February 01, 2020

Week 168

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

This week, despite explosive new allegations implicating Trump in leaked portions of the manuscript for John Bolton’s upcoming book, the Senate voted 51–49 on Friday not to call witnesses, all but ensuring Trump will be acquitted in the impeachment trial. This marks the first time in U.S. history that an impeachment trial will occur with no witnesses. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asserted an acquittal without witnesses and documents would be meaningless.

The gravity of what many viewed as a cover-up was summarized by presidential historian Jon Meacham, who noted after the Senate vote, “Trump may well have now become the most powerful president in American history,” and he is “functionally a monarch at this point.” Meacham added, “think about the long term implications of having a president who is above the law.”

In fact, Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz actually asserted Trump’s actions of seeking foreign help were in the U.S. interest, before reversing himself and blaming the media for misinterpreting his words. The rest of Trump’s legal team danced around questions and obfuscated the truth, leading Pelosi to call on them to be disbarred. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continued his battle with NPR, kicking one of their reporters off his plane, while Trump congratulated him for verbally attacking reporter Mary Louise Kelly, saying, “You did a good job on her.”

  1. On Saturday, the Brookings Institute reported on turnover in Trump’s National Security Council: as of fall 2019, seven of the eight senior NSC positions had turned over at least once.
  2. Turnover includes having four National Security Advisers, six Deputy National Security Advisers, and three Chiefs of Staff. No other president in history has come close to this level of NSA instability.
  3. On Saturday, the Atlantic reported in footage from a new Hulu documentary, Hillary, Sen. Tim Kaine is heard telling Hillary Clinton in an October 2016 clip that Obama described Trump as “a fascist” in a telephone conversation.
  4. Kaine, Clinton’s 2016 running-mate, said, “President Obama called me last night and said, ‘Tim, this is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.’” Clinton replies: “I echo that sentiment.”
  5. On Saturday, in an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and top executives have “authoritarian” views on misinformation, adding the platform “intend[s] to reelect” Trump.
  6. On Sunday, a Fox News poll found 50% of Americans believe the Senate should convict and remove Trump, while 44% disagree. A majority of Independents (53%) believe Trump should be removed.
  7. On Sunday, Trump threatened Rep. Adam Schiff, tweeting, “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” and, “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”
  8. Schiff responded on “Meet the Press,” saying he believed the tweet was “intended to be” a threat, and adding, “This is a wrathful and vindictive president; I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”
  9. On Sunday, CNN reported three rockets struck the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, leaving one injured. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed outrage to the Iraqi PM about the assaults by Iran backed groups.
  10. On Sunday, in the evening, NYT reported on drafts of former NSA John Bolton’s manuscript which has been circulated in recent weeks to close associates and to the White House for the standard review process.
  11. According to the manuscript, Trump told Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until officials helped with investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.
  12. Bolton’s manuscript undercut a key part of Trump’s impeachment defense: that the hold up was separate from wanting Ukraine to announce investigations of his political enemies.
  13. Bolton claimed Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis for Rudy Giuliani saying U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was corrupt, and that he may have been acting on behalf of other clients.
  14. Bolton also claimed after the July 25 call, he told Attorney General William Barr his concerns that Giuliani was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by Trump, and that Barr was mentioned on the call.
  15. Bolton added acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was present for at least one phone call where Trump and Giuliani discussed Yovanovitch, contrary to his claim that he stepped away to protect attorney-client privilege.
  16. Bolton also said at a May 23 meeting where advisers and Sen. Ron Johnson briefed him on President Zelensky’s inauguration, Trump railed about Ukraine trying to damage him and said they hacked the Democratic server.
  17. Bolton’s attorney on Sunday blamed the White House for leaking the manuscript, saying, “regrettably…information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript.”
  18. Attorney Charles Cooper also told the Times he provided the manuscript to the White House on December 30, 12 days after Trump was impeached, for review. Bolton did not believe any information was classified.
  19. A Bolton spokesperson said his “manuscript was transmitted to the White House in hard copy several weeks ago for pre-publication review by the NSC. The ambassador has not passed the draft manuscript to anyone else.”
  20. On Monday, just after midnight, Trump tweeted, “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” adding if Bolton said it, “it was only to sell a book.”
  21. Trump added, “transcripts of my calls with President Zelensky are all the proof that is needed,” adding, “there was no pressure and no problems,” and, “I met with President Zelensky at the United Nations.”
  22. In the morning, just before 7 a.m., Trump also tweeted, “The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify. It is up to them, not up to the Senate!” This is false. House Democrats did ask Bolton.
  23. Trump also tweeted, “READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!” and then tweeted, “Schiff must release the IG report, without changes or tampering,” adding, “He refuses to give it. Does it link him to Whistleblower?”
  24. On Monday, an NSC spokesperson said in a statement that Bolton’s manuscript was submitted to the NSC for pre-publication review, and added, “No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript.”
  25. The Courier Journal reported Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “did not have any advance notice” that the Trump regime had a copy of Bolton’s manuscript, despite saying he has been in “total coordination” with the White House.
