January 25, 2020

Week 167

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week the Senate impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump began, even as evidence continued to trickle out. House Democrat impeachment managers made their case for the two articles over three days, laying out their argument with an intricate presentation and appealing to Republicans’ better angels to put partisanship aside for the sake of preserving our fragile democracy. As the week came to a close, it appeared Senate Republicans were unwilling to do so.

The atmosphere of the largely obfuscated Senate chamber was described as that of an elementary school classroom, with Senate Republicans joking and, at times, leaving the chamber in violation of Senate rules while Democrats were speaking. It was unclear by week’s end if Republicans would heed the polling which consistently showed the overwhelming majority of Americans wanted to hear from first-hand witnesses.

At the start of the trial, Trump visited Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum as staffers sought to portray him as a hard working president above the fray; but as would be typical with Trump’s trips abroad, he quickly devolved into making outlandish statements and insulting U.S. allies. On Wednesday, as he returned to Washington, Trump was sending a record volume of tweets and fuming over impeachment and that his defense would be presenting on Saturday, the “death valley” of television ratings.

  1. On Saturday, the National Archives apologized for an altered image of the 2017 Women’s March, saying, “We made a mistake,” and adding, we are committed to “preserving our archival holdings, without alteration.”
  2. The Archives noted the image is not one of its archival records, but stated, “Nonetheless, we were wrong to alter the image.” The ACLU demanded an explanation, saying the National Archives took “the Orwellian step of trying to rewrite history.”
  3. On Monday, WAPO reported in his first three years in office, Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading claims. In both 2018 and 2019, Trump made the most false or misleading statements in October and November.
  4. The pace of lying has accelerated: from 1,999 claims in 2017 to 5,689 in 2018 — for a total of 7,688 in his first two years. In 2019, he made 8,155 false or misleading claims.
  5. Also three years in, WAPO and Partnership for Public Service found 23% (170 of the 741) of key positions in the executive branch have yet to have a nominee from Trump. Many positions have turned over multiple times.
  6. On Monday, the Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer study found 57% of people globally believe the media is “contaminated with untrustworthy information,” and 76% believe false information is being used as a weapon.
  7. On Saturday, in a detailed legal briefing, the House impeachment managers submitted their 46-page trial memorandum, asserting Trump tried to enlist a foreign government to help him win re-election.
  8. The memo also said Trump tried to conceal those actions from Congress, posing “a serious danger to our constitutional checks and balances” by ordering regime officials not to testify or turn over documents.
  9. On Saturday, Trump’s lead impeachment lawyers Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone released their response to House Democrats’ articles of impeachment titled, “Answers of President Donald J. Trump.”
  10. Atlantic called the brief “a howl of rage,” noting it did not read like a legal argument, but like a grievance, calling impeachment “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their President.”
  11. The seven-page brief called it “a brazen and unlawful attempt” to overturn the 2016 election and “interfere with the 2020 election,” calling the process “rigged,” and saying the articles “must be rejected.”
  12. On Sunday, Alan Dershowitz refused on “This Week” to say if Trump did anything wrong, and had no comment on the brief, saying, “I didn’t sign that brief,” and adding abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.
  13. Dershowitz argued Trump should not be impeached even if House Democrats prove their case, saying, “If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal, regardless.”
  14. Lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff told “This Week” that Dershowitz’s argument that a president cannot be impeached for abuse of power is “absurdist.”
  15. Schiff added “the facts aren’t seriously contested,” adding, “because they can’t contest the facts, that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office,” just as they did in the House hearings.
  16. On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham told “State of the Union” the Senate GOP does not “have the votes” to dismiss the impeachment trial, but that Trump wants “this behind him” by the time of the State of the Union address.
  17. On Sunday, Schiff told CNN that the National Security Agency is withholding “potentially relevant documents” from Congress relating to the “issue of Ukraine” ahead of the trial, calling it “deeply concerning.”
  18. Schiff added there “are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course,” but did not elaborate. The NSA did not respond to CNN for comment.
  19. On Sunday, NYT reported journalists are up in arms about restrictions put in place by Senate Republican leadership that will limit their movement within the Capitol, and access to interview lawmakers, during the trial.
  20. Journalists would be confined to roped-off areas. C-SPAN is also calling on the Senate to allow television crews to document the trial, instead of the government-controlled cameras which limit what viewers see.
  21. On Saturday, Andrew Peek, the senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, was put on leave, pending an investigation. The role was formerly filled by Fiona Hill and Tim Morrison.
  22. On Sunday, AP reported Peek was placed on administrative leave pending a security-related investigation, and was escorted out of the White House on Friday, after two-months in the role.
  23. On Sunday, Bloomberg reported Rear Admiral Peter Brown, Trump’s third homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser, is expected to be reassigned after six months in office.
  24. Brown was one of Trump’s staunchest defenders after Trump claimed Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama. He will take a new role overseeing Puerto Rico recovery. It was unclear why he was reassigned.
  25. On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Trump had nothing planned to honor MLK, according to the White House schedule. Trump did make an unscheduled, unannounced visit to the National Mall as he did last year.
  26. Unlike the past three presidents, Trump has not taken part in service projects to mark MLK Day, or observed the holiday publicly by making remarks or attending events. In 2018, Trump golfed on MLK Day.
  27. When asked about Trump’s MLK Day schedule, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Martin Luther King Jr. would oppose impeaching Trump.
