Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Jan. 14

House committees release trove of new documents produced by Lev Parnas

Speaker Nancy Pelosi departs from Tuesday’s Democratic Caucus meeting with House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House committees investigating President Donald Trump as part of the impeachment process released a trove of documents Tuesday night including phone records, documents and materials produced by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

The evidence the committees released showed Parnas was a key figure, as other witnesses testified, in working with Giuliani to try to get Ukraine to open the investigations Trump wanted.

Parnas communicated with several associates of Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, including his top aides and longtime friends Ivan Bakanov and Serhiy Shefir and Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov, to try to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelenskiy, according to electronic messages the committee released.

Handwritten notes from Parnas the committees released seem to offer some insight about the objectives, but the documents were released without the context in which they were written other than that they were scribbled on stationary from the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna.

The notes, which Parnas seems to be taking as reminders for himself, have two starred items, one to “get Zalensky (sic) to announce that the Biden case will be investigated” and one saying he should start communication with Zelenskiy. Those are followed with a note that appears to be numbered list of action items, including plans to put together a package to take to D.C. and “do my ‘magic’ and cut a deal.” The notes mention counsel that had been retained to assist in the matter and suggest thoughts of hiring lobbyists and PR firms as well.

The electronic communications Parnas shared with the aforementioned Ukranian aides include a May 10 letter Giuliani wrote to Zelenskiy, passed through Avakov, in which he requested a meeting with the Ukranian president, saying he was acting in his capacity as Trump’s personal attorney “with his knowledge and consent.”

The communications show the Ukranian officials initially entertained Parnas’s request and suggested they’d run it up the chain, but they ultimately largely ignored his efforts to follow up after the meeting was not scheduled. Parnas did meet Shefir, in Kyiv after Giuliani canceled a trip to Ukraine, but his attempts to follow up with Shefir about the discussion were ignored.

The committee also released communications Parnas exchanged with former Ukranian Prosecutor General Lutsenko in which the latter in early 2019 shared negative views about then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas tells Lutsenko, who various State Department officials testified is corrupt and was not trusted by the U.S., that in America people were talking about him as a “true Ukranian hero.”

Their communications also appear to reference the Bidens with Lutsenko referring to obtaining testimony about “transfers to B.”

The evidence also contains an email, which had been previously reported by media outlets, from Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's personal attorneys, to former U.S. attorney John Dowd, who previously represented Trump, saying "the president consents" to him representing Parnas and another Giuliani associate Igor Fruman. The email was dated Oct. 2, when news about Dowd representing Parnas and Fruman was reported by media outlets, and came a week before the Giuliani associates were indicated for conspiracy to violate foreign donor bans.

Here is the latest on impeachment: Trial to start next week: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that he expects the impeachment trial may begin in earnest Tuesday, following the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

The House will vote Wednesday on a resolution to transmit articles of impeachment against Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday. McConnell said senators are likely to take the oath as impeachment trial jurors before the end of the week. 

Sen. Roy Blunt told reporters it’s possible the Senate impeachment trial will still be going on Feb. 4, when Trump is scheduled to give the State of the Union address. Blunt blamed the delay in the transfer of articles.

“If we would have gotten started at the proper time, we might have,” Blunt said of finishing the trial by the State of the Union. “It’s hard to imagine” the proceeding would be concluded by Feb. 4.

President Bill Clinton gave a State of the Union speech during his Senate impeachment trial in 1999.

Pelosi plans to announce impeachment managers for the trial on Wednesday morning.

Manager mystery: Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a Judiciary Committee member, declined to comment on whether he has been asked to serve as a manager.

“It’s the speaker’s call,” he said, but he noted he expects Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler will be among the “very capable individuals named.”

Pelosi and Schiff remained in the room for more than an hour after most members broke from the meeting. They left through a back door away from most of the gathered media and did not stop for comments in front of a handful of cameras. The two appeared to be continuing the conversation Tuesday afternoon as they walked to votes together.

Asked about possible impeachment managers as he was leaving votes, Schiff responded, “I don’t have anything to tell you at this point.”

Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal all said they will not be impeachment managers, nor did they want to be.

Nadler declined to say whether he would be named a manager as he left the meeting. He declined to reveal any details on those picks, including whether he was involved in the deliberations or whether the list has been finalized.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a veteran member of the Judiciary Committee who worked in different capacities on the Clinton and Nixon impeachments, said “I can’t really discuss it,” when asked whether she has been asked to serve as a manager.

“I did not apply for it,” she said, when asked if she wanted to be one.

Democratic New York Hakeem Jeffries noted that he was speaking alongside Judiciary members David Cicilline and Ted Lieu “who I would expect or certainly would be very tremendous impeachment managers.”

Cicilline is chairman and Lieu is a co-chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, the caucus’ messaging arm.

Intelligence Committee member Jim Himes said he’d be interested in serving as an impeachment manager but had not been asked as of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I don’t think anybody has been [asked] yet,” he said.

They want the truth: “The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Pelosi also used her statement to again attack Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for cosponsoring a resolution to allow for the Senate to dismiss the impeachment charges.

“A dismissal is a cover-up,” she said. “The American people will fully understand the Senate’s move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up. Leader McConnell and the President are afraid of more facts coming to light.”

Pelosi might announce the names of the impeachment managers “at some point before” the resolution to formally appoint them is released, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters during his weekly pen and pad briefing.

“We expect to transmit [the articles] tomorrow at some point in time during the day,” he said.