  26. On Monday, NYT reported hours before the trial resumed, McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham were angry for being blindsided, and privately pressed Trump’s advisers for an explanation.
  27. Shortly before the trial resumed, Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters, “It’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”
  28. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “we’re all staring a White House coverup in the face,” adding Bolton’s book “is further evidence that a large number of people were in the loop on the president’s scheme.”
  29. Graham said, “Let’s see what’s in the manuscript,” adding, “Let’s see if it’s relevant…then I’ll make a decision about Bolton,” and threatening, “we’re going to go after Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, all these other people.”
  30. At a closed-door lunch with Republican senators before the trial resumed, Sen. Mike Braun said McConnell told them, “Let’s get through the next step,” and, “Take a deep breath and let’s take one step at a time.”
  31. On Monday, Axios reported Republican Party leaders and the White House will still try to resist witnesses. One GOP top aide said, “there is a sense in the Senate that if one witness is allowed, the floodgates are open.”
  32. On Monday, on the second day of their defense, Trump’s legal team ignored allegations in Bolton’s book, doubling down on their defense that aid was not withheld for investigations, but out of concern for corruption.
  33. Jane Raskin claimed House Democrats were using Giuliani as a “shiny object” to distract from a weak case. They also claimed Trump demanded investigations of the Bidens because of evidence they were corrupt.
  34. Trump’s lawyers argued he did nothing wrong on the July 25 call, did not seek to leverage a White House meeting, and has done more to help Ukraine fight Russian aggression than previous presidents.
  35. Alan Dershowitz argued that Trump’s actions were not impeachable, arguing the Constitution holds that impeachment is for “criminal-like behavior,” a theory rejected by most constitutional scholars.
  36. Dershowitz made the only reference to Bolton’s manuscripts of the day, claiming the description of Trump’s actions in his manuscript “would not constitute an impeachable offense.”
  37. Ken Starr, who tried Bill Clinton for impeachment, argued Trump committed no impeachable offense, and urged senators to “restore our constitutional and historical traditions,” in which impeachment was rare.
  38. Later Monday, House Democrats filed a letter in federal court citing Starr’s statement directly contradicted the DOJ’s argument for blocking documents from Trump’s accounting firm and bank.
  39. On Monday, Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows told CBS News that Senate Republicans who break with Trump on impeachment would face “political repercussions,” adding, “There is no vote that is higher profile than this.”
  40. On Monday, the WAPO Editorial Board wrote, “If senators fail to call Bolton, their trial is a farce,” noting, “an integral part of the case Mr. Trump’s lawyers made” was on Trump’s motives for freezing aid.
  41. On Monday, WAPO reported the White House is working to contain the damage from Bolton’s manuscript by trying to undermine his credibility and fighting against his being able to appear at the Senate trial.
  42. Aides were scrambling to figure out which witnesses they would try to block and which they would try to call. There was a sense of anxiety and unease that Bolton’s book could yield more damaging disclosures.
  43. White House counsel Pat Cipollone privately insisted to GOP senators and allies that the White House did not know Bolton would make the allegation he did. The book is set to be released in March.
  44. Aides and allies still believed Trump would be acquitted. Behind the scenes, aides worked feverishly to quell any rebellion in the Senate. The revelations in the book also caught some senior DOJ officials by surprise.
  45. On Monday, WAPO reported people close to Bolton say he was regularly appalled by what he saw from Trump, and sometimes wondered if Trump was acting in America’s best interest or acted for nefarious reasons.
  46. Trump allies attacked Bolton: Fox Business host Lou Dobbs said, “he’s sacrificed his integrity to sell a lousy spiteful book, pathetic,” and Giuliani called him a “backstabber” and said he regretted recommending him.
  47. On Monday, NYT reported Bolton’s manuscript revealed that he privately told Barr last year he had concerns with Trump granting personal favors for the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China.
  48. The manuscript noted Barr agreed and cited two DOJ investigations of companies in those countries, adding he was concerned that Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over the inquiries.
  49. Barr cited conversations Trump had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and China President Xi Jinping. The account matches the unease of experts and Trump opponents on his cozying up to authoritarians.
  50. Early Tuesday, a DOJ spokesperson said, “There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations,” nor did Barr state that Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders were “improper.”
  51. On Tuesday, WAPO reported the Republican National Committee is paying for at least two of Trump impeachment lawyers, Jay Sekulow and Jane Raskin. Bill Clinton paid for his lawyers and left office “dead broke.”
  52. On Tuesday, John Kelly, who served as Trump’s chief of staff for 18 months, told a crowd in Florida, “I believe John Bolton,” adding, “he always gave the president the unvarnished truth.”
  53. On Tuesday, the lawyer for Lev Parnas asked the SDNY judge if Parnas could attend the Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday. The judge allowed Parnas to travel, but not to remove the GPS monitoring device.
  54. On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac poll found 75% of voters, including 49% of Republicans, say witnesses should be allowed to testify in the Senate impeachment trial, 20% said they should not.
  55. On Tuesday, Daily Beast reported former Zelensky senior aide Oleksandr Danylyuk said Zelensky was “rattled” by Trump’s requests to investigate, undercutting Trump’s argument that Ukrainians did not feel pressure.
  56. On Tuesday, Trump’s legal team wrapped up their arguments. Again, his team largely side-stepped Democrats’ argument for removal, instead focusing on targets like Joe Biden and former FBI director James Comey.
  57. Dershowitz hit back at Sen. Elizabeth Warren who had tweeted that his trial argument was “contrary to both law & fact,” saying she “doesn’t understand the law,” claiming she had mischaracterized what he had said.
  58. Sekulow said of Bolton’s manuscript, “[Impeachment] is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,” dismissed Bolton’s allegations as “politics” and said the Senate should be “above that fray.”
  59. Sens. Graham and James Lankford proposed allowing senators to review Bolton’s book in a classified setting. Schumer called the proposal “absurd,” saying a book should not need to be kept in a secure facility.
  60. McConnell announced he had reached agreement with Schumer for eight hours of questions on Wednesday and eight on Thursday, then four hours of debate Friday on whether to call witnesses.
  61. Sekulow argued, “You cannot impeach a president based on an unsourced allegation,” and called the Bolton manuscript “inadmissible.”
  62. As the day came to a close and the Senate prepared for a question and answer session, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts told senators he would not allow the name of the whistleblower to be mentioned.
  63. Shortly after, WSJ reported in a closed door meeting of Republican senators after the trial to gauge support, leaders said they currently do not have enough votes to block witnesses.
  64. Shortly after, Trump tweeted to Republicans, “No matter how many witnesses you give the Democrats….it will NEVER be enough for them,” adding, “The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!”
  65. Trump also tweeted, “Remember Republicans, the Democrats already had 17 witnesses, we were given NONE! Witnesses are up to the House, not up to the Senate. Don’t let the Dems play you!”
  66. Shortly after, Trump held a campaign rally in blue-state New Jersey, just hours after his team wrapped up their argument in the impeachment trial, which he called “a hoax” and “a scam.”
  67. Trump told the crowd while he has been focused on creating jobs and killing terrorists, the Democrats are focused on “demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades.”
  68. Trump praised Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who flew to the rally on Air Force One. Trump called him “a courageous” and “principled” leader who, like many voters, got tired of the Democrats’ “vile hoaxes and scams.”
  69. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, just hours before he was set to meet with Trump at the White House to unveil the Trump regime’s Middle East plan.
  70. The charges meant Netanyahu would be the first sitting prime minister to face trial in Israel’s history. Under Israeli law, Netanyahu does not have to resign for indictment, but only if convicted and the conviction is upheld.
  71. On Wednesday, Reuters reported the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin was non-committal on a government commission proposal to change his job description to Supreme Ruler from head of state.
  72. On Friday, Britain became the first country to leave the European Union, three and a half years after the Brexit referendum. The UK will now begin the transition period agreed to by the UK government and the EU.
  73. On Monday, WAPO suspended a reporter, Felicia Sonmez after she tweeted a Daily Beast story about Kobe Bryant’s rape allegations, following a helicopter crash in which Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died.
  74. Sonmez was told by WAPO to take down her tweets, which she did prior to checking into a hotel after receiving death threats. The WAPO Guild issued a statement in support of Sonmez signed by more than 300 staffers.
  75. On Monday, Pompeo retaliated against NPR, barring Michele Kelemen, a veteran State Department correspondent, from traveling with him on his week-long trip to Europe and Central Asia starting Wednesday.
  76. Kelemen said she was not given a reason by the State Department for being kicked off even though it was her turn in a rotation for a “pool” seat on the plane. State also did not return emails looking for comment.
  77. Shaun Tandon, president of the State Department Correspondents’ Association said, “We can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange.”
  78. On Tuesday, in the midst of announcing his plans for the Middle East, Trump praised Pompeo for his confrontation with the NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, saying, “I think you did a good job on her.”
  79. On Wednesday, NPR reported Mary Louise Kelly said in an op-ed, “There is a reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution. There is a reason…people in positions of power…be held to account.”
  80. On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at CNN host Don Lemon over a segment mocking his supporters, calling him the “dumbest man on television (with terrible ratings!)” in a tweet.
  81. On Saturday, Snopes found the claim that Trump’s DOJ quietly changed the definition of domestic violence on their website to be true. Typically such changes would happen in conjunction with new legislation.
  82. The new, narrower definition encompassed only acts of physical violence under the definition of domestic violence, and removed information about non-physical intimate partner violence. It was unclear why.
  83. On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to allow the Trump regime to move forward with a plan to deny green cards to immigrants who would use public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers.
  84. The court’s brief gave no reason for lifting preliminary injunctions on the new program, which will revise the so-called public charge rule and make immigrants ineligible for permanent legal status.
  85. On Tuesday, a Congressional Budget Office report projected the budget deficit would exceed $1 trillion in 2020, as the Republican tax cut of 2017 was expected to continue lowering government revenue.
  86. On Tuesday, Grand Valley State University suspended football coach Morris Berger after he told the student newspaper he would like to have dinner with Hitler.
  87. On Wednesday, WAPO reported anti-trafficking groups plan to boycott Ivanka’s human trafficking summit, citing the Trump regime’s policies are endangering immigrants, who are a significant portion of those trafficked.
