A Friday interview between NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a contentious turn when Kelly, who anchors the All Things Considered afternoon news show, moved from questions on Iran to some harder queries on Ukraine. After the interview wrapped up, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cursed at her and asked the reporter to identify on an unmarked map the location of Ukraine. She did.
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly says the following happened after the interview in which she asked some tough questions to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. pic.twitter.com/cRTb71fZvX
As always, I am happy to help: Did you hear? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got fussy about being asked about reports his department failed to offer protection to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He was sensitive when Kelly asked about the advisor who resigned from the State Department because it didn’t “offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine.” He was mad because he thought they were there to only talk about Iran.
His request for Kelly to place a finger on the map did not go well. I wonder why?
It’s the corruption, stupid. According to a new report, President Donald Trump said nearly two years ago that he wanted Marie Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, removed from her post.
ABC News reported Friday that it had obtained an audio recording of an “intimate” April 2018 dinner at Trump’s Washington hotel that included, among others, the president and Lev Parnas, the since-indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. According to the news outlet, a voice that sounds like Trump states during the recording: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.” Trump said this, according to ABC, after Parnas told him that Yovanovitch was a “problem” and was “basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.’” It’s not clear exactly who Trump was instructing to “get rid of her.”
Efforts by Giuliani, assisted by Parnas, to remove Yovanovitch are a key part of the scheme that has resulted in Trump’s impeachment and his ongoing trial in the Senate. Giuliani hassaid he wanted Yovanovitch out because she was an obstacle to his effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations that would help Trump politically.
The ABC report further belies Trump’s never-credible claim that he does not know Parnas. It also suggests that efforts to force out Yovanovitch were underway more than a year before her eventual removal from her post and before Zelensky’s May 2019 election.
But it also highlights something simpler: the extraordinaryaccess and apparent influence on US policy Parnas and other big political donors have enjoyed under Trump. Parnas contributed about $100,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign and the GOP in late October 2016, the first of a series of major contributions that won him access to Trump and a slew of top Republicans.
The dinner at which Trump reportedly asked for Yovanovitch’s removal came 18 days before the recorded date of a $325,000 donation that Parnas and his partner, Igor Fruman, gave to a pro-Trump SuperPAC, America First Action. They made the contribution through a Delaware shell company, a step that drew federal scrutiny and resulted in the October 2019 indictment of Parnas and Fruman on campaign finance violations.
There is no dispute that Parnas’ campaign donations were the reason he was able to make his case personally to Trump. And while the precise motives behind Parnas’ desire to oust Yovanovitch remain unclear, it is striking that his campaign contributions enabled him to badmouth a US ambassador directly to the president and influence US policy toward Ukraine.
That this occurred in the for-profit hotel Trump continues to operate, in what critics charge is open defiance of the Constitution, makes it all the more striking—an especially pungent example of the stink with which the Trump presidency has infused Washington.
A Republican prop during a House Judiciary Committee hearingJonathan Ernst/AP
The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is a test of our nation’s institutions and traditions. And that has meant, for many of us, learning about them.
During the trial, a new set of rules are imposed. Senators become jurors. Aides are restricted to sitting in the back of the chambers—if they get in at all. Cellphones must be left outside in a special cubby made by Capitol Hill carpenters specifically for this event.
The leader of all these logistics is the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper. (Yes, that’s the full title.) Originally, it was just doorkeeper—a position created in 1789 because of the “single-most-pressing problem confronting the Senate at its birth,” according to the Senate’s website: “its inability to keep a majority of members in the Capitol long enough to organize and begin the business of government.” Over time, the role became multifaceted. James Ziglar, sergeant-at-arms during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, sums it up as a combination of chief operating officer, chief enforcement officer, and chief protocol officer. “You know, following the protocol rules when a king or somebody comes to the Capital, [making sure] they’re treated the way they’re supposed to be—blah, blah, blah,” he explained. It’s “unusual” for all the roles to come into play at once, he says, “but all of [them] do show up when you’re having an impeachment trial.”
As the long days of argumentation and deliberation continue—senators have been stuck in chambers late every night of the hearings so far—some are starting to test the anachronistic rules. At least four have brought milk in with them (aside from water, milk is the only drink allowed). Another weird rule: There is no food allowed on the floor—except for the candy stocked in a special desk occupied, since 2015, by Sen. Patrick Toomey and by Sen. Rick Santorum during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. (I think it’s healthy and good to imagine our leaders deciding things on a steady diet of lactose and high-fructose corn syrup.)
To understand why such rules are important and all the other quirks that come with this particular event, we asked Ziglar, now a senior counsel at Van Ness Feldman, an environmental law firm, about studying Andrew Johnson’s trial, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s love of desserts, and the importance of arcana.
Howdid you prepare for impeachment? It was only the second one at that point, the first modern one.
When I took the sergeant-at-arms job in November 1998, it was only a month and a few days before they actually impeached President Clinton. It was pretty clear to me right away when I got there that I needed to be boning up on impeachment and how it occurs in the Senate.
The way I went about it was: One, just spending all kinds of time studying the Andrew Johnson trial. I read Bill Rehnquist’s book. I spent a lot of time with the Senate historian and parliamentarian. They were all scrambling, too, to understand, to go back and review all the records from that trial.
I then assembled a committee of people. It was about half Democrats and Republicans. We worked together to survey all the things we could come up with that might happen in a trial. We figured it out.
Why did you choose to keep certain traditions? For example, I read that the current Senate sergeant-at-arms reportedly has to announce at the start of each session that everyone must be quiet “on pain of imprisonment.” Did you have to do that?
That originated in the Andrew Johnson trial. Remember, the senators—when they are sworn in and they go into so-called “impeachment trial mode”—they are sitting there as triers of the impeachment articles. They are in many ways jurors. They are required to remain silent and pay attention.
And the proclamation that you make—that I made at the beginning of every trial session just like the sergeant-at-arms is doing now, just like the sergeant-at-arms did in the Andrew Johnson trial—is reminding them that they’re to remain silent and that there’s a punishment.
Were there other things you updated? Or kept from Johnson?
Well, there was a lot. I remember that there was printing the impeachmenttickets. We had a long discussion about how the tickets ought to look and what they ought to say. We went back and got the impeachment tickets from Andrew Johnson. And if you notice, there’s a striking similarity between thetwo.
How about the modern problems: iPads and laptops and cellphones? A carpenter made a cabinet with cubbyholes for folks to place their electronics for this impeachment. Was there an equivalent during your time?
We didn’t have cellphones and iPads and stuff like that. I mean, there were cellphones around, of course, but they weren’t ubiquitous.
We did have to have tables that fit in the well of the Senate. In fact, if you watch what’s going on—right as we speak—those tables that the House managers are sitting at and the president’s council is sitting at, they’re the tables that were actually made for the Clinton trial. We put them into government storage, never thinking they’d have to use them again. But here we are.
Another example that I think I saw on the floor: They have a little step, a stool-like thing. We had some senators who were quite short, like [former] Sen. Barbara Boxer [from California] and Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski from Maryland. We had to give them something so they could stand up a little higher to see over the lectern.
And in our particular case, Chuck Ruff, the president’s council, was in a wheelchair. So we had to create a table for him to be able to make his presentations.
For the trial you organized, was there—as today—haggling over how many cameras should be in the chamber?
That wasn’t a big discussion. I believe C-SPAN and some others wanted more TV cameras in the chamber. We almost let them do it. But Sen. [Robert] Byrd objected to it at the last minute. So we used the existing technology for that.
We’ve been wondering about how aides work in all of this too. They’re locked out basically. It’s different from normal, right?
Very different. Non-senators aren’t allowed to be on the floor or to be standing in the back, period. They could sit in the seats that were provided around the edge of the chamber. In fact, the only person that was really allowed to stand at the back was me.
Yes, because my job was to make sure everything was going okay. While I sat in my chair most of the time, I did from time to time go back and I’d stand on the Democratic side for a while, stand on the Republican side for an equal amount of time—so that I wasn’t showing favoritism.
But a lot of people didn’t like [the fact that aides weren’t allowed]. You have to sit down. You can’t talk. You can’t jump up and give your senator a message or anything like that.
I’m going to change gears a bit. I want to know what it was like during the trial. I read that Chief Justice Rehnquist was grumpy and so you got him dessertduring the breaks. Is that true?
