• Senate Acquits Donald Trump

    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

    The Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit Donald Trump in the impeachment trial stemming from the Ukraine scandal. On the first article of impeachment—which alleged that the president had abused his power—Republican Mitt Romney joined all 45 Democrats and two independents in voting to convict Trump, but that was far short of the two-thirds majority needed to remove the president from office. On the second article of impeachment, which alleged obstruction of Congress, all 53 Republicans voted to acquit the president; every Democrat and both independents voted to convict.

    House Democrats—joined by one Republican-turned-independent—had accused Trump of improperly pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. A congressional inquiry into Trump’s conduct ensued, sparked by an anonymous whistleblower complaint regarding a mysterious hold on military aid to Ukraine. Over the course of several high-profile House hearings, career government officials gave dramatic testimony about Trump’s efforts to coerce the Ukrainians into launching investigations designed to help the US president politically.

    On December 18, the House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump, leading to a trial in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at the outset that he wanted a speedy trial and speedy acquittal; he ultimately got both. Republicans successfully quashed a push from Democrats to subpoena several key witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney—both of whom appeared to allege at various points that Trump had tied the Ukrainian military aid to his desired investigations.

    Bolton’s testimony was the one Democrats craved most. A manuscript he wrote about his time in the Trump administration reportedly included several passages undermining the narrative on which Trump and his allies had based the president’s defense strategy. His eyewitness account could have been a smoking gun. Instead, the GOP Senate majority largely stuck by Trump—first by blocking witness testimony, and then by ensuring that he would not become the first American president to be removed from office.

    On the latter issue, Romney proved to be the one exception. In a dramatic floor speech before Wednesday’s vote, he described his vote as “the most difficult decision I have ever faced.”

    “I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced,” he said. “Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?”

    Romney’s speech won praise from Senate Democrats—Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called it “one of the most important speeches I have ever had the good fortune to hear in person”—but Republicans quickly turned on Romney, who just eight years ago was the party’s nominee for president. 

    Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS,” Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted after the vote. “He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now. He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the GOP.”

    Romney’s niece, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, said in a statement that this was “not the first time I have disagreed with Mitt, and I imagine it will not be the last.”

    Echoing the view of the official party apparatus, she added, “The bottom line is President Trump did nothing wrong, and the Republican Party is more united than ever behind him.”

    Not all Republicans necessarily agreed with that assessment. Two possible swing votes, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), voted against removing Trump, but agreed with Romney that the president’s conduct was improper. “The president’s behavior was shameful and wrong,” Murkowski said Monday. “His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation.” Collins, while acknowledging that Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine was “flawed,” said she did not believe the House managers’ case justified “the extreme step of immediate removal from office.”

  • Doug Jones Will Vote to Convict Trump

    J. Scott Applewhite/AP

    Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) announced Wednesday morning that he will vote to convict President Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment. Jones, who was considered a swing vote on impeachment because of his tough reelection race this year, said in a statement, “After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

    Jones is one of three Senate Democrats up for reelection this year in traditionally red states. Jones narrowly beat Republican Roy Moore in a special election in 2017, after Trump had won Alabama the year before by 28 points. His victory was only made possible by startling revelations about his opponent: Nine women came forward with credible allegations that Moore had sexually assaulted them, in several cases when they were teenagers. Moore is once again running for the seat, as is Jeff Sessions, Trump’s former attorney general who held that Senate seat for nearly 20 years.

    Jones, along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), faced much pressure from both Democrats and Republicans over how they might vote on both articles of impeachment. Manchin and Sinema have not publicly said how they will vote, although Manchin said on Monday that he thinks Trump should be censured by the Senate.

    In his statement, Jones said, “Having done my best to see through the fog of partisanship, I am deeply troubled by the arguments put forth by the President’s lawyers in favor of virtually unchecked power.”

  • Adam Schiff Makes His Final Case for Impeachment: “History Will Not Be Kind to Donald Trump”

    Caroline Brehman/Zuma

    In his closing statement at the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Monday, top Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) issued a rousing final plea for the Republicans who comprise the majority of the Senate to vote to convict the president.

    “History will not be kind to Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “If you find that the House has proved its case, and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history. But if you find the courage to stand up to him, to speak the awful truth to his rank falsehood, your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath—if only you will say, ‘Enough.'”

    Schiff then called on the Senate to uphold the conviction of James Madison and the other Founding Fathers that humans are virtuous enough to justify our confidence in self-government and to defeat despotism.

