Schumer weaponizes impeachment trial debate


Schumer is engaged in an aggressive campaign to change the narrative of what for weeks has appeared an utterly partisan vote of Trump by McConnell and Senate Republicans. He’s seeking to drive a witness wedge among Republicans and disrupt their own party unity, first in a letter to McConnell Sunday night that served as an opening offer for the trial, then in TV hits and a news conference on Monday and finally in a series of interviews with print reporters.

“Even if McConnell doesn’t want it, I expect at least four Republicans will be for witnesses,” Schumer declared.

Republican leaders jeered this idea. They say Schumer is merely playing a part to satisfy the party’s liberal base and demonstrate Democrats won’t roll over to McConnell.

“He’s a pretty good actor,” scoffed Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is close to McConnell and works out with Schumer in the Senate gym. “He thinks this is what’s required of him to be the Democratic leader: Fight the good fight, put on a good show. I think he knows what the outcome is going to be.”

Still, there’s no question that Schumer’s letter to McConnell has disrupted the Republican leaders’ “nothing-to-see-here” impeachment narrative and the party strategy to ignore witnesses at the outset — and call them in later if there are 51 votes for it. Republicans are now back to debating witnesses, though many say Schumer will end up with Hunter Biden testifying before the Senate if he’s not careful.

But those aren’t the votes Schumer and McConnell are worried about. The two political combatants are really scrapping for a handful of Senate Republicans who may feel compelled to request new documents and witness testimony that the House did not receive. And one of those pivotal senators, Susan Collins of Maine, is clearly annoyed by Schumer.

While Collins said she would never echo McConnell’s sentiment of “total coordination” with the White House on the trial, she said Schumer’s behavior is “not a promising sign.”

“I would not have done that,” Collins said of McConnell’s vow to acquit Trump and work with the White House. “But Sen. Schumer’s move is such a typical, inappropriate approach that it indicates that he’s not really sincerely interested in negotiation.”

In addition to Collins, Democrats believe Republican senators like Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee could potentially support Schumer’s proposal. But none have explicitly backed bringing in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney or Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton or demanding documents like administration emails sent after the Ukraine whistleblower came forward.

Clad in duckling-pattern socks and at one point raiding an office holiday chocolate pack for a cappuccino treat, Schumer is relaxed in the interview but cautious about leaning too hard publicly on his Republican colleagues. At this stage for the voluble Schumer, saying too much could backfire.

He won’t comment on the politics of impeachment for incumbent Republicans like Collins but is acutely aware of the polling showing voters want impeachment trials. He says he’s discussed impeachment with Republicans, though he won’t disclose their names.

Clearly his strategy is multifaceted. He wants to win a majority of senators to subpoena documents and witnesses. But he also is putting Republicans in a bind by forcing them to either break with Trump or essentially dismiss hearing any new information about Trump’s decision to delay aid to Ukraine and request investigations into Joe Biden – the basis of the House’s two articles of impeachment.

The “bottom line is that our Republican friends have a choice, not just Mitch McConnell but all of them,” Schumer said. “Do they want the facts to come out, or do they want to cover up the truth?”

While Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said that the Democrats didn’t sign off on every detail of Schumer’s strategy, the party is sticking with him.

“He didn’t preclear it, although he told us he was thinking about the whole issue,” the Illinois senator said. “And so far it’s been a totally positive response.”

Democratic senators say Schumer has focused his messaging to the caucus more on the historical context and weight of impeachment, as opposed to discussing the politics of the impeachment trial. At a caucus lunch this month, Schumer gave a presentation on impeachment that included video clips from President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. He’s sternly reminded them they will be sitting for hours unable to talk, tweet or do much other than listen.

Jones, who faces a tough re-election bid for his Alabama Senate seat, said he’s only spoken to Schumer about the impeachment process and that his reelection “has never come up” in those talks.

“There’s not a single message about ‘we need to stick together to do x’ or ‘we need this outcome,’” Jones said. “It’s just not that discussion. Not on our side, I think it’s different on the other side.”

Manchin, who broke with his party last year to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and could be a wildcard on impeachment, said Schumer hasn’t been working to win him over one way or the other: “No, no, no and hell no.”

Sinema’s office did not comment on her view of Schumer’s strategy and she rarely goes to party lunches, anyway. But Schumer allies said they could corroborate the lack of dissent among Democrats and his light touch.