  28. On Monday, according to a new Gallup poll, Trump’s approval is at 44%, holding steady in the range of 43–45% in recent weeks. The poll found 46% want Trump to be convicted and removed by the Senate, 51% do not.
  29. On Monday, a new CNN poll found 51% say Trump should be removed, 45% said he should not. Notably, 69% say the Senate trial should include testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House inquiry.
  30. On Monday, the attorney for Lev Parnas asked Attorney General Bill Barr in a court filing to recuse himself from Parnas’ case, given Parnas’ public statement in Week 166 on Barr, and appoint a special prosecutor.
  31. On Monday, thousands of gun-rights advocates packed the Virginia Capitol, including armed militias carrying assault-style weapons. The rally unfolded peacefully despite fears of violence like Charlottesville in 2017.
  32. Roughly 6,000 protestors cleared metal detectors to Capitol Square to cheer fiery speeches, while roughly 16,000 remained outside the square. Police made one arrest.
  33. Trump tweeted, “The Democrat Party in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia are working hard to take away your 2nd Amendment rights. This is just the beginning. Don’t let it happen, VOTE REPUBLICAN in 2020!”
  34. Trump also tweeted on impeachment: “They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House…Now they want them all in the Senate,” adding, “Not supposed to be that way!” This is a false — Bolton refused to testify.
  35. Trump also tweeted, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is now asking for “fairness,”” claiming, “he and the Democrat House members worked together to make sure I got ZERO fairness in the House.”
  36. Trump also tweeted, “I have never seen the Republican Party as Strong and as Unified as it is right now. Thank you!” and “95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, A Record” — both of which are false statements.
  37. On Monday, in an 110-page briefing submitted to the Senate, Trump’s legal team argued the two charges were constitutionally flawed since they were approved on party lines and “do not remotely” reach the threshold.
  38. The briefing cited “the diluted standard” would “permanently weaken the presidency and forever alter the balance among the branches of government” in a way that “offends the constitutional design.”
  39. Trump’s team did not contest the basic facts of the House case, but claimed he did “absolutely nothing wrong,” saying he is being punished for a foreign policy decision, and calling the case against him “flimsy.”
  40. The briefing cited “House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way — any way to corrupt the power of impeachment” in order to “overturn” the 2016 election and “interfere” in the 2020 election.
  41. On Monday, The Hill reported Senate Democrats are pressing Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to rule in favor of calling witnesses in the impeachment trial, saying without them it would not be a fair trial.
  42. While Roberts is expected to refer major disputes back for a Senate vote, Democrats are hoping he will make a ruling, citing the precedent of then-Chief Justice Salmon Chase in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson.
  43. Late in the day on Monday, shortly after the briefing was submitted, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled ground rules for the Senate trial, which would speed the process along and not allow witnesses without a separate vote.
  44. McConnell’s trial rules would limit each side to 24 hours of testimony over two days, and left open the possibility that the Senate could block new evidence not uncovered in the House impeachment inquiry.
  45. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it “a cover-up,” adding, McConnell “is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence.”
  46. On Monday, WAPO reported Trump’s impeachment lawyers and his Senate GOP allies are quietly putting together a strategy should Democrats get enough votes to have witnesses publicly testify, especially Bolton.
  47. The final option would be to have Bolton testify in a classified setting, citing national security concerns, which would require Trump’s attorneys to request a classified setting and likely require 51 votes.
  48. Republicans say first they would try to fight his testifying in court, noting the potentially explosive nature of his testimony, but blocking him could carry political risks for Republicans.
  49. The ongoing discussions show the uncertainty Trump’s team faced as to how the trial would play out. Some Republicans noted while Trump’s team is trying to control the process, it is not up to them to decide.
  50. On Monday, Kellyanne Conway warned Democrats on Fox News that Republicans would call Hunter Biden, saying, “Be careful what you wish for…Witness number one would have to be Hunter Biden.”
  51. On Monday, Axios reported Cipollone plans to argue that calling Bolton would infringe on executive privilege, and weakening that privilege would make presidents less candid when they seek counsel going forward.
  52. On Monday, Trump picked eight House Republicans to advise Trump’s impeachment team: Reps. Jim Jordan, John Ratcliffe, Mike Johnson, Mark Meadows, Debbie Lesko, Lee Zeldin, Elise Stefanik, and Doug Collins.
  53. The White House said the House members “have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives.”
  54. On Monday, the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board wrote on the revelations in Parnas’ documents regarding Rep. Devin Nunes and his aide Derek Harvey, saying his “Ukraine lies are a betrayal. Voters in his district deserve better.”
  55. On Monday, as he headed to Davos for the World Economic Forum, Trump tweeted he would meet “World and Business Leaders and bring Good Policy,” adding, “We are now NUMBER ONE in the Universe, by FAR!!
  56. On Tuesday, in a speech at Davos, Trump warned the international community against heeding the advice of environmental activists, we must reject the “prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”
  57. Trump called activists “alarmists,” saying they want “absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives,” and they “want to destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.”
  58. On Tuesday, CNN reported Trump was hesitant about leaving for Davos, and did not make a final decision until late last week, siding with aides who convinced him looking presidential on the world stage would be best.
  59. Some Trump aides had been against him traveling and thought he would be better positioned to respond from Washington. Trump was scheduled to be back in his hotel room by 2 p.m. in time for the trial.
  60. As is typical when Trump travels abroad, aides have ensured his hotel room has a TiVo-like device that allows him to watch Fox News. He will also have a phone to call aides and his phone for tweeting.
