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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Senate Republicans held fast on Tuesday and roundly rejected Democrats’ attempts to subpoena testimony and documents from the Trump administration as part of the president’s impeachment trial.

While the House impeachment managers, led by Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), made repeated and compelling arguments for the Senate to obtain evidence at the start of President Donald Trump’s trial, votes for subpoenas all fell out the same way. All 47 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the subpoenas, while all 53 Republicans opposed.

It was clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s intention was to keep the trial as short and uneventful as possible, and by late in the night, he asked the Democrats if they would simply put forward all their proposals to get evidence at once. Since all Republicans had been united in opposing the Democrats’ efforts, he suggested, it would be more convenient to have the proposals introduced at the same time to get through them more quickly.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer denied this offer, saying he wanted to have debate and a vote on each proposal individually, even if the process extended into the following day.

McConnell’s suggestion made his and his colleagues’ intentions quite clear. They don’t care about what the merits might be of the Democrats’ demands for evidence. They will refuse to hear them all, and they’d like to do so as efficiently as possible.

Some, like Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, have suggested that they might be interested in obtaining more evidence and testimony from the administration and witnesses. But she only wants to consider such options after the trial has begun with opening statements by each side. She explained in a statement:

As I said last week, while I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I anticipate that I would conclude that having additional information would be helpful.  It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.

But many Democrats are skeptical of the GOP claims that they might support subpoenas for evidence later. And they also don’t mind dragging out the process now, if they’re able to do so.

And it’s possible that, though Democrats already feel that they have a strong case to make in favor of the impeachment articles, new evidence obtained by the Senate could bolster or alter the arguments they plan to make. So it’s reasonable for them to want to start by pushing to get the documents and testimony that they were denied during the House’s inquiry.

Of course, from the Republicans’ perspective, they could theoretically want more evidence that could exonerate Trump. But evidently, they don’t believe that it will — which, of course, they shouldn’t. As more evidence has emerged over time, the case against Trump has only strengthened. If the Trump administration had evidence that could exonerate it, the president would likely have just handed it over or made it public in the first place. Instead, he kept it hidden and obstructed the investigation, actions which themselves became an article of impeachment.

Since Republicans have good reason to think any more evidence will likely be bad for their side, they don’t seem to want to know it at all. They’ll bury their heads in the sand and hope the storm blows over.

Collins and other Republicans may eventually join with Democrats to obtain more evidence later in the trial; perhaps they won’t. If they feel pressure from the electorate to hold a full and robust trial — or risk looking like Trump’s accomplices — they may force the administration to give an inch. But McConnell thinks his best bet is to delay, delay, delay, and at least for now, the so-called moderates agree.

IMAGE: Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins.

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

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