⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

What happened today? The Senate voted to block new new witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. The 49 to 51 vote ensures the trial will be the first impeachment in U.S. history without witnesses. Two GOP lawmakers — Susan Collins and Mitt Romney — broke ranks and voted with Democrats on the motion to call new witnesses. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the failed motion “a grand tragedy.” Democrats attempted to force four amendments to Mitch McConnell’s organizing resolution, which outlines the rules for the rest of the trial. The Senate, however, voted down all four Democratic amendments to allow for the subpoenaing of documents and witnesses. Earlier in the day, Republicans and Trump’s legal team argued that new witnesses and documents were unnecessary and would only prolong the trial for weeks or months despite a Democratic proposal to limit depositions to one week. Immediately before the vote, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff warned Republican senators that “The facts will come out.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called Republican senators who voted against witnesses and documents are “accomplices to the President’s cover-up.”

What’s next? Closing arguments will be held at 11 a.m. Eastern on Monday and last four hours. Senators are also expected to give speeches on the Senate floor on Tuesday – the same day Trump will deliver his State of the Union Address. The Senate will vote at 4 p.m. Wednesday on the two impeachment charges against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate is virtually certain to acquit Trump.

  • 📝 Articles: Politico / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Axios

  • 💻 Live blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CBS News / CNN / Bloomberg / ABC News / Axios

  • ⚡️ Impeachment.wtf — The internet’s most comprehensive guide to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Maintained by the WTF community. Updated daily.

  • EARLIER: Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she would oppose witnesses. Murkowski in a statement blamed the House for sending articles of impeachment “that are rushed and flawed.” (Politico / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • LAST NIGHT: Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said he would vote to dismiss a motion to summon witnesses and call for documents in the Senate impeachment trial. Alexander acknowledged that it was “inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” but says the Constitution doesn’t give the Senate the authority to “remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.” The announcement means Democrats’ bid to call new witnesses in the trial will likely fall short since Republicans now have the votes to block the motion. (Washington Post / Reuters / The Guardian / NBC News / New York Times / NPR)

  • Alexander: Convicting Trump would “pour gasoline on cultural fires.” (New York Times)


1/ Trump directed then national security adviser John Bolton in May to help with his efforts to pressure Ukraine for damaging information on Democrats. According to Bolton’s unpublished book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, Trump instructed Bolton during an Oval Office meeting to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and encourage him to meet with Rudy Giuliani to discuss the investigations into Trump’s political opponents. Bolton said he never made the call. Two months later, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate his political opponents. The Oval Office meeting was also attended by Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is now leading Trump’s impeachment defense. (New York Times)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to dispute Bolton’s allegations. (ABC News)

  • 📌 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)

  • 📌 Day 1104: John Bolton told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that Trump was granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to Bolton’s unpublished manuscript. Barr responded by saying he was also concerned that Trump had “created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries,” pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations into Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE and Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The former national security adviser submitted his book manuscript nearly a month ago to the White House for review. A Justice Department’s spokeswoman, meanwhile, said “There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.” (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1105: 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)

  • 📚 The WTF Just Happened Today? Recommended Book List

2/ Former White House chief of staff John Kelly suggested that Trump’s Senate impeachment trial is “a job only half done” without witness testimonies. Kelly said Bolton was “a copious note taker” and “an honest guy and an honorable guy.” Kelly added that he believed Bolton’s assertion that Trump withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in order to leverage investigations into Biden. (CNN / NJ.com)

3/ Marie Yovanovitch retired from State Department. Yovanovitch is the fourth top State Department official to depart in the wake of the Ukraine impeachment inquiry. The others are former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, former Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (NPR / CNN / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States, and announced that people who pose a risk of transmitting the disease will temporarily be suspended from entering the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said any U.S. citizens who have been in China’s Hubei province within the last 14 days “will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they’re provided proper medical care and health screening.” (CNBC)

  2. The Trump administration restricted travel for immigrants from six additional countries that officials said failed to meet minimum security standards. Immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania will face new restrictions in obtaining certain visas to come to the United States. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press)

  3. Trump’s border wall will likely require the installation of hundreds of storm gates so it won’t be knocked over during flash floods. The gates must be left open for months every year during “monsoon season” in the desert. (Washington Post)


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