“One of the reasons that Leader Schumer has been able to keep us together is that he rarely hammers anybody,” said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “The best way to keep the caucus together is to just make the best possible argument and allow people to be attracted to that argument as opposed to old fashioned arm-twisting.”

In putting forth his argument, Schumer talks about how he will be remembered in history books and his legacy as Democratic leader. It’s an indication he’s aware of the scrutiny he’s getting now as a party leader renowned for his messaging and political acumen — and that despite his determination, the next few weeks are fraught with uncertainty.

“I don’t know how it’s going to end,” he said. “But I am confident of the path we are on.”



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Trump accuses Democrats of ‘trivializing impeachment’ after vote on articles


Trump spoke just about an hour after the House Judiciary Committee voted.

Just about an hour after the House Judiciary Committee Friday approved two articles of impeachment against him, President Donald Trump accused them of “trivializing” the constitutional process for political gain.

Before a meeting with Paraguay’s president at the White House, Trump told reporters he had been working on a China trade deal but “got to see enough of it.”

“You’re trivializing impeachment, and I tell you what, someday they’ll be a Democrat president and they’ll be a Republican House, and I suspect they’re going to remember it. Because when you do — when you use impeachment for absolutely nothing other than to try and get political gain.”

“I think it’s a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment, which is supposed to be used in an emergency and, it would seem, many, many, many years apart – to be using this for a perfect phone call where the president of that country said there was no pressure whatsoever, didn’t even know what we were talking about, it was perfect,” he said, referring to his July 25 phone call in which he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals.

Democrats accuse him of “abuse of power” for doing so and “obstruction of Congress” for blocking their efforts to find out what happened.

“To use the power of impeachment on this nonsense is an embarrassment to this country,” Trump said.

Asked if he preferred a short or long Senate trial – if impeachment made it to that body – Trump praised GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell’s views that a shorter trial is preferable, saying both he’d do “whatever I want’ and “whatever they want.”

“I can do – I’ll do whatever I want,” Trump said. “Look, there is – we did nothing wrong. So, I’ll do long or short. I’ve heard Mitch, I’ve heard Lindsey – I think they are very much an agreement on some concept. I’ll do whatever they want to do, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t mind a long process, because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud.”

He went on to criticize, as he often does, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff as “crooked,” “a corrupt politician,” and “a disgrace” – and then mocked U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council Ukraine expert who listened to the July 25 call, became alarmed, and reported his concerns..

“Now, had I not had a transcript – I’m lucky we had this transcript, which by the way has now been verified by the lieutenant colonel – lieutenant colonel, OK? He’s another beauty.”

Vindman was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded by an IED while serving in Iraq.

The president also said he also watched Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee markup session – “I got to see quite a bit of it yesterday” – and that he “watched these Democrats on the committee make fools out of themselves, absolute fools out of themselves.

He said people “are absolutely disgusted” but he was benefiting.

“It’s a very sad thing for our country, but It seems to be good for me politically,” Trump said.

On Friday morning, one of the key players in the impeachment investigation — the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — was caught on camera arriving at and then leaving the White House. While it wasn’t immediately clear why he was there, Trump has said Giuliani would be delivering a report to Congress and Attorney General William Barr on what he’s found while in Ukraine.

“I hear he has found plenty,” Trump added, speaking about it last weekend.

“The American people have already made up their mind on this #ImpeachmentScam,” Giuliani tweeted Friday.



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House Judiciary approves articles of impeachment, paving way for floor vote


The articles allege that Trump put his personal interests above U.S. national security by pressuring Ukraine to open investigations into his Democratic adversaries. Then, the articles state, Trump waged an unprecedented campaign to block impeachment investigators from obtaining witness testimony and documents as they sought to probe the allegations.

“Today is a solemn and sad day,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said. “For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

“The House will act expeditiously,” he added.

The committee abruptly paused its proceedings just after 11 p.m. Thursday night, after a 14-hour session during which Republicans offered several amendments aimed at chipping away at the articles — all rejected by Democrats. Nadler postponed the final votes until Friday morning, a move that aides said reflected a preference to vote during the light of day.

Lawmakers were seated behind the dais for less than 10 minutes Friday morning as the committee’s clerk administered two separate roll-call votes on the articles. By 10:12 a.m., the committee had favorably reported both articles of impeachment, on party-line 23-17 votes, to the House floor.