Yes. Well, I knew Rehnquist well. He and I worked together at the Justice Department. I was on his Senate confirmation team, and I was a law clerk myself at the Supreme Court when Rehnquist was a justice. So, we had a long history together.
Well, he was grumpy not about having to be presiding. He was grumpy about the constant breaks they were taking and how much time was wasted. His time was being wasted waiting for the Senate to come back.
So he was a little grumpy about it. He had a lot of other things to do.
I had lunch with him one day. I said, “Okay, chief, you’ve been real grumpy lately,” and “What can I do to make you happier?”
He got a little smile. He said, “Yeah, I guess I have.” And he said, “Well, I like cookies-and-cream ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. And we’ve got these long breaks. If you could arrange to have ice cream and a chocolate chip, that’d make me a lot happier.”
I said, “You’ve got a deal.”
From then on, when we had a long break, I always made sure my staff went down to the Senate dining kitchen—we kept ice cream and cookies down there—and bring it up.
Guess what? He was a much happier guy.
The other thing I read was that you busted him gambling with nickels and dimes.
I walked in and he was playing cards with two of his clerks and his executive assistant. And there were nickels and dimes on the table. I think they were playing poker. I said to him, “Chief, I don’t know if you know this, but I’m chief law enforcement officer in the Senate also, and gambling’s not allowed. And I’m sure you’re not gambling in here, but I got to run out for a second for a quick meeting.”
So I just walked outside the door, closed it, and waited for about five minutes, and then walked back in. Of course, all the money was gone, but there were little pieces of paper, with one, five, and 10 written on them. They were spread all around the table.
There’s a tendency to assume traditions like the Senate’s are all ridiculous or arcane. But can they be a good thing in time of impeachment?
What I learned in the Senate—and I worked in the Senate back in the ’60s and ’70s—is that precedents are important. The Senate is a place where people tend to be institutionalists. They tend to follow procedures. And ceremonial things from the outside can look kind of silly, but they’re not actually. Things we did in Clinton’s impeachment tried to emphasize to these folks—the senators—the historical importance of what they were doing, and it made them think back to the founders and framers, and what they were thinking about.
These arcane things, as we call them, and some of this pomp and circumstance, I think they’re very important, frankly.
Throughout the impeachment process, Republicans have argued that because Donald Trump hasn’t been accused of breaking a criminal statute in the Ukraine scandal, there is no reason for him to be removed from office. That’s nonsense. “High crimes”—one of the justifications for impeachment established by the framers of the Constitution—aren’t limited to violations of criminal law, but can instead encompass other kinds of abuse of power. Who says so? Legal scholars, for one. But so did one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y), one of the House managers in Trump’s trial, pointed out Thursday.
Nadler showed a two-decade-old video of Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is now one of the senators deciding Trump’s fate, but at the time was a House manager in Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Let’s cut to the tape:
“I think that’s what they meant by ‘high crimes,'” Graham said in 1999. “Doesn’t even have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office, and you’re acting in a way that hurts people. You committed a high crime.”
And where was Graham when Nadler played the clip?
Lindsey Graham walked out of the chamber moments before Nadler played a clip of him just now
After setting a personal record for most tweets in a single day, President Donald Trump was back on his favorite social media platform Thursday morning, tearing into Democrats, the impeachment trial, and billionaire presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.
But one tweet stood out, because it was packed with so many brazen lies:
The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for? They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!
Trump lie: Democrats are now demanding “witnesses that the House never sought.” Earlier this week, Senate Democrats attempted to subpoena four Trump administration officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Senate Republicans blocked those efforts on party-line votes. House Democrats had requested testimony from all four of those officials during last year’s impeachment hearings, and all four refused to comply after the White House ordered them not to cooperate.
Trump lie: House Democrats wouldn’t give us witnesses. The House called four witnesses that Republicans lawmakers—who were working in close coordination with the White House—requested: Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, David Hale, and Jonathan Turley.
Trump lie: House Democrats “would not give us lawyers.” In fact, the House Judiciary Committee invited both Trump and his legal defense team to participate in the proceedings but, surprise, they rejected the offer. “House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a December letter declining the invitation.