  61. On Monday, CNN reported Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein, 24, a student at Northeastern University from Iran, was deported Monday, despite an emergency stay granted by a Massachusetts district court.
  62. A federal detention hearing for Dehghani, who was returning to the U.S. on a student visa, was scheduled for Tuesday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection revoked Dehghani’s student visa and expedited his removal.
  63. On Tuesday, NBC News reported Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a church service Sunday in which religious leaders described the “demonic” nature of homosexuality, and said it was caused by “the devil.”
  64. On Tuesday, WVVA/NBC News reported a West Virginia biracial high school basketball player, Jace Colucci, found a drawing of a stick figure hung by a noose with his name in a rival team’s visiting team locker room.
  65. The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Jace’s mother said this is not the first incident — at a game in 2019, a Snapchat video was forwarded to her of kids chanting: “hang Jace, hang Jace.”
  66. On Tuesday, Politico reported next Monday, the three-year anniversary of Trump’s original Muslim Ban, he is expected to announce an expansion of the travel ban to place restrictions on additional countries.
  67. The list of countries has not been finalized, but countries under consideration included Belarus, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. Trump does not have properties at any of the countries on the list.
  68. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted he would attend the anti-abortion March for Life rally, the first president to do so. In Week 71, Stormy Daniels said Trump paid her for unprotected sex shortly after Barron was born.
  69. On Wednesday, the D.C. Attorney General sued Trump’s inaugural committee, saying it violated its nonprofit status by paying $1 million for a ballroom at Trump Hotel DC when it staff knew it was overpriced.
  70. The complaint cites, “These charges were unreasonable and improperly served to enrich” Trump’s business, and noted under D.C. law nonprofits cannot seek to generate profits for private individuals.
  71. Trump inaugural committee chair Thomas Barrack Jr. responded to accusation that the ballroom was also barely used, noting “elegance and seamless excellence without incident or interruption” of the inauguration.
  72. On Tuesday, the House Democrat impeachment managers argued in a letter to Cipollone that he is a “fact witness” in the impeachment case, and demanding that he disclose all first-hand involvement to the Senate.
  73. Democrats alleged Cipollone was part of the regime’s “efforts to conceal” Trump’s decision to withhold aid, and his representation “threatens to undermine the integrity” of the trial, as he may be “a material witness.”
  74. On Tuesday, a SurveyUSA poll found 71% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats, and 81% of Independents said McConnell should allow witnesses to testify. Just 15% of Republicans said he should not.
  75. On Tuesday, a Monmouth poll found 80% of Americans say Trump officials, as well as Trump himself, should be invited to testify at the Senate trial.
  76. On Tuesday, the Senate began an acrimonious impeachment trial with nearly 13 hours of debate starting at 1 p.m. on the rules and procedures for the trial, ending after 2 a.m.
  77. McConnell had to make changes to rules due to pressure from moderates including Sens. Susan Collins, Rob Portman, and Lisa Murkowski, who said the rules strayed too far from the Clinton trial, and would be seen as unfair.
  78. At a closed door luncheon before the trial, the Senators argued against opening remarks being limited to two days, and not admitting the findings of the House inquiry into evidence without a separate vote.
  79. McConnell rushed to submit a revised copy of the resolution, which included handwritten changes, to extend opening remarks to three days per side and House records would be admitted into evidence.
  80. Schumer told reporters of the last minute changes, “The public realizes how unfair the McConnell proposal is, and the pressure that we have put on them and on Republican senators has gotten them to change.”
  81. Also an hour before trial, the House impeachment managers submitted a written rebuttal rejecting Trump’s claims that abuse of power was not an impeachable offense and that it was legal to block officials from testifying.
  82. Democratic impeachment managers urged Senators to reject McConnell’s proposed rules, which would delay debate over witnesses and documents to the middle of the trial, with no guarantee they would be called.
  83. Lead manager Schiff said, “If the Senate votes to deprive itself of witnesses and documents, the opening statements will be the end of the trial,” saying McConnell wants to “sweep this all under the rug.”
  84. Democrats used digital slides and video clips, including video statements by Trump, to make their argument. They argued the process McConnell had laid out was rigged on Trump’s behalf.
  85. From Davos, 45 minutes into the trial, Trump tweeted, “READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!
  86. Trump also told reporters on impeachment, “It goes nowhere because nothing happened. The only thing we’ve done is a great job,” adding, “That whole thing is a total hoax, so I’m sure it’s going to work out fine.”
  87. Impeachment manager Rep. Zoe Lofgren argued the White House was sittings on hundreds of pages of relevant materials, saying, “Attorney-client privilege cannot shield information about misconduct.”
  88. Trump’s lawyers argued the charges against him are baseless, and amount to criminalizing Trump’s foreign policy decisions, and replayed many of Trump’s grievances calling impeachment a “ridiculous charade.”
  89. Cipollone said, “A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” adding, “Talk about the framers’ worst nightmare. It’s a partisan impeachment that they delivered to your doorstep in an election year.”
  90. Breaking from most constitutional scholars, Trump’s lawyers also argued the impeachment was unconstitutional because the articles do not include a specific violation of the law.
  91. Cipollone and Sekulow made false statements: Sekulow claiming Trump could not have an attorney at the House inquiry, and Cipollone claiming House Republicans did not have access to closed-door depositions.
  92. Sekulow also falsely claimed that the Mueller report “came up empty on the issue of collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction, in fact.” Both of those claims are false.