“This is the most serious vote I think anyone on this committee has ever taken and will ever take,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the Judiciary Committee who serves as chairman of House Democrats’ messaging arm. “This is a vote we were compelled to take based on the evidence and the Constitution.”

Democrats and Republicans sat stoically as their names were called, exuding confidence with their calls of “aye” or “no.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) held up a pocket Constitution with her right hand as she recorded her “aye” vote; while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) asked the clerk to confirm his “no” vote.

Next week’s impeachment vote on the House floor will trigger a Senate trial, with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, in January. Trump’s allies expect the GOP-controlled chamber will acquit him swiftly — it takes a two-thirds vote of the 100-member body to remove a sitting president — but Republican senators are still deciding whether to ultimately allow Trump to call witnesses.

The three-day Judiciary Committee proceedings were largely an exercise in grandstanding, speechifying and at times monotonous repetition — an endurance exercise in which each side appeared to be baiting the other to trip over their arguments or commit procedural offenses that could resonate outside Washington.



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House panel approves charges, Trump at brink of impeachment


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic-controlled House of Representatives committee on Friday took Republican President Donald Trump to the brink of impeachment when it approved two charges against him stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

A deeply divided House Judiciary Committee voted 23-17 to approve articles of impeachment charging Trump with both abusing the power of his office over Ukraine and obstructing House Democrats’ attempts to investigate him for it.

If the full House votes next week to impeach Trump, as expected, the Republican will become the third U.S. president to be impeached. But the chances of him being removed from office are close to zero because the Senate, which is dominated by Republicans, will have the final say.

In congressional hearings that have gripped Washington, Democrats have accused the president of endangering the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing national security and undermining the integrity of the 2020 election by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call to investigate Biden.

“Today is a solemn and sad day,” the committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, said. “For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president.”

Republicans have defended Trump and accused Democrats of a politically motivated farce aimed at overturning his surprise 2016 presidential election victory.

“A sad, ridiculous sham in the U.S. House of Representatives. This needs to come to a quick end,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is often a staunch defender of Trump, wrote on Twitter.

If impeached, Trump will go on trial in the Senate early next year, just as the 2020 presidential campaign begins to pick up speed.

Biden, a former U.S. vice president, is a leading Democratic candidate to face Trump in November’s general election. Trump has alleged that Biden was involved in corruption in Ukraine and should be investigated but the president has offered no evidence. The Democrat denies any wrongdoing.

ABUSE CHARGE

The abuse of power charge against Trump also accuses him of freezing nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine and offering a possible White House meeting to Zelenskiy to get him to publicly announce investigations of Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Trump also asked Ukraine to investigate a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Vote tally sheets showing that two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump have been approved by the House Judiciary Committee lie on the clerk’s desk after the committee voted to approve the articles of impeachment and send them on to the full House of Representatives for consideration on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

The obstruction charge against Trump is based on his directives to current and former administration officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, even if that meant defying subpoenas.

A senior Democratic aide said the House tentatively plans to hold an impeachment debate next Wednesday ahead of a vote on whether to impeach Trump and send him for trial.

Trump and Republicans say the president did nothing improper in his call with Zelenskiy, and that there is no direct evidence he withheld aid or a White House meeting in exchange for a favor. Democrats counter that by saying that Trump stopped top aides from testifying.

Signaling investors’ lack of concern at political upheaval, U.S. stocks hit fresh record levels on Friday on optimism over a possible trade deal between China and the United States.

As the committee was voting, China announced progress and said Beijing would cancel tariffs scheduled to take effect, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.38%. Trump followed up by tweeting a that trade deal had been reached. Shares later gave up some of the gains but remained near record levels.

Trump would be the third U.S. president to be impeached. Democrat Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for perjury for lying about a sexual relationship with a White House intern, but he was acquitted in the Senate. Democrat President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 but not convicted in the Senate.

Republican President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he was impeached over his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Trump is running for re-election in 2020, a contest expected to be a bitter, partisan battle with a Democratic nominee who will be chosen next year.

The impeachment inquiry was launched in September after a whistleblower complaint about the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s Zelenskiy.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham, Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Trump Warns Russia About Election Meddling as Impeachment Looms


(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday against interference in U.S. elections, the White House said in a statement after an Oval Office meeting between the two men.

The meeting came hours after House Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment alleging the president sought to coerce a foreign leader to help his bid for re-election, and it was the first encounter between Trump and Lavrov May 2017, when the U.S. president boasted to the Russian about firing then-FBI Director James Comey and reportedly shared classified information.

Tuesday’s meeting, in which Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also participated, was even more loaded with tension. Earlier in the day, House Democrats announced articles of impeachment that include a finding Trump damaged U.S. national security by withholding military aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists, in hopes of forcing its government to undertake an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Immediately before the White House meeting, Pompeo and Lavrov sparred in front of reporters over U.S. findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

In a summary of the meeting, the White House said Trump also urged Russia to resolve the conflict with Ukraine. Trump expressed support for an arms control agreement that would include both Russia and China, and asked for Russian support in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ensuring that North Korea reduces its own stockpile.

Biden and other Democrats routinely criticize the U.S. president for showing deference to Vladimir Putin. They frequently reference a news conference in Helsinki in which Trump said he believed the Russian leader’s claims more than the findings of his own intelligence services.

Separately, the Justice Department inspector general released a report on Monday finding no political bias in the FBI investigation into allegations of Russian collusion, a conclusion that counters Trump’s contention that he and his campaign had been unfairly targeted. The report, however, cited significant missteps by the bureau as it sought a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.

And just last week, Trump attended a NATO summit in London, where other leaders expressed concern about Russia — not just its annexation of Crimea but also its tightening grip on Syria after Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Revealing Intel Source

The 2017 meeting came just a day after Trump fired Comey over frustration with the probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia. It darkened the cloud of controversy related to Russia that still looms over Trump’s presidency, even after federal investigators found no evidence he was involved in Moscow’s efforts to influence the U.S. elections.

Lavrov arrived at the White House at about 2:20 p.m. in Washington and left about an hour later. The meeting was closed to reporters and none of the participants made any public remarks.

After their first meeting, the Russian state news agency Tass released pictures of Trump and Lavrov laughing in the Oval Office. White House officials then rushed members of the American media into the room, but the Russian delegation had already departed.

Only official U.S. government photographers were allowed into Tuesday’s meeting, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because it was private.

The White House said after the 2017 meeting that it had been misled by Russian officials and believed the Tass photographer was there on behalf of the Kremlin.

In the following days, the Washington Post reported that Trump revealed highly classified information during the meeting and may have jeopardized a source considered crucial to the battle against Islamic State. Subsequent reports identified the source of that intelligence as Israel. Trump denied ever explicitly revealing the source to Russia, but concerns remained that he had given the Russian officials enough information to determine it for themselves.

“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” Trump said during a 2017 trip to Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”

Putin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris on Monday. That summit led to an agreement to exchange prisoners and the withdrawal of some troops, but no permanent resolution to the ongoing conflict in the disputed Donbas region. More than 13,000 people have died in the conflict over the 500-kilometer (310-mile) contact line over the past four years.

North Korea, Venezuela

Trump is also eager to enlist Russia to help pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program amid worrying signs that his efforts may be failing.

Kim Yong Chol, Chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, called Trump a “heedless and erratic old man” in a statement to the state-run Korean Central News Agency earlier this week. On Sunday, Trump warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risked voiding “his special relationship with the President of the United States” amid reports that North Korea had conducted a key test at a missile site.

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Trump tweeted.

Trump has also said he wants to broker a replacement deal for the New START treaty, which limits the production of nuclear weapons and expires in February 2021. Trump said last week he’s eager to expand the deal to include other nations like China, and want to see “a cessation on nuclear and nuclear creation.”

“It’s — in my opinion — the biggest problem the world has today,” Trump said.

The White House didn’t say whether Trump raised concerns over Russia’s backing of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro. Vice President Mike Pence led a meeting last week with other White House officials to re-examine the administration’s push to empower Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader and Maduro opponent who declared himself interim president of Venezuela with American backing earlier this year.

But Guaido has failed to push out Maduro, and Trump is losing confidence that the opposition leader will ever topple the regime. The administration officials have instead discussed a possible partnership with Russia to ease the leader out of power.

–With assistance from Jordan Fabian.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at [email protected], Joshua Gallu

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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‘Start Here’: Takeaways from the Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing


It’s Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Let’s start here.

1. Law and the Constitution

The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from four constitutional scholars on whether President Donald Trump’s actions toward Ukraine were impeachable.

Three of the experts called by Democrats said the president should be impeached while the fourth witness, the expert brought by Republicans, said there wasn’t enough evidence of a quid pro quo.

Whereas the impeachment hearings for the House Intelligence Committee were about testimony from fact witnesses, ABC News Legal Analyst Kate Shaw tells “Start Here” today that the Judiciary Committee’s first hearing was all about the law and the Constitution.

“The real issue is, do these events add up to impeachable conduct? And I think you saw… constitutional law experts taking an affirmative position, yes, this conduct does satisfy the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors,” she says.

2. Georgia politics

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced his appointment to the state’s soon to be vacant Senate seat on Wednesday, choosing financial executive and Republican donor Kelly Loeffler over House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, a staunch Trump ally and the president’s own pick.

“This could create a potential rift between President Trump and Governor Kemp, but it’s also Kemp coming to terms with the fact that Georgia is a battleground,” ABC News’ Kendall Karson tells the podcast. “This is really Republicans saying that we need someone who can actually win back the voters that we are losing and those are specifically those female suburban voters.”

PHOTO: Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler speaks after she was introduced by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as his pick to fill Georgias vacant U.S. Senate seat at the Georgia State Capitol, Dec. 4, 2019, in Atlanta.Elijah Nouvelage/AP
Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler speaks after she was introduced by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as his pick to fill Georgia’s vacant U.S. Senate seat at the Georgia State Capitol, Dec. 4, 2019, in Atlanta.

3. Buffalo bishop resigns

Amid backlash over his handling of sexual abuse cases, a Catholic bishop in Buffalo, New York has resigned following a Vatican investigation.

ABC News’ David Wright reports on the allegations on today’s “Start Here” and what led to Bishop Richard Malone’s resignation, “Bishop Malone, for more than a year now has been steadfast in the face of mounting criticism over his handling of past allegations of sexual abuse by priests, saying that he wouldn’t resign. Now, suddenly, a change of heart.”

In a statement released after the Vatican announced his resignation, Malone acknowledged that his position had become untenable, but he pointed to “worldwide handling of sexual abuse” by members of the clergy, and insisted, “My decision to retire early was made freely and voluntarily” after he became aware of the conclusions in the Vatican’s report, which has not been made public.

PHOTO: St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City.STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

“Start Here,” ABC News’ flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day’s top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.

Elsewhere:

‘Slashed the victim’: A Boston man was struck on the head with a snow shovel and slashed over the eye with a box cutter after allegedly enduring anti-gay slurs from the man who attacked him.

‘Unique traditions’: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and representatives from New Mexico lit the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree Wednesday, heralding the holiday season in a traditional evening ceremony that dates back more than 50 years.

‘Terrible tragedy’: An armed, active-duty sailor opened fire on three civilian employees, killing two, before he fatally shot himself at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard near Honolulu on Wednesday afternoon.

‘Scholar athlete’: A Philadelphia teenager has been charged in the fatal shooting of his twin brother, police said Wednesday.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

‘What went down during the Trump impeachment Judiciary Committee hearing’: The House Judiciary Committee heard from four constitutional law experts who testified about whether they believed the evidence collected in the impeachment inquiry showed that President Trump had committed an impeachable offense as defined in the Constitution.

Doff your cap:

With Christmas just 3 weeks away, Laura Landerman-Garber and her team are hard at work trying to make sure that they bring holiday smiles to U.S. troops overseas and across the nation.

“This is like my Santa’s workshop,” Landerman-Garber said of her home to ABC affiliate WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire.

For 16 years, the Hollis, New Hampshire, woman has been collecting letters — and care packages — from across the U.S. and sending them out to the military.

PHOTO: Laura Landerman-Garber has been collecting and sending holiday cards to troops in the U.S. and overseas for 16 years. This year, she is sending more than 160,000.WMUR
Laura Landerman-Garber has been collecting and sending holiday cards to troops in the U.S. and overseas for 16 years. This year, she is sending more than 160,000.

Two years ago, she set a goal of 5,000 cards and mailed them out to servicemembers aboard an aircraft carrier. In 2019, 50,000 cards were mailed out. This year, Landerman-Garber’s challenge reached all 50 states. She even got cards from some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

On Monday, Landerman-Garber posted to her Facebook group that she had received “160,000-plus” holiday cards.



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Joe Biden Refuses to Voluntarily Testify at Impeachment Proceedings



Joe Biden ruled out the possibility that he would voluntarily testify in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying to do so would “divert” away from the issue at hand.

“No, I’m not going to let them take their eye off the ball,” the former vice president told reporters when asked about the possibility on his “No Malarkey” bus tour in Iowa. “The president is the one who has committed impeachable crimes, and I’m not going to let him divert from that. I’m not going to let anyone divert from that.”

Biden’s refusal sets up the likelihood that he would need to be subpoenaed to appear before Congress, especially if the impeachment inquiry proceeds to a trial in the Senate. Some Republicans, like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), have already signaled it would be inappropriate for the impeachment inquiry, let alone a trial, to progress without the testimonies of both the former vice president and his youngest son, Hunter. As such, Senate Republicans have begun looking into the Obama-era White House and Hunter Biden’s wheeling and dealing in Ukraine, which has taken center stage in the inquiry.

The former vice president, for his part, has responded to calls that he and his son testify by lashing out at the Republicans, like Graham.

“Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he’s going to regret his whole life,” Biden said last month when asked about the senator’s efforts around impeachment. “I say Lindsey, I just—I’m just embarrassed by what you’re doing, for you. I mean, my Lord.”

Biden’s refusal to testify also underscores just how central he and his son are to the Democrats’ case for impeaching Trump. The controversy started when Trump suggested the Ukrainian government investigate how Hunter Biden was able to secure a seat on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings. The younger Biden was appointed to the Ukraine-based natural gas company’s board in 2014, despite having no background in either the energy industry or eastern Europe. More troubling was the fact that Hunter Biden’s appointment seemed to coincide with his father being tapped to lead the Obama administration’s policy towards in Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.

As Peter Schweizer, senior contributor at Breitbart News, detailed in his book Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, Hunter Biden’s background in investment banking, lobbying, and hedge fund management paled in comparison to that of current and past members of Burisma’s board.

Adding to concerns is the fact that at the time Hunter Biden joined Burisma, the company was seen as actively courting leaders in the West to prevent further scrutiny of its business practices. The same month that Hunter Biden was tapped to join the company’s board, the government of Great Britain froze accounts belonging to Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, under suspicion of money laundering.

A Ukrainian official with strong ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October the only reason that Hunter Biden secured the appointment was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny.

It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s political influence has raised the most red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016.

Joe Biden, who has publicly bragged about the firing, reportedly threatened to withhold more than one billion dollars in U.S. aid if the Ukrainian government did not remove Shokin. He has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption.

Unofficially, though, it was known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption. It is uncertain if the probe extended to Hunter Biden, although Shokin has recently admitted that prior to his ouster, he was warned to back off the matter. Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma.

Congressional Republicans have cited the shadowy timeline of events and the appearance of conflicting interests when arguing for Hunter and Joe Biden to testify before the impeachment proceedings.

“I believe that Hunter Biden’s association on that board doesn’t pass the smell test,” Graham told reporters last month. “If a Republican was in the same boat they would be eaten alive by the media.”



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Dems exhale as they dodge impeachment debacle


To be sure, there was plenty of hot-blooded rhetoric when each of the panel’s 41 members took their allotted five minutes to question the legal experts on hand.

In one of the more heated moments of the day, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) confronted Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan for invoking Trump’s youngest son Barron when asserting that there are limits to Trump’s power.

“While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” Karlan said before later apologizing.

The remark spurred a wave of condemnations from Republicans, including a press release from Trump’s re-election campaign attacking Karlan for mentioning Trump’s 13-year-old son, and a tweet from First Lady Melania Trump that was eventually retweeted by the president himself. And when it was his turn to ask questions, Gaetz laid into her.

“When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend credibility to your argument. It makes you look mean,” Gaetz said. “It makes you look like you’re attacking someone’s family — the minor child of the president of the United States.”

But lawmakers generally constrained their outrage to those five-minute blocks and politely passed the baton to their colleagues when time expired. It was a stark contrast to the panel’s halting efforts to hold hearings on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report throughout the spring and summer, which frequently devolved into ugly procedural battles or spectacles involving lawmakers bringing buckets of fried chicken to the hearing room.

Without the din of crosstalk and partisan squabbling, clear battle lines on the substance of the impeachment inquiry emerged.

Democrats made clear that they view the case against Trump as overwhelming — part of a pattern of misconduct in which he allegedly placed his personal and political interests above those of the nation. This pattern, they said, emerged from his effort to undermine Mueller’s investigation, and subsequently in his effort to press the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign.

Republicans, leaning heavily on their lone witness to push back on that case, argued that Democrats were cutting corners in their inquiry and racing haphazardly to impeach Trump before an arbitrary end-of-year deadline.

GOP lawmakers also accused Democrats of short-circuiting historical impeachment procedures to deprive Trump of a fair defense. Their chosen witness, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, said Democrats had compiled a thin record of evidence and were abusing their authority by refusing to wait for the federal judiciary to resolve subpoena disputes with the executive branch.

At its conclusion, the hearing ended up as a rarity for this Congress: a substantive debate. For Democrats eager to keep impeachment on track, it may have been a pleasant surprise.





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Could House impeachment proceedings drag on into 2020? The timing’s unclear


Is there enough time for lawmakers to deposit articles of impeachment on the House floor this calendar year? Or, could this wait? Finally, do Democrats have the votes to impeach?

If a House impeachment vote drifts into 2020, analysts likely will crow that it would be extraordinary for the House to attempt to impeach President Trump in “an election year.” But, it’s tough to calibrate the political advantages or disadvantages of doing impeachment in December or when the calendar flips.

It’s doubtful that in the future, the public would recall precisely when the House voted to impeach. Republicans would assert that Democrats were so brazen that they “impeached the president in an election year.” Putting impeachment on the floor in, say, October, just before a November general election, may be a real no-no. However, nobody on the Hill has suggested that scenario would be in play.

Heretofore, few actions on impeachment by either side have altered the public’s perception of impeachment. So, if the “needle” never moves, then it might not matter when the House considers articles of impeachment on the floor.

Democrats may prefer to complete the impeachment process expeditiously and push it to the Senate.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., presented his panel’s impeachment report to the caucus of Democrats on Wednesday morning – receiving a standing ovation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked rank-and-file Democrats to give one another time and space to reach their own conclusions about impeachment. Democrats who spoke in the meeting indicated they wanted the inquiry to continue on what was described as a “deliberate path.”

The Intelligence Committee concluded its probe this week. During Wednesday’s inaugural Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the panel will “reconvene and hear from the committees that worked to uncover the facts before us.” Fox News is told the committee will invite the majority and minority sides to present their cases in a public forum.

Intelligence Committee Democrats released their report Tuesday. Republicans published a “pre-buttal” response ahead of time, on Monday.

It’s impossible to judge if the panel may hold additional hearings with witnesses. Nadler said if members determined there were “impeachable offenses, then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly.”

Hearings and other public sessions may not be required in the impeachment process, but if Democrats intend to impeach the president on the floor, they first must craft actual articles of impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee would write articles of impeachment in what’s called a “markup” session. Markups aren’t hearings. There are no witnesses. It’s just all of the members of the committee, sitting on the dais, offering articles of impeachment, amendments to those proposals and debating the merits or demerits of various plans. For instance, the Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment for then-President Richard Nixon in 1974, but the panel ultimately approved only three.

So, if the full House were to impeach the president this year, the time crunch is real.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced earlier this week the body will stay in session until almost Christmas. Democrats emerging from their caucus meeting Wednesday morning told reporters they were advised to stick around Washington through Dec. 21 or 22. It should be noted that the House impeached then-President Bill Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998, in a rare Saturday session, just before Christmas. So, a Christmastime impeachment would be plausible.

But, would Democrats have the votes for impeachment? Pelosi has been a master at reading her caucus. If Pelosi has the votes, she’ll likely give the green light to impeach on the floor. If Pelosi doesn’t have the votes, impeachment could wait – conceivably until the new year. Voting to impeach – or not impeach – could hinge on precisely what articles the Judiciary Committee were to draft.

The key would be having the votes. There are currently 431 members of the House. It takes 216 to impeach. There are presently 233 Democrats. That means Democrats can afford to lose only 17 of their own and still impeach. Democrats could lose 18 if Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., voted to impeach. Such parliamentary algebra also would mean a swath of the 31 Democrats representing districts that Trump carried in 2016 would have to vote to impeach.

LEGAL SCHOLARS CLASH OVER WHETHER TRUMP COMMITTED IMPEACHABLE OFFENSES

In addition to the math, Democrats are facing another conundrum.