Trump’s Thursday morning tweet isn’t exactly a surprise. After all, his lawyers rattled off a host of lies during their appearances on the first day of the Senate impeachment trial. But it demonstrates the misinformation echo chamber both Trump and his allies are relying on to help them survive this historic trial.
“We wish he could have stayed in Davos longer,” many Americans and no Swiss thought.
tl;dr: Donald Trump spent this Wednesday the same way he spends most Wednesdays, the only difference being this Wednesday he was live-tweeting Fox News on a plane and also facing removal from office in the Senate.
On the second day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) summarized the argument for impeachment and rebuked the president for “abusing the power of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home.”
“President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign,” Schiff said. “When the Ukrainian president did not immediately assent, President Trump withheld two official acts to induce the Ukrainian leader to comply: a head of state meeting in the Oval Office, and military funding.”
Trump’s gravest misstep, according to Schiff, was his withholding of military aid from Ukraine. “President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his reelection,” he said. “In other words, to cheat.”
He continued, “The president used official state powers available only to him and unavailable to any political opponent to advantage himself in a democratic election. His scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason: to help him win reelection in 2020. But the effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections and to put our national security at risk.”
Watch the video below:
.@RepAdamSchiff: “We are here today in this hallowed chamber undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history because Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the US, has acted precisely as Hamilton and his contemporaries feared.” #ImpeachmentTrialpic.twitter.com/tQyNs8Jbq1
President Donald Trump is thousands of miles away from Washington right now, but that hasn’t stopped him from chiming in on the historic impeachment trial currently underway in the Senate. “We’re doing very well,” he told reporters before leaving the World Economic Forum in Davos, later adding, “Honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”
Donald Trump, who is essentially on trial for obstruction of Congress, just bragged about withholding material from Congress: “We’re doing very well…Honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.” https://t.co/ql0S7tf538pic.twitter.com/QKFbXd3ZhJ
Trump didn’t elaborate on what he meant, but his comments come hours after Senate Republicans voted down several motions to subpoena administration officials and documents related to the Ukraine scandal. That’s certainly how Democrats took it. “The second article of impeachment was for obstruction of Congress: covering up witnesses and documents from the American people,” tweeted Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), one of the House impeachment managers prosecuting the case. “This morning the President not only confessed to it, he bragged about it.”
President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.Evan Vucci/AP
Late on Tuesday night, a watchdog group released a trove of documents from the White House Office of Management and Budget related to President Donald Trump’s hold on military aid to Ukraine. The disclosure of the material, obtained by the nonprofit American Oversight, came just hours after the Senate voted along party lines not to subpoena OMB documents or require testimony from two OMB officials, Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, in Trump’s impeachment trial. The president’s decision to block aid that had been appropriated by Congress is at the center of the Ukraine scandal.
The documents American Oversight released is composed largely of email traffic from Duffey, a political appointee who played a key role in executing the hold. The material reveals a flurry of activity by Duffey and a group of OMB employees related to the Ukraine aid just before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Just after the call, the emails show, Duffey met with OMB General Counsel Mark Paoletta about the “Ukraine topic.”
The emails also shed new light on administration efforts to release the hold after it came to light that Trump had pressured Ukraine for investigations that could benefit him politically.
The material OMB handed over, however, is heavily redacted, leaving its import not entirely clear. The Senate could presumably obtain the unredacted versions from OMB. Republicans just have to agree to ask.
Speaking to the Senate during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) outlined what he called President Donald Trump’s “trifecta of constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”
“It is the president’s belief that under Article II he can do anything he wants, no matter how corrupt, outfitted in gaudy legal clothing,” Schiff said, echoing previous remarks from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“And yet, when the founders wrote the impeachment clause, they had precisely this type of misconduct in mind,” he continued. “Conduct that abuses the power of his office for personal benefit, that undermines our national security, that invites foreign interference in our democratic process of an election. It is the trifecta of constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”
Watch Schiff’s remarks below:
.@RepAdamSchiff: “When the founders wrote the impeachment clause, they had precisely this type of misconduct in mind: Conduct that abuses the power of his office for personal benefit, that undermines our national security, that invites foreign interference in our [elections].” pic.twitter.com/KMnPndDDSq