  93. Sekulow also argued House Democrats “in their rush to impeach, have refused to wait for judicial review” — a direct contradiction to the pending Don McGahn case where the DOJ argued courts should not step in.
  94. Cipollone noted the four Democratic presidential candidates off the campaign trail (Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bennet), saying, “some of you are upset because you should be in Iowa.”
  95. During the trial, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said on the station’s coverage, “If I were the President watching this I would not be especially pleased.”
  96. Wallace noted of Trump’s lawyers, “They are basically saying, there’s nothing to see here, all of this is bogus, while the House managers are taking every second of their one hour to make whatever case they want.”
  97. Republicans rejected a total of 10 amendments along party lines, 53–47. An 11th amendment to lengthen the timetable for the prosecutors and defense to file trial motions got one vote from Sen. Susan Collins.
  98. An exasperated McConnell asked Schumer if he would “stack” his amendments, and Schumer said no: “We believe witnesses and documents are extremely important and a compelling case has been made for them.”
  99. The seven House impeachment managers used their time to make an argument for each amendment, with Trump’s lawyers responding, and both giving a preview of their opening arguments.
  100. Amendments voted down included subpoenaing White House, State Department, and OMB documents, and staffers including Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, Michael Duffey, and John Bolton.
  101. At 9:30 p.m. McConnell halted the trial to try to negotiate an end to the debate as the Senators faced fatigue, but after a brief recess, the two sides did not reach a deal to speed things up.
  102. Just before 1 a.m., Chair Jerrold Nadler accused Republican senators of being complicit in a cover-up to help Trump. Cipollone responded that Nadler should be “embarrassed” for his rhetoric toward senators.
  103. After, Chief Justice Roberts admonished the managers and Trump lawyers to “remember where they are” and return to “civil discourse,” saying, “They are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
  104. Just before 2 a.m., the Senate voted along party lines to ratify McConnell’s plan, setting the stage for the trial to begin on Wednesday. The session concluded at 2:15 a.m.
  105. On Tuesday, WAPO reported that a small group of Senate Democrats are privately considering a Biden-for-Bolton trade for testimony, and are sounding the idea off their colleagues.
  106. These Democrats believe having Hunter or Joe, who served in the Senate for 36 years, could backfire and paint Trump and the GOP as being obsessed with trying to damage one of Trump’s 2020 rivals.
  107. The Biden campaign has been against them testifying, calling the notion “a stupid Republican talking point,” and an associate saying, “Biden and his people don’t want to give it credibility, so there is a stalemate right now.”
  108. Late Tuesday, just before midnight deadline, the final batch of 192 pages of heavily redacted documents were released by the DOJ under the FOIA to nonprofit group American Oversight on Ukraine.
  109. NYT reported while there were no major new revelations, the documents did reveal the friction between the Department of Defense and the White House on the aid freeze over the summer.
  110. The documents revealed confusion from lawmakers, including Republicans: on August 23 an aide to Sen. Rob Portman wrote to Michael Duffey, asking him to “lay out for me the reason behind the O.M.B. hold.”
  111. Calls and emails for an explanation on the hold also came from Senate Armed Services Committee Chair James Inhofe and Rep. Mac Thornberry, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
  112. Documents also showed on the evening of July 24, the night before Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, OMB officials shared a “Ukraine Prep Memo” with Duffey. The contents of the memo were redacted.
  113. On Tuesday, the Guardian reported a U.N. investigation found Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ cellphone was hacked after he got a WhatsApp message that came from an account belonging to Saudi crown prince MBS.
  114. The investigation found “high probability” that Bezos’ phone was infected with malware that came from MBS. Soon after the message was delivered, a massive amount of data was extracted from his phone.
  115. Bezos and MBS were engaged in a friendly chat on WhatsApp on May 1, 2018, when MBS sent an apparently infected video file. Bezos’ head of security, Gavin de Becker, wrote in March he suspected the Saudis.
  116. On Wednesday, the White House Correspondents’ Association confirmed that the White House had given press credentials to virulent anti-Semite Rick Wiles of TruNews. The WHCA said it has raised the issue with the WH.
  117. Right Wing Watch reported after receiving the credentials, Wiles claimed on his broadcast that this “‘impeach Trump’ effort is a Jew coup and the American people better wake up to it really fast.”
  118. On Thursday, WAPO reported, despite Trump’s promises that weakening federal mileage standards would make cars cheaper and “substantially safer,” the opposite has happened.
  119. A new analysis found Trump’s rollback of Obama’s standards would not save costs, citing drivers would spend more at the gas pump over time by driving less efficient vehicles.
  120. On Thursday, HuffPost reported Trump’s Doral resort is expected to spike its room rates ahead the club hosting his speech to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting from $254 to $539.
  121. The higher rate is just under the maximum rate federal government rules permit for a hotel in South Florida, and will dramatically increase taxpayer costs for housing Secret Service and other Trump staffers.
  122. On Wednesday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found 72% of Americans believe the trial “should allow witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the impeachment charges to testify.”
  123. On Wednesday, from Davos, Trump sent dozens of retweets on the impeachment trial before dawn, retweeting statements and videos tweeted by his Republican defenders.
  124. Trump also tweeted, “Americans are sick of the Swamp. They want results, not partisan theater,” adding, “No matter what manufactured drama is unfolding in Washington,” he “will never stop fighting for you.”
  125. Before a breakfast meeting with American business leaders, which was abruptly closed-off to reporters, Trump tweeted, “Tremendous numbers of companies will be coming, or returning, to the USA. Hottest Economy!”
  126. Shortly after, at a surprise press conference, Trump opened with a long series of remarks about the economy, then turned to impeachment, saying he was not “enjoying” it, but it will be a “very important” victory for him.
  127. Trump added, “When I finish, I think that this is going to go down as one of the greatest things I’ve done for our country,” claiming he had “exposed government corruption” against him, not by him.
  128. Trump said of the trial, “I’d sort of love to sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces,” and, “These are bad, corrupt people…and very bad for our country,” and calling impeachment managers “major sleazes.”
  129. Trump claimed he would like to have witnesses testify, but not Bolton, claiming: “I would rather go the long way. I would rather interview Bolton. The problem with John is that it’s a national security problem.”
  130. Trump added on Bolton, “He knows other things, and I don’t know if we left on the best terms. I would say probably not,” adding, “So you don’t like people testifying when they didn’t leave on good terms.”
  131. Trump’s remarks on witnesses disrupted the GOP’s strategy of not calling witnesses, and threatened to derail plans put in the carefully assembled framework by McConnell to finish the trial as soon as next week.
  132. Trump also seemed to admit obstructing Congress, the second article of impeachment, telling reporters, “But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”
  133. Trump also again denied knowing Lev Parnas, saying, “I don’t know him, other than he’s sort of like a groupie,” adding, “He shows up at fundraisers. I don’t know anything about him.”
  134. Trump also railed against Europe, saying, “They have trade barriers where you can’t trade. They have tariffs all over the place,” adding, “They are, frankly, more difficult to do business with than China.”
  135. When asked about reports that 11 U.S. servicemen were injured in the Iran airstrike, Trump said, “I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things,” adding, “and I can report, that it is not very serious.”
  136. After threatening huge sanctions on Iran recently, asked about the status Trump said, “We’ll see what happens,” adding they would be necessary only “if we’re not treated with respect.”
  137. When asked about climate activist Greta Thunberg’s criticism of his regime’s climate change record, Trump responded, “She beat me out on Time Magazine.”
  138. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also jabbed at Thunberg from Davos, saying on the climate change emergency, “After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us.”
  139. Shortly after, in an interview with CNBC, Trump said of the trial, “I did get to see some of it. It’s a hoax. It’s a total hoax,” praising his team as “really good,” and claiming “the Republican Party has never been this unified.”
  140. On Wednesday, 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a $50 million lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, claiming she permanently damaged her reputation by describing her as a “Russian asset.”
  141. On Wednesday, a Pew Research poll found 51% approve of removing Trump from office, 46% disagree. The poll also found 63% say Trump definitely (38%) or probably (25%) did things that are illegal.
  142. Later Wednesday, Trump tweeted “NO PRESSURE” as Schiff was delivering his opening arguments in the Senate trial. Trump returned to the White House after his trip to Davos.
  143. Wednesday was Trump’s busiest day of tweeting since taking office, with Trump tweeting 142 times. His previous record was 123 tweets in a day on December 12, 2019.
  144. On Wednesday, Schumer nixed the idea of a Bolton-Biden trade, telling reporters it was “off the table.” On the campaign trail, Joe Biden called it “a constitutional issue,” adding, “we’re not going to turn it into a farce.”
  145. Some Senate Republicans and Democrats took issue with Nadler’s accusing Republicans of “treacherous” behavior Tuesday, saying the Senate is not a “clown circus” like the House, and he should tone it down.
  146. On Wednesday, the Senate trial resumed at 1 p.m. as the Democratic House impeachment managers began formal arguments, presenting a meticulous and scathing case for convicting and removing Trump.
  147. As the trial was set to begin, the Senate chaplain, Barry Black, urged senators to “remember that patriots reside on both sides of the aisle,” noting the divisive nature of the first day of trial.
  148. In a stunning speech, Schiff invoked the founders and their fears that a self-interested leader would subvert democracy for personal gain, saying the remedy of impeachment was meant to combat this “evil.”
  149. Schiff said if Trump is not convicted and removed it would “permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government,” adding, Trump believes “he’s above the law and scornful of constraint.”
  150. Schiff described a broader impulse by Trump to cede America’s foreign policy to Russia, noting the July 25 call occurred the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony in which Trump escaped accountability.
  151. Schiff accused Trump of using a “corrupt scheme” to pressure Zelensky “to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations” that would benefit Trump’s 2020 campaign.
  152. In a series of methodical speeches, the other Democratic managers laid out the case that Trump enlisted the help of a foreign government to hurt his domestic political rivals and help him get re-elected to a second term.
  153. Rep. Sylvia Garcia showed the video of Trump telling George Stephanopoulos of ABC News last spring he would be willing to accept damaging information from Russia or other foreign governments.
  154. Schiff addressed Trump’s lawyers, saying impeachment is outdated and no longer a viable instrument to hold a president accountable. “If it is a relic, I wonder how much longer our republic can succeed.”
  155. Politico reported as Schiff finished his three-hour presentation, there were as many two dozen GOP senators out of their seats at once, a clear violation of rules that bar senators from leaving their seats during the trial.
  156. Later Wednesday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn appeared on Fox News while the Senate was still in session.
  157. Later Wednesday, Roberts said he would give Senators access to a classified document shared by the House of Jennifer Williams’ testimony on the September 18 call between Pence and Zelensky. Schiff has asked repeatedly for it to be declassified.
