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Sen. Gardner ‘In Big Trouble” For Backing Trump Coverup

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill warned on Wednesday that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is risking his seat by complying with the GOP plan to limit President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

With the initial stages of the trial coming to a close, senators will soon face a choice of whether to bring witnesses into the trial or to move toward a final vote on Trump’s removal. Democrats have been urging for lawmakers to bring in witnesses, including, most prominently, former National Security Adviser John Bolton to fill out the factual record, a plan most Americans approve of. Most Republicans, however, are eager to get the trial over with and fear that bringing forward more witnesses might only make their goal of acquitting Trump harder.

So attention has turned to the key Republican senators believed to be most likely to split with the president’s interest, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mitt Romney of Utah. And on Wednesday, a key Republican from a swing state — Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado — announced that he is opposed to bringing forward more witnesses, including Bolton.

“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” Gardner said in a statement to Colorado Politics. “I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”

The Wall Street Journal had previously reported that at a meeting of Republican senators Tuesday night, Gardner expressed concern that a “longer trial would lead to more Democratic attacks.”

McCaskill, in response to Gardner’s comments, indicated that she thought his choice would backfire.

“Wow wow oh wow,” she said in a tweet. “He’s in big trouble.”

She added: “For everyone who does ‘Most Vulnerable [Incumbent] Senators’ lists…. this should rocket him to the top.”

Gardner has long been on the shortlist of Republican senators that Democrats hope to replace in 2020. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the state by almost five points.

And Gardner’s standing in his state looks particularly weak. Morning Consult polls show he’s three points underwater, with 37 percent approval and 40 percent disapproval. This isn’t terrible — it means a substantial portion of the state has no opinion of him either way. But Trump himself is toxic in the state — 39 percent approve of the president, while 57 percent disapprove. That suggests anything Gardner does that pull him closer to Trump will likely hurt him in the general election.

But he also knows he can’t vote to remove the president without completely undercutting his own support from Republican voters, as well as perhaps the national party. So he appears to be trying to make his eventual vote to acquit Trump as painless as possible, and that means getting the trial over quickly.

If McCaskill is right, though, his purpose could backfire. Trying to stop witnesses from testifying will likely be seen as aiding in Trump’s cover-up, and that could push Colorado voters even further away.

George Conway Tweets Trump’s Funniest Geography Blunders

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump’s circle is up in arms over a late-night CNN segment on Monday in which analysts joked that Trump — and his fanbase — are probably not smart enough to locate Ukraine on a map.

But on Tuesday, conservative lawyer and Trump critic George Conway pointed out that the president has indeed never shown any aptitude for geography — and listed some of his most well-known and mocked blunders:

Adam Schiff’s Passionate Argument To Remove Trump

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff ended Thursday’s arguments in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with a fiery speech detailing why it’s necessary that Trump be removed from office.

Schiff made the speech after the Democratic impeachment managers spent the day laying out the evidence that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to force the country to investigate his political rivals. And he explained why those actions deserve to get Trump booted from the White House.

“This is why he needs to be removed: Donald Trump chose Rudy Giuliani over his own intelligence,” Schiff said, referencing Trump’s personal lawyer, who helped lead the effort to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. “He chose Rudy Giuliani over his own FBI director. He chose Rudy Giuliani over his own national security advisers. When all of them were telling him this Ukraine 2016 stuff is kooky crazy Russian propaganda, he chose not to believe them. He chose to believe Rudy Giuliani. That makes him dangerous.”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff ended Thursday’s arguments in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with a fiery speech detailing why it’s necessary that Trump be removed from office.

Schiff made the speech after the Democratic impeachment managers spent the day laying out the evidence that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to force the country to investigate his political rivals. And he explained why those actions deserve to get Trump booted from the White House.