  88. On Wednesday, Politico reported in an effort to win over black voters, Trump allies are handing out tens of thousands in “cash prizes” at events where organizers praise Trump.
  89. The cash giveaways are done through the Urban Revitalization Coalition, a 501(c)3 organization, permitting donors to remain anonymous and make tax-deductible contributions.
  90. On Wednesday, Politico reported Democrats are concerned that if Trump loses in 2020, there will not be a peaceful transition of power as in the past, in sharing documents and cooperating in the handover of power.
  91. A prominent good government organization, the Partnership for Public Service, appealed to the Trump regime and Democratic candidates to start thinking about transitioning planning, even if it sounds “presumptuous.”
  92. On Wednesday, Michael Flynn’s legal team accused his former lawyers at the law firm Covington & Burling of a conflict of interest, claiming it merited Flynn withdrawing his guilty plea of more than two years ago.
  93. The 49-page motion claimed his guilty plea “was the result of the ineffective assistance” from his former lawyers “who were in the grip of intractable conflicts of interest, and severely prejudiced him.”
  94. Later Wednesday, prosecutors backed away from their recommendation that Flynn serve six months in prison, saying in a court filing probation remained a “reasonable sentence” that they would not oppose.
  95. On Thursday, AP reported Attorney General Barr named Timothy Shea, one of his closest advisors, to be the new head of the U.S. attorney office in D.C., the largest U.S. attorney office in the country.
  96. In his new role, Shea will oversee the lingering cases from Robert Mueller’s investigation, including that of Flynn, as well as a number of other politically charged investigations.
  97. On Wednesday, CNN reported a portion of Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall in Calexico, California fell over in high winds and landed on Mexico’s side. Winds gusts reached 37 miles per hour in the area.
  98. On Thursday, the attorney for E. Jean Carroll served notice on Trump’s attorney to submit a DNA sample on March 2 for “analysis and comparison against unidentified male DNA present on the dress.”
  99. On Monday, Politico reported several senior Trump regime officials expressed extreme frustration with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar’s lack of response to the coronavirus spreading in China.
  100. On Wednesday, Trump announced a task force, led by Azar, to respond to the spread of the virus. Airlines cancelled flights in and out of China. The State Department issued a travel advisory to China.
  101. Trump tweeted photos of his coronavirus task force, and, notably different from Obama’s task force for Ebola in 2014, the room included only white people, and only one woman was at the table.
  102. Later Wednesday, the State Department evacuated about 210 U.S. diplomatic staff and their families from China amid the outbreak, including “all non-emergency U.S. government employees.”
  103. On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business that China’s coronavirus, which has infected more than 8,100 people and killed 171, could “help to accelerate the return of jobs” back to the U.S.
  104. Public health experts criticized Ross’s comments, saying his message could suppress reports of new infections and lead to more deaths, adding there was no scientific or historical evidence of what he was suggesting.
  105. On Thursday, the American Farm Bureau reported the number of farm bankruptcies jumped 20% in 2019, the highest level since 2011, due to Trump’s trade wars.
  106. On Wednesday, Trump launched his sharpest attacks yet on Bolton, calling him in a tweet “a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago,” and “begged” me for a non Senate approved job.”
  107. Trump also tweeted, “I gave him despite many saying “Don’t do it, sir,”” adding, “if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now,” then he “writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security.”
  108. On Wednesday, a senior White House official told ABC News that Trump’s defense team believed they will be able to defeat the measure to call witnesses, which will not be voted on until Friday.
  109. On Wednesday, Parnas picked up tickets to the trial from Schumer’s office, though Schumer said he is not calling him to appear. Parnas told reporters, “The president knew everything that was going on with Ukraine.”
  110. Parnas was not allowed into the trial. His attorney called it “amazing.” Rep. Debbie Lesko chided Schumer for giving a ticket to Parnas, saying, “Just goes to show this is a total media circus.”
  111. On Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel said in a statement Bolton called him to suggest his committee look into Yovanovitch’s ouster and “strongly implied that something improper had occurred.”
  112. The statement was released in response to a tweet by Trump sent after midnight, asking, “Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this “nonsense” a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated.”
  113. On Wednesday, CNN reported the White House issued a formal threat to Bolton to stop him from publishing his book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”
  114. On Wednesday, the Senate began the sixteen hours of questions and answers. The Senators posed questions in writing read by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to the House impeachment managers or Trump’s defense team.
  115. Dershowitz made the unprecedented argument that anything a president does to help get re-elected is inherently in the public’s interest, adding, it “cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
  116. Later, when answering a different question, Schiff pushed back at Dershowitz, saying Trump is “a president who identifies the state as being himself,” and speaking to Trump he said, “You are not a king.”
  117. Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked about defense’s argument that Trump did not link aid to investigations. Schiff said, “There is no way to have a fair trial without witnesses,” and Rep. Jason Crow cited “overwhelming” evidence.
  118. Sen. Rob Portman asked about prolonging the trial, asking if calling witnesses would “largely prevent other work.” Trump’s attorney Patrick Philbin argued, “There would be a long list of witnesses,” and it “would drag on for months.”
  119. Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski asked if Trump mentioned the Bidens and corruption before Joe announced his 2020 run. Philbin dodged the question. He was asked again by Sheldon Whitehouse and again demurred.
  120. Philbin said, “John Bolton was the national security adviser to the president. He has all the nation’s secrets,” adding if the Senate subpoenaed Bolton, Trump would claim executive privilege.
  121. During the trial, Trump tweeted a clip of Bolton on Fox News in August 2019, discussing Trump’s “warm and cordial” call with Zelensky. Trump added, “GAME OVER.” It was unclear why he felt the clip absolved him.
  122. Philbin argued the Senate needs to find Trump “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” differing from the constitution. A law professor whose work was cited by Trump’s defense called the claim “a complete fantasy.”
  123. Sen. Kamala Harris asked what would happen if the Senate fails to hold Trump accountable. Schiff said, “If you allow a president to obstruct Congress so completely…you will eviscerate your own oversight capability.
  124. A group of Senate Democrats asked if the standard the Trump’s team applied to Hunter Biden could be used on Trump’s children. Rep. Val Demings said, “Let us stay focused,” this is about Trump’s “wrongdoing.”
  125. Sen. Mitt Romney asked Trump’s team when Trump first ordered the Ukraine aid hold. Philbin rose to answer, saying there was not evidence in the House record of a specific date, but noted Office of Management and Budget officials were aware by July 3.
  126. Trump’s legal team shot down an idea repeatedly floated by Democratic managers to place sole authority with Chief Justice Roberts on witness testimony and evidence. Sekulow said, “We are not willing to do that.”
  127. On Wednesday, Bolton lawyer Charles Cooper emailed, “We do not believe that any of that information could reasonably be considered classified,” after the NSC claimed there was classified information in the book.
  128. Cooper added Bolton is “preparing” for the possibility he could be a witness in Senate trial, adding it is “imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible.”
  129. On Wednesday, three Senate Democrats from red states, Sens. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Doug Jones faced GOP pressure to be part of a bipartisan acquittal.
  130. Republicans noted any Democratic defections would feed into the Republicans’ narrative that the five month impeachment process was nothing more than a partisan witch hunt.
  131. On Thursday, the Murdoch-owned WSJ Editorial Board backed Dershowitz’s argument, saying, “Every President equates his re-election self-interest with the public interest. It isn’t grounds for impeachment.”
  132. On Thursday, in a series of tweets, Dershowitz complained that the media did not accurately report what he said at the trial, tweeting, “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”
  133. Dershowitz tweeted, “They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything.” This is exactly what Dershowitz did say.
  134. Dershowitz also tweeted, “We live in extraordinarily dangerous times,” and that removing Trump would further divide the country that would “last my lifetime, your lifetime and the lifetime of our children.”
  135. On Thursday, in her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial…You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”
  136. Pelosi also said, “The fate of our nation is riding on how this is resolved,” adding, “It isn’t about just one person. It’s about the precedent that it sets for the future.”
  137. Pelosi added, “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming, and the president has led a clear path for them to interfere,” and “I just pray that the senators will have the courage, and the ability, to handle the truth.”
  138. Pelosi also hammered Trump’s lawyers, saying they have “disgraced” themselves, and that they should be disbarred, saying, “I don’t know how they can retain their lawyer status, in the comments that they’re making.”
  139. Pelosi added of GOP senators, “Imagine that you would say…if the president thinks” their presidency “is good for the country, then any action is justified…including encouraging a foreign government” to interfere.
  140. On Thursday, a new video released by the attorney for Parnas showed him and Igor Fruman mingling with Trump and GOP officials, including RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, at a donor event in April 2018 at Mar-a-Lago.
  141. McDaniel can be seen greeting Fruman with a hug and saying, “I’m so glad you’re here,” and sat directly across from him at the table. Other high profile Republicans were also at the event to discuss the 2018 midterms.
  142. The video was taken ten days before Trump dined with Parnas and Fruman at a donor dinner at Trump Hotel DC. A video of that dinner, in which firing Yovanovitch was discussed, was released in Week 167.
  143. On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul said he planned to ask a question that named the whistleblower today. Graham cautioned against it, saying he did not think the identity should be said publicly, “Not in this environment.”
  144. On Thursday, the Senate held the second day of eight hours of questions and answers. Roberts refused to read Paul’s question aloud, saying, “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”
  145. Paul then left the Senate chambers to address reporters, and read his question which included the name of the whistleblower and a Schiff staffer. Schiff has claimed he does not know the whistleblower’s identity.
  146. Paul also sent a series of tweets shortly after, which included the name of the alleged whistleblower, claiming it pointed to links between a national security official and a House staffer.
  147. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries read from FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub’s statement, saying, “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national” in a U.S. election.
  148. On Thursday, while the Senate continued the impeachment trial, the Justice Department lawyer argued in federal court that a remedy for a president ignoring a subpoena is for the House to use its impeachment powers.
  149. Schiff mentioned the DOJ lawyer’s assertion to senators, saying, “I didn’t think they’d do this on the same day” we are here debating the removal of Trump, causing the Senate to erupt in laughter.