    “They gave us the tools to do the job, a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to constrain: impeachment,” he said. “They meant it to be used rarely, but they put it in the Constitution for a reason: for a man who would sell out his country for a political power, for a man who would threaten the integrity of our elections, for a man who would invite foreign interference in our affairs, for a man who would undermine our national security and that of our allies, for a man like Donald J. Trump.”

    “They gave you a remedy, and they meant for you to use it,” he concluded. “They gave you an oath, and they meant for you to observe it. We have proven Donald Trump guilty. Now do impartial justice and convict him.”

    Watch the video below:

  • Republican Senators Are Now Admitting Trump’s Pressure on Ukraine Was Wrong

    Evan Vucci/AP

    Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) went on Meet The Press on Sunday and said President Donald Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal were “improper“—Trump was “crossing the line” by hinging millions in aid on investigating a political opponent—but it was not an impeachable offense. Trump was maybe just incompetent, he argued. Plus, there is an election coming up. Let the people decide, Alexander shrugged.

    When host Chuck Todd asked if Trump would be emboldened to commit other wrongs because of the lack of consequences Alexander said he “hoped not.”

    The comments are essentially in line with the explanation he gave for his Thursday statement saying he would not vote to call witnesses during the Senate’s impeachment trial. And the somber scolding without action has become the talking point for other Republicans, too: Centrists giving their energy to grave, meaningless finger-wagging—the default position of the party under Trump—instead of actually investigating the actions they find “wrong.”

    Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said on Sunday on CNN that Trump dealt with Ukraine “maybe in the wrong manner.” Ohio’s Senator Rob Portman said in a statement earlier this week it was “wrong” and “inappropriate” to ask another country’s leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent—it just doesn’t not “rise to the level” of removing him from office. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said in a Medium post on Friday that Trump’s action were impeachable—but that he shouldn’t be removed from his office. His reasoning was “impeachment must be bipartisan and must enjoy broad public support.” This is, of course, a Catch-22: For Republicans to support impeachment it has to be bipartisan; for impeachment to be bipartisan Republicans have to support it. But no matter. “Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office,” Rubio concludes.

    All three voted against hearing new witnesses. Meanwhile, a few hours after the vote for no witnesses, the Trump administration admitted there were emails discussing the holding of aid for Ukraine that could reveal Trump’s thinking. (Read: evidence that should probably be considered.) Only two Republicans voted to hear witnesses and new evidence: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

  • “The Facts Will Come Out”: Schiff Reacts to Latest Bolton Bombshell

    Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma

    On Friday afternoon, with the motion to hear from witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial almost certain to fail, lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff read aloud from a breaking New York Times article implicating the president’s own defense counsel in Trump’s scheme to “extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials.”

    Allegations from a book draft written by former national security adviser John Bolton—whom Democrats want to call as a witness—have been leaking out all week. The latest revelation: that Trump reportedly directed Bolton to help Rudy Giuliani get dirt on Democrats from Ukrainian officials—and that Pat Cipollone, who now leads the president’s impeachment defense, was included in that conversation.

    “You will recall Mr. Cipollone suggesting that the House managers were concealing facts from this body,” Schiff said, after quoting from the article. “He said all the facts should come out. Well, there’s a new fact, which indicates that Mr. Cipollone was among those who were in the loop—yet another reason why we ought to hear from witnesses.”

    Without the support of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), it is unlikely that Democrats will have enough votes to call witnesses in the impeachment trial. But that didn’t keep Schiff from trying.

    “Just as we predicted—and it didn’t require any great act of clairvoyance—the facts will come out,” he said. “The question before you today is whether they will come out in time for you to make a complete and informed judgment as to the guilt or innocence of the president.”

    Watch the video below:

  • Trump Says John Bolton Is Lying. Put Them Both on the Stand.

    Donald Trump and John Bolton on August 20, 2019.Alex Wong/Getty

    The New York Times reported Friday that former national security adviser John Bolton in an unpublished book manuscript says President Donald Trump personally asked him to help pressure Ukraine to launch investigations that would help Trump politically. According to the paper, Bolton wrote that Trump told him to urge the incoming president of Ukraine to “meet with [Rudy] Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought.” After the story appeared, Trump issued a statement flatly denying Bolton’s reported claim.

    “I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky,” Trump said in a statement to the Times. “That meeting never happened.”

    The back-and-forth follows a similar exchange earlier this week. After the Times reported that Bolton had written that Trump had told him he wanted to continue withholding military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine helped investigate the Bidens, Trump denied that allegation, too.