  158. During the first day of their case, the seven managers included screenshots of deposition transcripts, emails, text messages, and about 50 video clips — more than three times what House Republicans used against Bill Clinton.
  159. Democrats provided a torrent of intricate information in making their case witnesses should be called. Rep. Matt Gaetz said Democrats presented like “cable news,” and Trump’s defense like “an 8th grade book report.”
  160. On Thursday, 21 state attorneys general said in a letter submitted to the Senate that Trump’s impeachment “establishes a dangerous historical precedent.”
  161. Shortly after, four attorneys general appeared on “Fox & Friends,” saying impeachment is “tearing at the threads of our democracy,” and claiming it is based on a “constitutionally legally flawed argument.”
  162. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “Attorney Generals [sic] from 21 States are urging the Senate to reject Impeachment,” noting, “the Democrats case sets a dangerous historical precedent.”
  164. Trump also tweeted the false claim, “The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses,” adding, “Most unfair & corrupt hearing.”
  165. Trump also tweeted, “No matter what you give to the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, it will never be enough!”
  166. Trump also tweeted, “The Democrats & Shifty Schiff, whose presentation to the Senate was loaded with lies and misrepresentations,” refuse to say which countries the Obama Administration withheld aid from.
  167. Trump also tweeted at Mike Bloomberg who has ramped up spending on 2020 ads, repeatedly calling him “Mini Mike” to insult his small stature. WAPO reported Bloomberg has gotten under Trump’s skin.
  168. After an ad appeared on “Fox & Friends,” Trump tweeted, “when Mini losses [sic], he will be spending very little of his money on these ‘clowns’ because he will consider himself to be the biggest clown of them all.”
  169. Reportedly, Trump frequently talks about Bloomberg to his campaign advisers and White House staff, calling him “evil” and saying his ads are “lies.” Advisers have encouraged him to attack his other opponents instead.
  170. On Thursday, NYT reported despite the Senate rules, Senators are increasingly leaving their seats for short or long breaks, for 15 to 20 minutes — some were seen in the cloakroom on their phones.
  171. As the trial began, the Senate chaplain reminded senators to take their role seriously, cautioning them against “fatigue or cynicism,” and insisting that “listening is often more than hearing.”
  172. The sergeant-at-arms admonished senators “on pain of imprisonment” not to speak during the trial, but few listened. The atmosphere resembled an elementary school classroom, with whispering and passing notes.
  173. On day two of their opening arguments, Democrats focused on the abuse of power charge against Trump, with 16 hours and 42 minutes of their 24 allotted hours remaining.
  174. Democrats repeatedly referenced Russia. Schiff noted the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in 2016 was “brought to you by the Kremlin,” and it played a central role in Trump’s Ukraine policy.
  175. Democrats made a strategic decision to focus on Joe and Hunter Biden, working to dispel allegations ahead of Trump’s defense team’s turn, claiming there was no basis to say the Bidens had done anything wrong.
  176. Democrats repeatedly used clips of Trump to make their case against him, including him asking for help from China and accusing Ukraine of interfering, to show he was not really interested in Ukrainian corruptions.
  177. One of the clips played by the impeachment managers was a 1999 video of Sen. Graham in which he contradicts a central tenet of Trump’s defense. When Senate colleagues turned to see his reaction, Graham was out of the room.
  178. Sen. Rand Paul, who on Wednesday did a crossword puzzle, was seen sketching a photo. Sen. John Cornyn swiped at an Apple Watch, despite a ban on electronics. Sen. Richard Burr passed out fidget spinners.
  179. On Thursday, CNN reported at a closed-door lunch with former Bush AG Michael Mukasey on Wednesday, some Senate Republicans discussed the implications of subpoenas for witnesses.
  180. The notion of a long, drawn-out court fight will weigh heavily on senators’ decisions. Under Senate rules, there will be four hours of debate on whether witnesses should be called before voting.
  181. Overall, most Senators remained attentive. However, Republicans remained dismissive and said they were “bored,” with some saying it was hard to stay attentive because material was repetitive.
  182. Later Thursday, Schiff closed the day with a rousing, fiery speech, saying, “you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country,” reportedly earning him respect by some Republicans.
  183. Fox News, however, described the speech as “Amateur Thespian Schiff Tries Out Some New Lines” on the chyron, while host Tucker Carlson mocked Schiff, calling him a “wild-eyed conspiracy nut.”
  184. During the trial, Trump tweeted, “The Democrats don’t want a Witness Trade because Shifty Schiff, the Biden’s, the fake Whistleblower” and the second whistleblower, saying “it would be a BIG problem for them!”
  185. Trump also continued to actively tweet and retweet during the trial. Trump quoted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, saying, “The Democrats have now conceded that President Trump has not committed a crime.”
  186. On Thursday, WAPO reported as Trump boarded Air Force One at 8 p.m., the television on board was tuned to Fox News. Although the impeachment was still going on, Fox covered it only in a small corner box.
  187. The Fox News shows covered the day’s news, before slamming the impeachment trial, including numerous false statements, and claims by host Sean Hannity that the trial was boring (which Trump retweeted).
  188. Matt Gertz, who compares Trump’s tweets to what’s airing on Fox News, found Trump live-tweeted Fox New a record amount of times on Thursday. He continued Friday morning with “Fox & Friends.”