“It won’t be morning. It won’t be before noon,” Hoyer said when asked about timing of Wednesday’s vote on managers.

The House typically doesn’t start legislative business before noon, except on fly-out days, which is Thursday this week. Hoyer said the timing question on the resolution is about whether a vote should occur before or after a 3 p.m. Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.

“I certainly expect the resolution to pass tomorrow,” he said. “As you know, it’s a 10-minute debate, five minutes per side. It’s really procedural.” Hoyer said he expects the procession for transmitting the articles to the Senate to occur sometime Wednesday but said it could also be “at the latest Thursday morning.”

What else they talked about: “She talked about what’s not happening in the Senate,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro said of what Pelosi did say in the meeting. She repeated Democrats’ arguments that the rules the Senate is considering are not identical to the rules for Clinton’s trial. Not calling witnesses would be unprecedented, DeLauro said.

The speaker used much of the meeting to lay out procedural technicalities of the impeachment handoff and the House’s role, said Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado.

Asked if Pelosi told the caucus who she would name as managers, New York Rep. Max Rose said she did not, but that the speaker did provide a breakfast that was “out of this world.”

The Bolton question: “Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jefferies said when asked whether the House would subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, who resigned from the White House over foreign policy differences. “The ball is in the Senate’s court.”

Bolton raised issues with the involvement of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, in negotiations with Ukrainian President Zolodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Trump political rivals in return releasing a military aid package. Bolton has said he would testify in a Senate trial if he was subpoenaed.

On the other hand: Rep. Markwayne Mullin said the Republicans did not spend much time discussing impeachment in their caucus meeting, but did discuss logistics on when they expect Pelosi to appoint managers for the Senate trial and transmit the articles.

“We just talked about when we expect her to send it (articles of impeachment) over and when the vote might be,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “We expect that tomorrow we might have the vote on appointing their representatives to go over to the Senate, but we don’t know when she’s planning on walking over and if they plan on doing it at the same time or not.”

“The only time we discussed it was when we were talking about votes,” Mullin added.

What’s proper: Rep. Jason Smith said at a news conference Tuesday morning that Republicans were concerned about the impartiality of the four Democratic senators running for president.

“I think a question that needs to be asked, as the Articles of Impeachment move over to the United States Senate, is will the four candidates for office for president of the United States be impartial jurors?,” Smith said, referring to Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

McConnell said in December that he is “not an impartial juror.”

Smith, a Missouri Republican who serves as the conference secretary, called for the Democrats running for president to recuse themselves from the Senate trial.

“Four people that’s trying to fire the President of the United States and the election process. How can they be impartial jurors sitting through that process? That’s a question that should be asked. That’s a question that should be addressed and I hope those four senators decide to recuse themselves,” Smith said. “That is what’s proper.”

The timing of the transmission of articles will allow those senators who qualified to participate in tonight’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa.

Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren are scheduled to be on the debate stage. Bennet didn’t qualify, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who also didn’t qualify, dropped out of the race on Monday.

Ready to help: Trump indicated earlier that he would like to have some of his fiercest Republican defenders in the House be members of his legal team in the Senate, but Senate Republicans have made it clear that’s not a strategy they favor.

“I’m gonna do anything I can to help the president,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said of any possible role he might have in a Senate trial.

Jordan said the only conversations he has had with the Senate was when he was asked by GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to brief him on the progress of the House inquiry.

“I’ve not had any conversation with senators about whether I’m on any type of defense team,” Jordan said. “That’s completely up to President Trump, [White House counsel] Pat Cipollone and Mitch McConnell.”

“If they want us to help in that manner, we will,” Jordan said of a potential role in the Senate trial.

Dismissal dismissed: Chances of the Senate dismissing the articles in short order appeared to diminish Monday with at least five Republican senators saying they would vote against such a move or that they would consider voting for hearing witnesses.

McConnell can only afford to lose four Republican senators to be able to dismiss the case against Trump. Sens. Lamar Alexander, Roy Blunt, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney have all indicated that McConnell shouldn’t count on their vote.

Trump suggested over the weekend that he would prefer that the Senate dismiss the case rather than give the “hoax” any credibility.

Jeffries said Pelosi’s decision to hold the articles since the House voted to impeach on Dec. 18 “created space” for Collins, Murkowski and Romney “to publicly and expressly say individuals like John Bolton should testify if the Senate is going to conduct a fair trial.”

He cited GOP Sens. Martha McSally, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner and Alexander as others where “hopefully decency will prevail” to vote to call witnesses.

Speaking about the need for the Senate to call witnesses, Hoyer noted that one difference between now and the Clinton impeachment, which Republicans claim they’re following as their precedent for trial rules, said there was no independent counsel investigation for Trump’s impeachment, but independent counsel Ken Starr called lots of witnesses in his investigation into Clinton.

“No games”: Republican Rep. Jim Banks thinks Pelosi held the impeachment articles for several weeks in part to have the impeachment trial hang over Trump at his Feb. 4 State of the Union address.

Banks said in a series of tweets Trump should tell her “no games” and say he won’t deliver his SOTU until after the trial.

“Its not just America watching SOTU each year,” Banks tweeted. “Tehran is watching. Hong Kong is watching. Taipei is watching. Each have made clear they want their cities & nations to look more like USA. Trump must deliver message of peace, strength & unity to freedom-loving ppls around the globe!”

Pomp and circumstance: The transmission of the articles is more like a choreographed procession, with plenty of pomp and circumstance between the House and the Senate.

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