    Trump and Bolton are now effectively in a public fight over facts at the heart of Trump’s impeachment trial. Democratic impeachment managers on Friday made the obvious point that this shows why the Senate ought to subpoena Bolton, a step key GOP senators just made clear they will not allow. Trump’s public commentary after all, undermines any claim that Bolton’s testimony would jeopardize national security or be subject to executive privilege.

    “A denial in 280 characters is not the same as testimony under oath,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) one the House impeachment managers, said Friday afternoon.

    But Trump’s denial also highlights something that has gotten remarkably little attention: Trump could testify. Bill Clinton’s 1998 grand jury testimony, after all, was key evidence in his impeachment trial. The House never sought Trump’s testimony, because he would have refused. After all, his lawyers stonewalled all House requests for documents and witnesses. Trump refused to agree to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller and then likely lied in written answers to Mueller’s team.

    But now Trump is on trial. In a normal trial, jurors would hear from witnesses. A defendant might even choose to take the stand in his own defense. That Trump is publicly sparring with a witness that Senate Republicans refuse to call shows what a farce the impeachment trial has become.

  • In Fundraising Emails, McConnell Pledges to Stop the “Impeachment Circus”

    Senate Television/AP

    As the impeachment trial of Donald Trump has progressed, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has wasted no time trying to cash in on it. The Kentucky senator, who is up for reelection this year in the Trump-friendly state, blasted out two fundraising emails this week, asking supporter for help in “standing up to the corrupt Democrats” and promising to bring the trial to a close.

    “This has been the most unfair impeachment in American history, but thanks to your Republican Majority, this impeachment circus will stop in the Senate,” an email sent Thursday by McConnell’s campaign read. It asked his supporters to donate anywhere from $10 to $250 to “join our fight.” Another email, sent out on Monday, asked readers to donate up to $500 to “fight back against Nancy Pelosi and this rushed impeachment process.” McConnell promised: “I won’t let the Democrats’ partisan impeachment games go on any longer.”

    From the outset, McConnell has indicated that he would do everything in his power to ensure that Trump’s trial would not, in fact, be fair. Early on, he led Republicans in blocking efforts to subpoena documents and witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. A week later, the New York Times revealed that Bolton, in a draft of his forthcoming book, alleged that Trump had told him he wanted withhold military aid from Ukraine until that country agreed to help investigate the Bidens. Still, McConnell didn’t budge, setting the stage for another vote, expected Friday, on whether to allow witnesses. That vote that is widely expected to fail

    All the while, McConnell’s reelection campaign has been sending out emails calling the process “despicable” and saying that he’d “rather be fighting to confirm judges to our nation’s courts and lower taxes.”

  • Dershowitz Just Tried To Clarify His Bonkers Statement. His Explanation Was Equally Insane.

    Like many people who randomly challenge people to debate them, the president’s attorney Alan Dershowitz is now yelling that he didn’t say something that he did say.

    Dershowitz said on the Senate floor on Wednesday that it is not corrupt or impeachable for a president to commit a quid pro quo if he’s doing it to get reelected and it’s in the interest of the public. You might remember it because it was a bonkers thing to say:

    The implication is that it’s in the national interest for the president to be reelected. And so they can do whatever they want to make that happen. It was widely reported, by places like the Associated Press.

    Today, Dershowitz went on CNN to say that he didn’t say that. (He wrote an op-ed for the Hill to say he didn’t say it too.) And he asked Wolf Blitzer to stop saying he said it, that it was a lie.

    Reader, watch the clip yourself and see if you agree. 

    Dershowitz also defended his statements by saying they were entirely theoretical. “I deliberately did not talk about the facts,” he said, when discussing Trump’s motives.

    Dershowitz was absent from the impeachment trial today, and the CNN interview cleared up why: He didn’t want to skip his ticket to the Super Bowl on Sunday. He also called himself  a “liberal Democrat.”

  • Elizabeth Warren Just Made John Roberts Ask a Question About His Own Legitimacy

    Senate Television/AP

    During President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) submitted a question about the legitimacy of the Chief Justice—which the Chief Justice had to read.

    Chief Justice John Roberts read the note card submitted by the presidential candidate: “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?”

    Roberts pursed his lips as he waited for lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff to respond.

    “I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the Chief Justice,” Schiff said. “I think the Chief Justice has presided admirably.”

    “We don’t always live up to our ideals,” he continued, “but this trial is part of our constitutional heritage, that we were given the power to impeach the president. I don’t think a trial without witnesses reflects adversely on the Chief Justice. I do think it reflects adversely on us. I think it diminishes the power of this example to the rest of the world.”

    Watch the video below: