Before we move on I wanted to say a few words about this spectacularly self-regarding man, Alan Dershowitz, and his argument about the constitutional, rather than factual, insufficiency of the impeachment charges brought against President Trump. It is no exaggeration to say that the overwhelming bordering on universal weight of scholarly and historical opinion is that Dershowitz is wrong. But mine isn’t an argument to authority. It’s an overwhelming consensus because it is almost certainly correct. To note just one example, literally during the months in which the Constitution was being written Britain was roiled by an extremely high profile campaign for an impeachment which was on the basis not of statutory crimes but corruption and misrule.
President Trump’s impeachment defense team has been all over the place, deploying an at-times unhinged, but transparent string of defenses since they took over the Senate trial on Saturday.
Before the trial wrapped up for the evening on Monday, Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz took to the floor to lay out a constitutional case against impeaching the President, resurrecting the former President Andrew Johnson-era defense that an act has to be criminal to be impeachable. I spoke to one of our on-call experts about why this argument is dizzying.
After three days of presentations by the House, followed by three days of presentations by the President’s legal team, the Senate impeachment trial is set to move to a more dynamic phase with a period of questions for each side, submitted by the senators.
Last night White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham appeared on the Trump administration-friendly Fox Business show “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” when she suggested that former National Security Adviser John Bolton was shamelessly selling his former administration access in his new book.
“How much does it cost to sell out potential national security in your country?” Grisham asked.
The second week of the Senate impeachment trial kicked off with two major developments: John Bolton’s claim of a Trump conversation where the President linked hold on Ukraine aid to investigation demands; and the President’s attorneys going all in on the Biden smear job.
A number of Republican senators and not a few commentators are now putting forward the argument that calling John Bolton to testify is a waste of time because the White House would bog the question down for months in the Courts. This is a bogus line of argument for two crystal clear reasons I want to briefly explain. It’s not a bad argument, it’s a fake one. It doesn’t exist.
While the drama of the impeachment trial continues, we have a surge of new polling data. The Democratic primaries are generating a lot of new data. But I want to focus for the moment on the general election, impeachment and the President’s approval.
Two things are happening, which may seem to be inconsistent, but likely are not. The first is that impeachment and removal from office is getting more popular. Indeed, 538’s average of polls which focus specifically on impeachment and/or removal from office has now moved to just over 50% — 50.8% as of this morning.
As we wrote this morning, new allegations outlined in an unpublished manuscript of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book obtained by the New York Times claim that President Trump explicitly told Bolton the Ukraine military aid was directly tied to Trump’s push for investigations into the Bidens.
The New York Times is reporting that John Bolton recently began circulating the manuscript of this forthcoming book to associates in D.C. Critically, he also sent a copy to the White House for a pre-publication review. (In theory that is to review it for any classified information.) In it Bolton reportedly writes that in August 2019 President Trump told him he wanted to continue holding up military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine relented and helped with investigations into Joe Biden and other Democrats.
I didn’t see any of yesterday’s final closing arguments live. I was at an NYPD precinct filling out police reports with a gaggle of middle schoolers. (Long story; everyone and everything is fine.) So I got home at about 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. to this flurry of puffed up outrage about heads on pikes. It took me a bit to get a handle on exactly what had happened and what the pretended outrage was even about. You probably knew all those details already, quite possibly before I did.
But let’s step back from the clamor and nonsense to understand this.
President Trump’s defense opened Saturday with a swift 2-hour session that crammed everything but the kitchen sink into an argument that was designed first and foremost to undermine Adam Schiff’s reliability as a narrator. In a stinging irony, the White House lawyers maintained a sustained attack on the House managers for, of all things, hiding evidence.
I made sure to be in the Senate chamber right as President Trump’s legal team began to see how their tactics shifted the dynamics in the room.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) captured it perfectly last night. Republican senators are looking for an “outrage offramp” to help get themselves off the hook. They’ll find it some way some how. Whether it’s taking great umbrage with process or with the tone of House managers or other petty decorum slights.
