Senate impeachment Q&A continues. Republicans lay the groundwork for cover-up: Live coverage #5

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: In this screengrab taken from a Senate Television webcast, House impeachment manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks during impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on January 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Senate Television via Getty Images)

Thursday is the second day of questions from senators to the House impeachment managers and Donald Trump’s defense lawyers. Questions are submitted in writing to be read by Chief Justice John Roberts, with questions alternating between Republican and Democratic senators and answers generally limited to five minutes.


Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:58:55 AM +00:00

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Barbara Morrill

Ongoing coverage can be found here.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 12:39:59 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And we’re back. Grassley follows right on the heels of the Alexander question in giving the Trump team another chance to rant about how the impeachment is nothing more than partisan hatred for Trump. Philbin is taking it, and will kick that can well enough, but I’m surprised this was not a clarion call that summoned Sekulow from the Conspiracy Cave.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 12:42:47 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

If you are just now coming back from dinner and missed Philbin’s response, don’t worry. Not one word of it was new.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 12:47:51 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

VanHollen teams with Klobuchar asks why Team Trump is opposed to letting the Chief Justice say if a proposed witness is relevant, with the Senate having a deciding vote. 

Sekulow says, uh, you know, no. We’re not willing to go with it. The reason here is clear enough—the big club of “We Will Eat Your Time Forever” would taken off the table, and that’s their best weapon to fend off all witnesses.

Schiff defends the constitutionality of the proposed process. Restates that he trusts Roberts to make a ruling on a witnesses as to whether they are there as relevant witnesses, or are just present for retribution. Schiff says it’s not that they don’t think Roberts would be fair, it’s that they “fear he would be fair.” Ties this refusal to the fact that they won’t produce documents or witnesses.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 12:50:58 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Here’s comes another Cruz-missile of smeardom. And frrracckkk we’re not talking about John Kerry’s step-son and someone else, and Burisma, and who the hell cares about this? I can only assume there’s a big “Q” on this somewhere.

Schiff: “The issue is not whether Hunter Biden should or should not have sat on that board.” Points out that Trump doesn’t give a flying fig about how much money Hunter Biden made — and neither does Cruz. It’s all about trying to imply that Joe Biden did something wrong, when what he did was with the cooperation and understanding of not just our allies, but Republican senators.”

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 12:53:28 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

I would pay to watch Ted Cruz and Adam Schiff debate. Cruz smugly thinks that ten minutes of browsing Breitbart gives him all the conspiracy fuel he needs to launch these attacks. Schiff burns him down in seconds.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 12:58:38 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Hakeem Jeffries comes up to take a question about the recent information released on Trump’s actions related to Turkey, looking toward a pattern of behavior. Jeffries moves the topic back to Ukraine, and stays pinned to the subject of corruption. 

Jeffries is doing a sound job, and once again making it clear that Ukraine had already met the corruption challenges that were required in the legislation. But there’s not a lot new to investigate here, and from the way the question was asked, it didn’t seem to suggest they had some new point to illuminate.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:04:58 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Schiff gets a question on why the House “didn’t choose to enforce” subpoenas. He walks through the case with Kupperman, showing that they did request his appearance, then issue a subpoena, then engage in arbitration repeatedly. And the basis for the refusal to obey the subpoena was the same as the McGahn subpoena already being litigated. A reasonable question and a calm response. 

Not clear if it was seriously asked, or if Republicans are just burning time.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:09:25 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

(Sorry, had some fuzz in my feed there and missed part of the question) but the question is about the importance of protecting whistleblower.

Schiff talks to the importance of protecting a whistleblower in the intelligence community, explaining that they cannot go public, and that without them there is no check on misinformation related to intelligence. Talks about the threats Trump has made both directly against the whistleblower, and to others like Marie Yovanovitch. Without a mechanism to protect whistleblowers reporting wrongdoing, wrongdoing will increase. 

Schiff points at Grassley and Burr as “great champions” of whistleblowers.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:12:45 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Blunt and Hawley team up for something likely to be a slam dunk for Team Trump … sure enough, Blunt — whose entire family are lobbyists — sets Trump’s attorneys up to talk about Trump’s heavy duty commitment to making sure taxpayer dollars are “used wisely.”

That’s how we got to a trillion dollar debt this year. All that careful bookkeeping. Cipollone talking about how money to Ukraine should be going to the pockets of American billionairs … oh, wait. Maybe he said highways?

Is it infrastructure week again?

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:13:55 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Team Trump making a ringing call for following precedent and having one standard … which doesn’t include the witnesses that were critical to every other impeachment.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:15:19 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

King asks Trump’s attorneys if it would be okay for Trump to withhold Israel aid until the prime minister comes and fingers Biden as anti-Semitic.

Which is a ridiculous question. Bibi will do that for free.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:16:41 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Philbin isn’t actually going to answer that question, by the way. Except to leave if hanging that they won’t condemn the idea.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:24:05 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Murkowski sending along a question. This might hint at her conversation with Lamar! Her question goes to the statements from Sondland and Johnson on “no quid pro quo” which is in conflict with Bolton. She asks directly “why should this body not call Bolton?”

Philbin starts off with the “the House didn’t,” and the claim that it would set a precedent for the Senate to call witnesses not heard by the House. Which already is the precedent. In every case. Philbin is sticking to the “the House should have done if for you” part of this for a long time. Philbin tries to push the idea that the entire chamber of the Senate has to sit for testimony — which isn’t true, and wasn’t true for the Clinton impeachment. That’s a pretty light use of the We Will Kill Your Schedule hammer I expected. 

That question probably means that Murkowski has made up her mind and will announce some “well, I was convinced by…” But it’s uncertain which side she will fall on.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:27:45 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Whitehouse, et al bring the question back to King’s Israel hypothetical, with Schiff also getting a swing at it. And gives another good possibility related to Turkey and Trump’s ability to show preference to countries where he has property.

Philbin … slowly, grudgingly admits that if Trump forced a foreign leader to come to the United States and lie “that would be wrong.” But holy hell, he still will not say it’s impeachable. That’s genuinely incredible.

Instead, Philbin pivots to attacking Bolton’s book. That was kind of jaw-dropping.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:32:47 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A question about claims from Shokin made in a Washington Post last June that he was going to investigate Burisma—which ignores that Shokin reversed himself days later in an interview with Bloomberg and admitted that he only made those claims to ingratiate himself with Trump and Giuliani.

The reason that WP article came up at all was because Rudy Giuliani brought that information to the Post. Giuliani was directly responsible for the article that was cited in that question. Neither the WP or the NYT actually followed up on the articles Rudy brought them by going to Ukraine  and asking hard questions. Bloomberg did.

Shokin not only retracted, he has spoken of it in other articles since that point. To get that claim, they have to take a specific article and ignore all others.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:39:52 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

A question from Peters and Cornyn … a strange pairing. Question on how the verdict will change the balance of powers.

Cipollone stands up to say, of course, that acquittal would be great. Super great. And because it’s Cipollone, there’s mention of tearing up ballots, votes, etc. Oh, and Cipollone now turns on the deal Schiff proposed for the trial and says it would screw with executive privilege. Cipollone challenges Schiff over speech and debate rules — stay tuned.

Schiff says he trusts Roberts to make the right decision. Also points out that depositions were taken with just a couple of senators during Clinton impeachment. 

Schiff says if the White House is allowed to determine which subpoenas are valid or invalid, oversight power is “eviscerated.” An acquittal also means buying Trump’s theory of the case, which gives him essentially unlimited power. Roberts cuts him off just when he was ramping up. Drats.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:40:33 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

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Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:44:20 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Schiff knocks back a claim that Trump is being impeached because he’s ignoring the advice of his advisers. Says that Trump is certainly allowed to disagree with advice, even good advice. Trump is being impeached for acting with a corrupt motive.

Philbin then simply ignores what Schiff just said, tosses a snide remark Schiff’s way, and says that it would have damaged the separation of powers if Trump had given the House what they asked for. Except that’s exactly what both Nixon and Clinton did.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:45:26 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

By the way, Trump legal dudes … sitting in the Senate and warning them that they might destroy executive privilege isn’t a threat. It’s an appetizer.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:50:58 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Question to Trump’s team on holding up until the McGahn case is settled, which Trump’s team pretended was moving “swiftly” just yesterday. Now Philbin is aghast at the idea, says McGahn will certainly go to the Supreme Court, there’s no way to wait, Trump deserves to have this over with … that McGahn case could be “hanging over the country for months on end.” Which only shows that Trump’s White House is arguing that they were never going to be answerable in the House.

Schiff shows that the ruling in McGahn against absolute immunity only repeats past rulings … and then the DOJ is arguing that the subpoena can’t be enforced. He agrees with Philbin that it’s headed for the Supreme Court. Again offers to hand the decision to Roberts.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:56:44 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Scott, Hawley, et. al. have a question about … Benghazi! Though it’s hard as hell to know which Benghazi they’re talking about, since there were eight separate Benghazi investigations.

And because we have Sekulow up there, we’re also getting “fast and furious” … where Obama turned over 90,000 pages of documents before going to court over issues of sources and techniques. 

Sekulow is terribly frightened by the idea that the Senate may take Schiff up on his deal. That’s good to see.

Friday, Jan 31, 2020 · 1:57:34 AM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

Flipside of the softball that the Trump team got a few minutes ago, now the House team gets to address the consequences of acquitting Trump when it comes to intelligence issues.

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