Impeachment would consume an enormous amount of time on the House floor. The legislative freight demanded by impeachment is one of the most significant responsibilities facing the House. An impeachment debate can’t run for just an hour or two on the floor.

Here’s what else the House may have to tackle in the coming days:

Democrats have been trying to approve the annual defense bill, consuming floor time. The House and Senate have to figure out a way to fund the government before 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 20. Otherwise, there would be another holiday shutdown like last year.

It’s possible the House and Senate could approve a handful of the annual 12 spending bills and then do an interim spending bill for the remainders. Or, lawmakers could weave together a clump of outstanding appropriations bills and fund the government that way. No matter the path, funding the government takes time.

And, here’s the big issue: Analysts point out congressional Democrats simply cannot allow a government shutdown this time and impeach the president. Otherwise, Trump and Republicans would proclaim that Democrats were too busy impeaching the president and not on conducting the most basic of congressional tasks: funding the government. Democrats have been aware of this quandary. So, in some ways, the impeachment of Trump in 2019 could hinge on whether there’s an agreement on government spending.

Also gravitating in the congressional ether: the new trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, known as the USMCA. If Democrats sprint ahead with the USMCA this month, which isn’t likely, there’s almost no way the House could tangle with impeachment on the floor.

Democrats could face a messaging problem heading into the holidays. The floor traffic is vexing. That’s why some senior Democratic sources have suggested impeachment could wait until the new year — although it’s not a sure thing.

One source close to Pelosi was skeptical of moving impeachment this month.

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“I just don’t see it,” the Democratic source said about advancing impeachment before Christmas. “It’s too big.”

Ultimately, a 2019 impeachment of the president could depend on bandwidth.



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House impeachment report coming ahead of landmark hearing


WASHINGTON —
The House impeachment report on U.S. President Donald Trump will be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House’s declaration it will not participate in the first Judiciary Committee hearing.

The Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee says the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the evidence of “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the president over his actions toward Ukraine. It was being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday’s landmark hearing.

Late Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., he also declined the invitation for the president’s counsel to appear before his panel Wednesday.

Cipollone, in continuing the West Wing’s attack on the House process, said the proceeding “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.” Trump himself was scheduled to attend a summit with NATO allies outside London on Wednesday.

As the impeachment inquiry intensified, Wednesday’s hearing will be a milestone. It is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the Intelligence Committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.

Democrats are focused on whether Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress and a White House meeting as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals. The report is also expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress by Trump’s instructions that officials in his administration defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.

Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House presses forward on an ambitious schedule toward an impeachment vote, the president and his Republican allies are aligned against the process.

Cipollone’s letter applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate in them. House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.

Republicans, meanwhile, wanted Schiff, the chairman who led the inquiry report, to testify before the Judiciary Committee, though they have no power to compel him to do so, as they joined the White House effort to try to cast the Democratic-led inquiry as skewed against the Republican president.

“It’s easy to hide behind a report,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions.”

Schiff has said “there’s nothing for me to testify about,” that he isn’t a “fact” witness and that Republicans are only trying to “mollify the president, and that’s not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness.”

Democrats were aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.

“I do believe that all evidence certainly will be included in that report so the Judiciary Committee can make the necessary decisions that they need to,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

Trump has previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.

Democrats had pressed Trump to decide by Friday whether he would take advantage of due process protections afforded to him under House rules adopted in October for follow-up hearings, including the right to request witness testimony and to cross-examine the witnesses called by the House.

“If you are serious about conducting a fair process going forward, and in order to protect the rights and privileges of the President, we may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the Administration the ability to do so meaningfully,” Cipollone said in the Sunday letter.

Collins called the hearing Wednesday “a complete American waste of time of here.” He wanted the witness list expanded to include those suggested by Republicans. “This is why this is a problematic exercise and simply a made-for-TV event coming on Wednesday.”

Still, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a Judiciary Committee member, said he believes Trump would benefit if he presents his own defence. McClintock said he doesn’t believe Trump did anything wrong in the July 25 call with Zelenskiy that is at the heart of the investigation.

“He didn’t use the delicate language of diplomacy in that conversation, that’s true. He also doesn’t use the smarmy talk of politicians,” McClintock said.

To McClintock, Trump was using “the blunt talk of a Manhattan businessman” and “was entirely within his constitutional authority” in his dealings with Ukraine’s leader.

Collins appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and Demings and McClintock were on ABC’s “This Week.”

——

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.



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