“This is why he needs to be removed: Donald Trump chose Rudy Giuliani over his own intelligence,” Schiff said, referencing Trump’s personal lawyer, who helped lead the effort to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. “He chose Rudy Giuliani over his own FBI director. He chose Rudy Giuliani over his own national security advisers. When all of them were telling him this Ukraine 2016 stuff is kooky crazy Russian propaganda, he chose not to believe them. He chose to believe Rudy Giuliani. That makes him dangerous.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

‘Nothing New’ Carp GOP Senators — After Blocking Trial Evidence

Senate Republicans emerged from the first full day of arguments in the impeachment trial against Donald Trump with complaints that they didn’t learn anything new that made them believe Trump deserves to be removed from office.

The GOP complaints come after Republicans blocked nearly a dozen attempts by Democrats to introduce evidence Trump himself blocked from view during the House’s impeachment inquiry.

Democrats sought to ensure that the Senate trial would include interviews with key witnesses Trump blocked from testifying — such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — as well as documents from multiple government agencies that Trump blocked from view.

“We’ve just come out listening to, what, six hours of testimony, and I didn’t hear anything new,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told reporters Wednesday evening, according to Politico. Barrasso is one of the 53 Republican senators who voted to block new witness testimony and new documentary evidence.

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) also told Politico he “didn’t hear anything new,” as did Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who said, “So far we haven’t learned anything new.”

The impeachment trial rules, which were crafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and passed with only GOP votes, do not allow for witness testimony or new documentary evidence to be presented until after the House impeachment managers make their case.

And even then, Democrats would have to convince four GOP senators to vote to subpoena witnesses or evidence. That’s a hard task, given Republicans have so far voted in lock-step with McConnell’s rules, which were intended for maximum control and quick acquittal of Trump.

The most likely Republican senators to buck their party and vote for witnesses and evidence to be heard are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah. However, those three Senators all voted against Democrats’ attempts to call witnesses.

And Democrats would still need to find one more Republican vote, even if all three of those GOP senators vote in favor of hearing new witness testimony and reviewing new documents.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Fox News Judge Eviscerates Trump On Impeachment

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Judge Andrew Napolitano has been one of the political wild cards at Fox News: like his colleague Chris Wallace — but unlike so many others at the right-wing cable news outlet — Napolitano doesn’t see it as his job to reflexively defend everything President Donald Trump says and does. And Napolitano, in an op-ed published on Fox News’ website this week, takes issue with Trump’s assertions that his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate is a “hoax.”

“His trial is not a charade or a joke or a hoax,” the libertarian judge emphasizes. “It is deadly serious business based on well-established constitutional norms.”

Trump, Napolitano notes, was indicted by the U.S. House of Representatives on two articles of impeachment: one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress.

“The abuse consists of his efforts to extract a personal political ‘favor’ from the president of Ukraine as a pre-condition to the delivery of $391 million in military aid,” Napolitano notes. “The favor he wanted was an announcement of a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son, Hunter.”

Napolitano poses a question: “did Trump act criminally?” But he goes on to explain that in the U.S. Constitution, the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” as used by the Founder Fathers isn’t actually a reference to criminal law.

“The Constitution prescribes the bases for impeachment as treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” Napolitano points out. “However, this use of the word ‘crimes’ does not refer to violations of federal criminal statutes. It refers to behavior that is so destructive of the constitutional order that it is the moral equivalent of statutory crimes.”

Napolitano elaborates on his point, writing, “If the president moved to Russia and ran the executive branch from there, or if he announced that Roman Catholics were unfit for office, he would not have committed any crimes. Yet surely, these acts would be impeachable because, when done by the president, they are the moral equivalent of crimes and are so far removed from constitutional norms as to be impeachable.”

The judge concludes his op-ed by with an assertion that is seldom expressed at Fox News: there is plenty of “evidence” that Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” as described in the U.S. Constitution.

“What is required for removal of the president?” Napolitano writes. “A demonstration of presidential commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, of which in Trump’s case, the evidence is ample and uncontradicted.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

How McConnell Plans To Conceal New Witnesses In Trump Trial

During the House’s impeachment inquiry, Republicans raged about the process, condemning Democrats for holding witness interviews behind closed doors and even trying to dismiss the entire investigation because of it.