  189. On Friday, Trump started tweeting at 6:18 a.m. Within two hours, he had already sent more than 50 tweets.
  190. Trump quoted Fox News, saying, “Frances Hakes, former Federal prosecutor, ‘This is really significant. The FBI had debunked the Steele Dossier in January 2017’” and they knew Carter Page “was not the agent.”
  191. Trump also quoted from her appearance, “and yet they still asked for the renewal, two more times.” He then added, “So how bad & illegal is that?
  192. Trump also complained his defense would “start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.” after having to “endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew.”
  193. Trump also tweeted, “The Impeachment Hoax is interfering with the 2020 Election — But that was the idea behind the Radical Left, Do Nothing Dems Scam attack,” adding, “They always knew I did nothing wrong!”
  194. On Friday, the Pentagon said 34 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with concussions or traumatic brain injury as a result on the Iranian missile on January 8, more than triple the number previously reported.
  195. Trump initially told reporters no one had been harmed in the attack, then last week the Pentagon said it had conducted follow-on screenings for 11 troops who were pulled out of Iraq with brain injuries.
  196. On Friday, in an interview with Fox News at the March for Life, Trump said his advice to his defense team was to be honest: “What my people have to do is just be honest. Just tell the truth.”
  197. Trump added, “But they say it doesn’t have to be a crime,” and said, referring to Democrats, “Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be a crime, but can you imagine being impeached if you didn’t commit a crime?”
  198. Speaking at the rally, Trump did not mention the impeachment trial happening down the street. Trump told the crowd, many wearing his garb, “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”
  199. Trump also referenced the “far-left Democrats” who he claimed were “working to erase all our God-given rights,” and adding, “They are coming after me because I am fighting for you.” Trump previously was pro-choice.
  200. On Friday, CBS News reported a Trump confidante warned Republican senators on impeachment that “a vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.”
  201. On Friday, ABC News reported on a tape from an April 30, 2018 intimate dinner at Trump Hotel DCbetween Trump, Parnas, Igor Fruman, and others, in which Trump can be heard calling for the firing of Marie Yovanovitch.
  202. Parnas and Fruman can be heard telling Trump that she is bad-mouthing him, and Trump responded, “Get rid of her!” and “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
  203. On Friday, WAPO reported the recording’s existence helps bolster Parnas’ claim that he was part of Trump’s inner circle. Parnas’ attorney said the recording did not come from them. Fruman’s attorney did not comment.
  204. Later Friday, Trump told Fox News, “Well, I wouldn’t have been saying that. I probably would have said — it was Rudy there,” and, “I have every right, I want ambassadors that are chosen by me.” Giuliani was not at the dinner.
  205. On Friday, Sen. Graham told reporters, “Nobody has done an investigation anywhere near like the Mueller investigation of the Bidens, and I think they should,” calling for “an outside entity” to do it.”
  206. Graham added, “You know why I don’t want to do it? I love Joe Biden. I don’t want to do this,” and “I don’t want it to be Lindsey Graham, because it will be hard for me, but if I have to I will do it.”
  207. On Friday, Vanity Fair reported Republicans are increasingly concerned that Trump’s lawyers will not be able to counter House Democrats’ meticulous, fact-based case for removing Trump.
  208. Trump, who has been rage-tweeting despite aides’ advice, is angry that Republicans are not publicly saying his call with Zelensky was perfect. Impeachment is also putting a serious drag on his campaign.
  209. Impeachment has also put Trump in a particularly foul mood, as White House staff brace for more turmoil. Reportedly, Trump recently told some Republicans he decided to say “fuck it” and kill General Qasem Soleimani.
  210. Trump is also reportedly upset about Kushner being on the cover of Time Magazine, and is considering replacing acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney with Chris Christie, who hates Kushner, to reign him in.
  211. On Friday, the Senate chaplain opened the final day of the Democrats’ case, calling for “civility and respect” and asking senators to “distinguish between facts and opinions without lambasting the messengers.”
  212. Democrats focused their third and last day on the theme that Trump’s behavior is like that of a dictator, and allowing him to remain in office would continue to threaten the country’s security.
  213. Democrats used most of their remaining seven hours and 53 minutes to make the case that Trump obstructed Congress, the second article, alleging a cover-up for not allowing witnesses or turning over documents.
  214. Rep. Zoe Lofgren pointed out that Nixon was more cooperative than Trump, ticking off a list of White House officials who obeyed Trump’s orders and refused to testify.
  215. House manager Val Demings laid out several examples of Trump allegedly “misusing” his power, calling it “a declaration of total defiance” and “a wholesale rejection of congress’s ability” to hold him accountable.
  216. Demings added if Trump is not held accountable, “we will inflict lasting damage on the separation of powers,” and “It would inflict irreversible damage” for “future presidents to act correctly or abusively.”
  217. Since the impeachment managers did not get a chance to respond to Trump’s defense lawyers, Schiff spent much of the day addressing possible defenses from Trump team.
  218. During the trial, a group of Senate Republicans were seen studying a document titled “Burisma Timeline” in bold black letters with bright yellow highlights of important dates relating to the Bidens.
  219. The same senators also looked at a report titled “Obtaining Witnesses In an Impeachment Trial,” which laid out scenarios and legal reasoning for how subpoenaing John Bolton could play out.
  220. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries closed his presentation, saying, “There’s a toxic mess at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” adding, “I humbly suggest that it’s our collective job on behalf of the American people to try to clean it up.”
  221. Chair Nadler compared Trump to a king, calling him “the first and only President ever to declare himself unaccountable,” adding if Trump is left unchecked, “He is a dictator. This must not stand.”
  222. Schiff closed with a moving speech, calling on Republicans to have “moral courage” and acknowledging that real political bravery would be needed in “disagreeing with our friends — and our party.”
  223. Schiff added if we decide “the president can simply say, ‘Under Article 2, I can do whatever I want, and I don’t have to treat a coequal branch of government’[…] that will be an unending injury to this country.”
  224. The respectful mood in the chamber shifted after Schiff added, “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’”
  225. At 8:45 p.m. the House Democrats concluded their remarks, with Schiff telling the Senate that the facts presented add up to an impeachable offense, and that “We have met our burden.”
  226. After, several Republicans complained about Schiff’s “pike” comment. Sen. Susan Collins said, “I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration.”
  227. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, also a possible swing vote said, “That’s when he lost me.” As the trial concluded, GOP Sens. John Cornyn and John Barrasso made a beeline to Collins’ desk and she shook her head, and said “No.”
  228. On Friday, after an interview with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly on U.S. policy in Iran and Ukraine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo summoned her into his private living room at the State Department.
  229. NPR reported, once there, Pompeo shouted at Kelly for questioning him about Ukraine, using repeated expletives, and asking “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” and adding, “People will hear about this.”
  230. Kelly said Pompeo had staffers bring in an unlabeled map, and asked her to identify Ukraine: “I pointed to Ukraine he put the map away, he said, people will hear about this, and then he turned and said he had things to do.”
  231. During the interview, Pompeo defended his treatment of Yovanovitch, saying, “I’ve defended every single person on this team,” and “I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team.”
  232. On Saturday, Pompeo attacked Kelly in a statement, saying Kelly “lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview,” and claiming she agreed to “have our post-interview conversation off the record.”
  233. Pompeo added, “It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.” Kelly said she did not agree to be off the record, and said she told his office they would discuss Iran and Ukraine.
  234. Pompeo did not dispute Kelly’s claim that she had correctly identified Ukraine, saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine,” Kelly has a masters degree in European Studies from Cambridge University.
  235. Pompeo added, “This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration,” and “It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media.”
  236. On Friday, a WAPO-ABC News poll found Trump’s approval improving to 44% approve, 51% disapprove, with an increase in support from men to 57% — the highest in his time in office — and independent voters.
  237. The poll also found 66% think the Senate should call witnesses, including 87% of Democrats, 65% of Independents, and 45% of Republicans. Roughly half (47%) say Trump should be removed 49% disagree.
  238. On Friday, Trump appointed Rodney Scott as the new head of the U.S. Border Patrol. Scott, who has been a member of CBP for 27 years, replaces Carla Provost, who had been in the position since August 2018.
  239. On Friday, NYT reported Trump is considering skipping the 2020 debates. His advisers recently met with the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates to complain about the debates it hosted in 2016.
  240. Trump’s advisers complained the debate commission included “anti-Trumpers,” and complained about past moderators. Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale is investigating other options for hosting debates.
  241. On Saturday, Trump tweeted on impeachment: “Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left.”
  242. Trump urged his base to watch the his legal team, tweeting, “starts today at 10:00 A.M. on @FoxNews, @OANN or Fake News @CNN or Fake News MSDNC!” — mocking MSNBC by calling it MSDNC.
  243. On Saturday, House Democratic impeachment managers delivered 28,578 pages of transcripts and other evidence collected during their inquiry to the Senate, wheeled over in four carts in white boxes.
  244. Trump’s lawyers claimed Democrats want to “ tear up all of the ballots,” and “re-litigate the Mueller case,” and claimed it could not be quid pro quo since they alleged Ukraine did not know aid was being withheld.
  245. Trump’s lawyers also repeatedly jabbed at Schiff, and during their brief two hour presentation, repeatedly told restless Senators that Democrats had presented for “21 hours, or more than 21 hours.”
  246. Trump lawyer Mike Purpura opened by playing a clip of Schiff, often used as fodder by Trump, deriding Schiff’s September House hearing parody on Trump’s July 25 call, saying the retelling was “fake.”
  247. Later Saturday, the AP released the entire 80-minute recording of Trump’s 2018 dinner first reported by ABC News. Trump is also heard asking on Ukraine, “How long would they last in a fight with Russia?
  248. Parnas said, “The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we got to get rid of the ambassador,” and “She’s basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.’”
  249. On Saturday, BuzzFeed reported that on Wednesday and Thursday State Department officials interviewed hundreds of diplomats and employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv about whether Yovanovitch was under surveillance.
  250. One official said the State Department’s federal law enforcement and security arm, the Diplomatic Security Service, is coordinating with Ukrainian authorities who announced a criminal investigation a week before State.
  251. One diplomat described the investigation as “cynical” and a “cover your ass” for Pompeo, who is scheduled to visit Kyiv on January 30 and 31. The 300 embassy employees were told not to speak to the press.
  252. On Saturday, Politico reported although the trial has not had any major surprises and thus far it appears Trump will not be removed from office, recent information dumps have hurt Trump politically.
  253. Trump allies worry that even after the impeachment trial, there will be more document releases and investigations over the coming months heading up to the 2020 election.

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Copyright Amy Siskind, January 25, 2020

Reporters were kept behind ropes outside the chamber during a break as the Senate continues with the impeachment trial of Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Journalists are being restricted to “press pens” during the trial without normal access to lawmakers. Credit: congressional reporter Matt Laslo