  150. Philbin answered a bipartisan question to “assure the American public” private citizens would not carry out American diplomacy, claiming Giuliani did not carry out U.S. diplomacy.
  151. During the trial, Sen. Sherrod Brown told USA Today Roberts should break a 50–50 tie on witnesses. Republicans disagreed. Chief Justice Salmon Chase’s tie-breaking votes during Johnson’s trial were controversial.
  152. Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked Roberts about his role given Republicans refused witnesses or evidence, asking if it would “contribute to the loss of legitimacy” of the Chief Justice, Supreme Court, and Constitution.
  153. Sen. Murkowski asked Trump’s lawyers why Bolton should not be called. Philbin said the Senate should not finish the House’s job, and added Bolton had not verified reporting on his manuscript.
  154. Murkowski also asked about contradictions between Ambassador Gordan Sondland, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Bolton on whether there was a quid pro quo. Johnson grimaced when Roberts read his name in the question.
  155. Romney asked if there was any direct evidence Trump held up aid for investigations. Schiff said Trump “made the direct link” to Sondland, while Trump lawyer Michael Purpura said there was “no evidence.”
  156. Late Thursday, former GOP Sen. John Warner issued a statement calling for witnesses, saying the Senate could not risk Americans believing the trial was a “sham,” and urging senators to follow “judicial norms.”
  157. On Thursday, a YouGov Blue poll conducted on behalf of the group Demand Justice found 57% support Roberts using his authority as presiding officer to allow impeachment witnesses, 25% disagree.
  158. On Thursday, while giving a speech in Austin, Bolton voiced support for officials who testified in the House impeachment hearing, including Fiona Hill, Tim Morrison, Alex Vindman, Bill Taylor, and Marie Yovanovitch.
  159. Bolton said, “All of them acted in the best interest of the country as they saw it and consistent to what they thought our policies were,” and people in the regime “feel they’re able to speak their minds without retribution.”
  160. Bolton added, “The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have — I think, is very nearly the reverse — the exact reverse of the truth.” The audience applauded.
  161. On Thursday, Politico reported Pence aide Jennifer Williams, who testified in the House impeachment inquiry about Trump’s July 25 call, will leave the Vice President’s office as soon as Monday.
  162. Williams plans to join Central Command in the spring as a deputy foreign policy adviser. Pence’s chief of staff said Williams had “requested in writing an early departure,” after being scheduled to leave late March.
  163. Williams also submitted additional classified evidence after her testimony about a call between Pence and Zelensky, which Schiff has been trying to declassify. Pence’s office has refused to turn over documents requested.
  164. On Friday, NPR reported Ambassador Yovanovitch, a key figure in Trump’s impeachment hearings and trial, retired from foreign service.
  165. On Friday, WAPO reported Senate investigators have conducted an extensive interview of the IRS whistleblower who has alleged improper political interference in the audit of Trump or Pence.
  166. The whistleblower, a career appointee, has alleged at least one political appointee at the Treasury Department tried to interfere with the audit. Trump regime officials have downplayed the seriousness of the allegations.
  167. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments on the House Oversight Committee’s subpoenaing of Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for his financial records, on March 31.
  168. On Friday, NYT reported, before the Senate impeachment trial re-convened, that according to Bolton’s manuscript, Trump first met with Bolton and others in early May 2019 to discuss pressuring Ukraine.
  169. The manuscript revealed Trump met with Bolton, Mulvaney, Giuliani, and Cipollone in the Oval Office to discuss his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials.
  170. The manuscript cited Trump directed Bolton to call Zelensky, who had just won the election, and ensure he would meet with Giuliani to discuss the investigations sought by Trump. Bolton claimed he never made the call.
  171. The directive by Trump would be the first known instance of his using the power of the U.S. government to advance his pressure campaign, and earlier than indicated in questioning by Philbin at the Senate trial.
  172. In a statement, Trump said, “I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani…to meet with President Zelensky,” adding, “That meeting never happened.”
  173. Giuliani also denied the conversation took place, and said Mulvaney and Cipollone were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine. Bolton and Mulvaney did not respond for comment.
  174. On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that 64 U.S. troops suffered traumatic brain injuries from the Iran missile attack, upping the number again from no injuries, to 11, to 34 last week.
  175. The report of increased injuries undercut Trump’s initial statement after the attack that no Americans were harmed. Defense Secretary Mark Esper also defended Trump’s “headache” comment last week.
  176. On Thursday, Trump held a campaign rally in Iowa to energize his base ahead of the caucus next week. Trump hoped to trounce his two primary opponents and slow any momentum of the winning Democrat.
  177. Trump told his supporters they had a “front-row seat to the lunacy and the madness of a totally sick left,” and called Democrats the party of “socialism and blatant corruption,” as the impeachment trial continued.
  178. Trump used some of the rhetoric from his 2016 campaign, calling undocumented immigrants “stone cold rapists,” a line from his kickoff speech in 2015, and reminisced about his race against Hillary Clinton.
  179. Trump warned supporters, if he is not re-elected, their farms will “go to hell,” adding, “USMCA done, China done, for the farmers, it’s done,” and, “You’re gonna have to get bigger tractors and a hell of a lot more land.”
  180. Trump called Schiff a “sick puppy,” adding, “We’re having probably the best years we’ve ever had, and I just got impeached. Can you believe these people?” and, “you got maniacs doing a number on you for three years.”
  181. Trump added, “We’re having probably the best years we’ve ever had, and I just got impeached. Can you believe these people?” adding it was still a “happy period because we call it ‘impeachment light.’”
  182. As Trump spoke, all eyes were on Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is retiring in 2020, for his decision on whether to vote to call witnesses after Sens. Romney and Collins said yes. Murkowski said she would announce in the morning.
  183. Late in the evening, Alexander tweeted he would vote no on witnesses, saying it was wrong for Trump to solicit help, and did not need to hear more evidence to prove it, but impeachment was not the right remedy.
  184. On Thursday, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board called out the Trump campaign for mistreating the press at his event, including banning several from the rally including NPR and New York Magazine, despite credentials.
  185. Reporters also cited being yelled at by Trump staffers, and dozens were later herded by press staff up to a sidewalk where Secret Service yelled at them for being in their way.
  186. On Friday, Pompeo made his first visit to Ukraine, after cancelling two prior scheduled visits, and met with Zelensky in an effort to calm unease between officials in the Trump regime and Ukrainians officials.
  187. Speaking to reporters after, Pompeo said Ukraine’s “struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one,” and that “Our commitment to support it will not waver.”
  188. Although an invitation to the White House would have been an important signal of U.S. support, Pompeo said Trump had no immediate plans to host Zelensky — a blow to Ukraine’s national security efforts.
  189. On Friday, Trump tweeted at House managers, trying to sow discord, saying, “Nadler ripped final argument away from Schiff, thinks Shifty did a terrible job. They are fighting big time!”
  190. On Friday, NYT reported senators’ offices, particularly Republicans, have been flooded with phone calls. There have also been protestors outside offices of undecided GOP senators, holding signs with phrases like “GOP Put Country Before Party.”
  191. On Friday, Sen. Murkowski said she would vote no on witnesses, citing “the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning,” and doubting “continuation of this process will change anything.”
  192. Murkowski added, “It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed,” and said the impeachment articles were too “rushed and flawed” to warrant prolonging the trial.
  193. On Friday, more than 300 law professors and legal historians, in a letter, rejected a suggestion by Dershowitz that presidents may abuse the power of their office to get re-elected without facing impeachment.
  194. The letter cited, “That is why the Constitution assigns the task, not to a court, but to Congress, relying upon its collective wisdom to assess whether a president has committed a ‘high crime and misdemeanor.’”
  195. On Friday, John Kelly said in a speech that he agrees with the 75% of Americans who want to hear from witnesses, saying, “I do think it’s a mistake not to have key witnesses, on both sides.”
  196. Kelly added, “If you don’t have witnesses, one side of the aisle will forever say the whole thing was a sham,” and “As a private citizen, I would love to see some witnesses.”
  197. On Friday, Schumer said in a statement, “If the president is acquitted with no witnesses, no documents, the acquittal will have no value because Americans will know that this trial was not a real trial.”
  198. On Friday, as the impeachment trial opened, Senate chaplain, Barry Black, told senators: “Eternal Lord God, you have summarized ethical behavior in a single sentence: Do for others what you would like them to do for you.”
  199. Black added, “Remind our senators that they alone are accountable to you for their conduct. Lord help them to remember, that they can’t ignore you and get away with it. For we always reap what we sow.”
  200. Schiff opened by referring to the NYT reporting on Trump’s role in the Ukraine pressure campaign starting as early as May, saying of Cipollone, “He said all the facts should come out,” adding, “Well, here’s a new fact.”
  201. Schiff added, “Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from, including the White House counsel.”
  202. During the trial, Sen. Portman said no to witnesses in a statement: “Our country is already too deeply divided and we should be working to heal wounds, not create new ones. It is better to let the people decide.”
  203. As the afternoon progressed, a handful of Senate Republicans moved to the position that Trump did what he was accused of, but that it should not be grounds to remove him.
  204. During the trial, Trump tweeted the “Do Nothing Democrats keep chanting “fairness”, when they put on the most unfair Witch Hunt” in history, falsely claiming “they had 17 Witnesses, we were allowed ZERO, and no lawyers.”
  205. Schiff made a final push, noting it would set a dangerous precedent if no witnesses were called, as the facts about Trump’s actions will come out regardless, and Americans will see there is a double standard of justice.
  206. The attorney for Parnas again requested for him to testify in a letter to McConnell, saying, “Parnas would testify that at all times he was acting at the direction of” Giuliani, Trump, and Trump officials.
  207. Late Friday, the Senate voted 51–49 against calling witnesses, with Sens. Romney and Collins voting with Democrats, making Trump’s acquittal likely in a vote expected next Wednesday at 4 p.m.
  208. The Senate trial would be the first in U.S. history to proceed to a vote without calling any witnesses.
  209. NYT reported Trump and McConnell spoke by phone about the deal as negotiations on the Senate floor came to standstill for about an hour, and agreed on the timing of the vote and ending the trial next week.
  210. Trump wanted the vote to acquit to come before his State of the Union speech, to be delivered next Tuesday. Instead the trial will resume Monday, with time for senators to speak on Monday and Tuesday.
  211. Later Friday, Trump tweeted, “No matter what you give to the Democrats, in the end, they will NEVER be satisfied,” adding, “In the House, they gave us NOTHING!”
  212. On Friday, Chief Justice Roberts responded to a parliamentary inquiry from Schumer, saying he would not break a tie vote, saying he does not view “isolated episodes” 150 years ago as sufficient to support such a move.
  213. On Friday, a Courier Journal analysis found several members of Trump’s legal defense team recently made donations to McConnell’s 2020 re-election campaign.
  214. Ken Starr donated $2,800 to McConnell’s campaign on July 31, 2019. Robert Ray donated $5,600 on September 30, 2019, 12 days after WAPO broke the story about the whistleblower complaint.
  215. On Friday, AP reported Sekulow is being quietly paid for his legal services in part through for-profit Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group and a non-for-profit American Center for Law and Justice.
  216. From 2008 to 2017, $65 million in charitable funds were paid to Sekulow, and his family members, and corporations they own. Sekulow picks up checks for CLA from a post office box a block from the White House.
  217. Later Friday, WSJ reported early in the week after Bolton’s manuscript was leaked, the White House and GOP leadership swung into a political good cop, bad cop routine to keep the trial on track for a fast acquittal.
  218. McConnell, aided by White House liaisons, worked behind the scenes to keep GOP senators from panicking. McConnell’s office advised Trump’s legal team which arguments were resonating with which senators.
  219. Trump heeded McConnell’s advice to stay on the sidelines and give Republicans on the fence, who were wary of crossing him and appearing browbeaten by him, space to make their own decisions.
  220. During the week, McConnell told GOP senators to stay calm and be patient. On Tuesday, they all met and those up for re-election were given a chance to state their positions and concerns, and ideas were floated.
  221. By Thursday, it still appeared there could be the four votes needed to call witnesses. McConnell met with senate colleagues at lunch but did not reveal the vote count. He believed Roberts would not intervene.
  222. McConnell met with Alexander for dinner Thursday, having been friends with him for half a century. Alexander had a rule for being up front when he was going to vote against the party.
  223. On Friday, WAPO reported on how Republicans in tough 2020 races went all-in for Trump. In three years, he has transformed himself from an outsider to become the party standard-bearer.
  224. Republicans privately acknowledge Trump dominates the party in a “potent and visceral way” in a divided country, and noted they now view Trump not as an outsider, but as the establishment.
  225. On Friday, presidential historian Jon Meacham told MSNBC, “I think the significance of today…it is now arguable… that Donald Trump may well have now become the most powerful president in American history.
  226. Meacham added, “President Trump is functionally a monarch at this point. If the king does it, it’s okay,” adding, “think about the long term implications of having a president who is above the law.”
  227. On Friday, Trump expanded his travel ban to place restrictions on immigrants from six more countries: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania — none of which have Trump properties.
  228. A spokesperson for the ACLU said, “Trump is doubling down on his signature anti-Muslim policy, and using the ban as a way to put even more of his prejudices into practice by excluding more communities of color.”
  229. Also Friday, Trump rescinded restrictions on the U.S. military’s use of landmines, a weapon banned by more than 160 countries due to their history of killing and wounding civilians.
  230. The policy represented a reversal of the Obama administration’s approach in 2014, which said the U.S. would adhere to the 1997 Ottawa Convention agreement banning landmines, which Trump’s White House said put U.S. troops at “a severe disadvantage” during conflicts.
  231. On Saturday, CNN reported a DOJ filing around midnight, hours after the Senate voted, revealed it has two dozen emails related to the Trump’s involvement in withholding security assistance to Ukraine.
  232. The filing was in response to a FOIA request by the Center for Public Integrity. The court ordered a breakdown of what the DOJ redacted or withheld no later than January 31 (Friday) at midnight.
  233. The emails, which are being blocked from the public and Congress seeing them, would be the first insight into Trump’s thinking on aid, and show that he was directly involved in decisions as early as June.
  234. The OMB said the 24 emails, sent between June and September 2019, should be kept confidential because they describe decision-making between Trump, Pence, or Trump’s immediate advisors.
  235. On Saturday, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll found 50% approve of the Senate convicting Trump, while 43% disagree, a slightly wider gap but within the margin of error consistent during the trial.
  236. On Saturday, Trump tweeted about Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, saying he is “Number One” and has “shown the Fake News what happens when you cover “America’s Greatest President” fairly & objectively!”
  237. Trump also quoted a tweet about his campaign event, adding, “Trump poll numbers are the highest since election, despite constant phony Witch Hunts!” and comparing his events to “The Greatest Show On Earth.”
  238. On Saturday, Trump tweeted a photo of himself playing golf at his club in West Palm Beach, Florida with the words, “Getting a little exercise this morning!

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Copyright Amy Siskind, February 1, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signals thumbs-up leaving the chamber after Republicans defeated Democratic amendment to subpoena key witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.