in “total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate” during the impeachment trial. Star gave $2,800 to McConnell in July 2019 and Ray gave the maximum $5,600 to McConnell in September 2019. (Center for Responsive Politics / Slate)
A 501(c)3 charitable organization allied with Trump has been holding cash giveaways in black communities to improve Trump’s image. The cash giveaways are organized by the Urban Revitalization Coalition charity, permitting donors to remain anonymous while making tax-deductible contributions. The group’s “Christmas Extravaganza” event last month featured a $25,000 giveaway and an appearance by Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to Trump. The coalition also advertised a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event that would honor Trump and Jared Kushner and featured a $30,000 cash giveaway. (Politico)
House Republican leaders are experiencing a fundraising crisis and are worried it could affect their ability to regain a majority in the 2020 election. “They are kicking our ass,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a private GOP meeting on Tuesday. The DCCC out-raised the NRCC by $40 million in 2019, and individual Democratic candidates are continuing to out fundraising their Republican opponents. Democrats currently hold a 35-seat majority in the House, with five vacancies. (Politico)
Trump signed the revised North American trade agreement. The trade deal, now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, updates NAFTA, with stronger protections for workers and the digital economy, expanded markets for American farmers, and new rules to encourage auto manufacturing in North America. The USMCA must still be ratified by Canada before it can take effect. Trump excluded Democrats from the signing ceremony despite their role in securing the final version of the deal that passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. Trump also joked that he needs senators’ votes for acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN / Politico / CBS News)
The Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate steady – the second straight time the Fed made no changes to rates following three consecutive reductions in 2019. (Bloomberg / CNBC)
A total of 50 U.S. service members have now been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury as a result of the Iranian missile strikes earlier this month on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. Last week, the Pentagon listed 34 service members who had been diagnosed with TBI, including concussions. Of the 50 current patients, 31 received treatment in Iraq and have returned to active duty. (NBC News)
House Democrats plan to announce a five-year, $760 billion infrastructure framework for rebuilding the nation’s highways, airports, railways, and more. (New York Times)
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