Donald Trump himself said the process had “zero transparency” because of the closed-door depositions. Republicans went as far as protesting the process by storming a secure area of the Capitol where the closed-door depositions were being held, a move that compromised national security.

However, under the impeachment trial rules crafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, any potential impeachment witnesses would first need to be deposed behind closed doors — adopting a process the GOP attacked Democrats for using. The “Senate shall decide after deposition which witnesses shall testify, pursuant to the impeachment rules,” according to McConnell’s resolution.

Republicans are expected to vote to approve McConnell’s impeachment trial rules that include the closed-door deposition requirement on Tuesday afternoon. That means multiple GOP senators who condemned the House’s process will now be signing off on the very same procedures they previously criticized.

In fact, 50 Senate Republicans co-sponsored a resolution by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that “[condemned] the House of Representatives’ closed door impeachment inquiry.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement during the House impeachment inquiry that Democrats were “running a closed-door process that denies due process to President Trump.”

“This secretive approach allows House Democrats to selectively leak information that supports their political agenda of attacking President Trump at the expense of providing fairness to the President and transparency to the American people,” Tillis said in October.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said in a statement supporting the Graham resolution, “There’s a clear way to conduct an inquiry like this: In front of the public, with the minority having proper rights, with the accused having some basic fairness and due process.”

Ultimately, Democrats released all of the transcripts from the closed-door depositions they held in the impeachment inquiry. And the same people that were deposed behind closed doors later wound up testifying in public, meaning that the “secret” proceedings Republicans railed against weren’t so secret after all.

And now, Republicans also want to hold closed-door depositions — if Republicans consent to hearing from any witnesses at all. McConnell has said he does not want to hear from any witnesses and wants to acquit Trump quickly.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump Lawyers Mull ‘Doomsday Plan’ To Hide Bolton Testimony

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Democrats continue to hope that former National Security Adviser John Bolton will testify during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, and Bolton has said that he would testify if subpoenaed. But the Washington Post has reported that Trump’s allies (including Senate Republicans and Trump’s legal team) are so worried about the possibility of Bolton testifying before the U.S. Senate that according to a senior administration official, they are willing to turn possible Bolton testimony into classified material. And MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow cited the Post’s report as evidence of how “freaked out” Trump’s allies are over possible Bolton testimony.

Trump’s allies, Maddow explained, are considering a “doomsday contingency plan” in which they would “move John Bolton’s testimony to a classified setting” because of “national security concerns, insuring that it is not public.”

Maddow commented, “Oh, so that’s what classification procedures are for: so you can call something a national security concern that must be classified because it might show the potential to incriminate the president at trial. Is that the national security you’re worried about? Is that what the classification process is for? That seems pretty desperate.”

Bolton, according to foreign affairs expert Fiona Hill, used the phrase “drug deal” to describe how he felt about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. House Democrats believe that testimony from Bolton would do a lot to show that Trump committed impeachable offenses in his dealings with Ukraine.

Watch Maddow’s coverage of the report below, via MSNBC:

Trump Lawyers Ask Dismissal Of Impeachment, May Seek To Silence Parnas

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi having given two articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate — one for abuse of power, the other for obstruction of Congress — President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is getting underway. And on Monday, the president’s legal team submitted a 171-page legal brief arguing that the Senate should reject the articles immediately for being frivolous.

Wall Street Journal reporter Michael C. Bender notes that in the brief, the Trump White House argues the impeachment articles “included no violation of law” and that “the president was operating in the national interest in his dealing with Ukraine.”

White House officials, according to Bender, also want to block any testimony from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas — who has brought new evidence to the attention of House Democrats. Parnas’ allegations, Bender observes, have “inflamed the debate about whether senators should call witnesses in the president’s trial.”

Trump is facing an impeachment trial as a result of his July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who he tried to pressure into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. But Trump has maintained that he did nothing wrong during that phone conversation, which he has described as “perfect.”