Sen Whitehouse: Republicans are “desperate to find an outrage off-ramp” pic.twitter.com/m4EfZmQJfh
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 25, 2020
It was the end of four long days of impeachment proceedings, and for once, all the senators were still.
For the bulk of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s speech closing the House’s presentation of evidence, every seat was filled (except for that of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), who was watching from a public balcony with a guest).
News is out this morning that there’s a tape recording of President Trump ordering the firing of Marie Yovanovitch. On its face this doesn’t tell us dramatically more than we already know. The April 2018 dinner in question, where Lev Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman met the President, has been reported on extensively. Even the gist of the conversation has been reported.
Obviously the existence of a tape adds some punch and drama. But that’s not the real significance.
House impeachment managers will spend their third day in the spotlight arguing that President Trump obstructed Congress by stonewalling congressional investigators’ requests for documents and witness testimony while the House was conducting its impeachment inquiry.
At the end of the day, the baton will be tossed to Trump’s legal team, who will begin their opening arguments on Saturday. The ever ratings-obsessed Trump is reportedly not happy that his lawyers’ first stab at his defense is taking place over the weekend, rather than during the week. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:
I’m late to this. But yes, at Davos yesterday President Trumped bragged that he can’t be convicted because his team is withholding all the incriminating evidence.
Good Lord, I'm late to this one. But yeah, the President actually said he can't be convicted because his team is withholding all the incriminating documents. pic.twitter.com/SpGuF2MEzR
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 24, 2020
House impeachment managers dedicated a great deal of time today to explaining the current and historic political climate in Ukraine. Its prompted questions: Is this an effective strategy for Democrats? Or are we getting too far into the weeds?
Much of what we’re hearing in these impeachment arguments against the President really is repetitive. We’ve heard most of it in conversations going back months and in testimony from late last year. But there are key parts, especially in Chairman Schiff’s discussions, which are new or clarifying.
One of the key examples is the issue of the President departing from “US policy” or his prepared talking points in discussions with foreign leaders. This point often did get muddled in the hearings late last year – at least muddled enough to give some opening for tendentious arguments from the President’s defenders.
President Trump set a new personal record last night with the most posts to his Twitter feed in any single day. As we noted in our liveblog coverage, as of 8:30 p.m. ET, he’d tweeted or retweeted 140 posts about a litany of topics, from the impeachment trial, to immigration, to attacks on a favorite nemesis — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). The majority of these tweets were posted during the span of time that he was en route back from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
I haven’t had a lot to add through hours of these House Manager impeachment arguments. But right now I’m watching Adam Schiff and well … he’s making a really convincing, damning set of arguments about all the accusations the President’s lawyers are denying while they simultaneously refuse to release records which would quickly confirm and refute those accusations. These are cases in which we know there are contemporaneous notes or other records. The answers are there. But they refuse to release them. It is a damning indictment not only of the President but even more his Senate accomplices.
The President is stonewalling and his Senate accomplices are backing him up. They’re supposed to be jurors but they want to help him keep the proof secret. There’s really nothing else to say.
This is how to do it: make clear that it is the Senate Republican caucus which is on trial and act accordingly.
Everything today is impeachment. We sit here listening to Adam Schiff make the House’s opening statement. But even with that I want to flag your attention to this story about the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s cell phone.
At one level it is a tabloid story. Bezos’s phone was allegedly hacked and the hackers discovered evidence of an affair. Evidence was later shared with The National Enquirer. They published it. Bezos’s was embarrassed and he and his wife announced they were divorcing.
But this is a much, much bigger deal than the marital embarrassment of the richest man in the world.
After a late night of proceedings in the Senate, in which the majority party shot down each and every one of the minority’s amendments to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) rules for the impeachment trial, we were expecting Senate Republicans to file procedural motions this morning, including a possible motion to dismiss. It’s just after 10 a.m. ET and we’ve seen nothing, meaning Senate Republicans likely lack the votes to support an outright dismissal. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following: