The Times published a new story on the mystery duo of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. It is chock full of interesting detail about how they wormed into the Trump inner circle and other details. But I wanted to focus on two nuggets. First, Giuliani and Fruman have entered into a joint defense agreement. That’s their right. But that is a very notable fact.
I have a slightly different or perhaps complementary take on this. But I think TPM Reader JO is right on this as well. Senate Republicans want to take control of this as quickly as possible and make the whole thing go away. It’s like getting the ball back in the final seconds of a football game while you’re ahead and running out the clock by curling up with the ball. Pelosi has the initiative and the choices until she sends it to the Senate. There’s little reason to rush to give that up, especially since holding the ball a bit longer allows her to play up Republicans’ more or less open determination not to hold a real trial. It’s not like anyone thought Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham were disinterested players here. But I do think they got a bit over their skis playing to Trump’s vanity in stating quite as clearly as they did that they plan to work on Trump’s behalf to force a sham process.
Good morning and happy Thursday, December 19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will speak from the Senate floor Thursday morning, where he plans to criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for hinting that she might keep impeachment articles close to her chest for a while. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following. Read More
A New York judge on Wednesday dismissed a criminal case against Paul Manafort, halting a prosecution that was widely seen as a form of insurance against a possible presidential pardon for the former Trump campaign manager.
While the Manhattan district attorney plans on appealing the decision, the ruling means Manafort could go free immediately should he be pardoned.
I wanted to flag this article in the Post which, amidst so much other news, does not appear to have garnered a lot of attention. In brief, it details a new report into how what appears to be a Russian disinformation effort amplified and tried to advance various conspiracy theories first seen in the reporting of John Solomon in The Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has a lot of balls to juggle when it comes how to handle the coming impeachment trial in his chamber: from President Trump’s desire for a long, witness-filled trial that would air out his conspiracy theories about Ukraine; to wobbly moderates in his own conference who are at least somewhat uncomfortable with the President’s Ukraine behavior; to McConnell’s own preference for a swift and witness-less procedure.
David Kurtz made this point to our editorial team today and I wanted to share it with you. It’s a key reality check without which it’s impossible to make sense of the news of the moment. Much of our understanding of the current situation is framed around the idea – clearly not actually the case – that the Ukraine conspiracy happened in the past and that the nation is now seeking to litigate whether the President is guilty and how he should be punished if he is guilty. Let’s think of it as a Watergate model, offense followed by cover-up and investigation in tandem.
But clearly this gets the essence of the situation wrong. It’s not something in the past at all. It is an active and on-going series of events. It’s a crime in progress.
Here is some interesting new information. We take it as a given that supporters and opponents of impeachment are basically locked into their positions. All the available evidence supports that conclusion. But there are small exceptions or nuances to that reality when you zoom in close.
There appears to be some disagreement between Senate Republicans and the White House on the length of a trial and calling witnesses. Senators just want to end things with a vote. Perhaps you’ll get a restatement of the case from both sides and then a vote. But it’s the same difference since we know what the arguments are. Little will come of that we don’t already know. There’s very little that is unpredictable or new. We have already seen over the last couple weeks that once we’re into pure partisan haggling, as opposed to unknowns and new facts, people tend to tune out.
I confess I don’t get this either. I guess perhaps they just don’t want the hassle of his generally meritless claims of attorney-client privilege. But he is truly central to the whole conspiracy. From TPM Reader JB …
I’m wondering what the case would be for not calling Rudy Giuliani as a witness at the Senate’s forthcoming impeachment trial
Good morning and happy Tuesday, December 17. In a new interview with the New York Times, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani drags the President, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, deeper into the scheme to oust ex-Ukraine ambassador and key impeachment witness Marie Yovanovitch from the embassy in Kyiv. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn hasn’t won any favor from his judge with a kamikaze legal strategy that has him attacking the same prosecutors he hatched a plea deal with in 2017.
Let me point your attention to Sen. Schumer’s letter and proposal to Sen. McConnell about the upcoming Senate trial. In essence, he proposes the Senate adopt the trial rules adopted unanimously for Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999. Note that in 1999, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. So they had a fairly free hand to run things as they chose. Not to be snarky but those rules really amount to no more than holding a trial – equal time for both sides to present a case, a reasonable time limits on prosecution and defense, ability to call witnesses, etc.
Good morning and happy Monday, December 16. The House Judiciary Committee filed its impeachment report early Monday morning, outlining its justification for the two articles of impeachment against President Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following. Read More
My view of yesterday’s UK election is that if your party literally takes no position on the great issue of the day (Brexit, in this case) and has a party leader considered toxic by a significant swath of the electorate, you’re probably going to have a pretty bad election outcome. The fact that Labour was also running significantly to the left of the country as a whole and you have a good recipe for a near catastrophic election result, which is basically what happened.
But what interests me more is that the result makes it highly questionable whether there will even be a United Kingdom in the next five or ten years, at least one with its current borders and constituent nations.
Happy Friday, December 13. After an eleventh-hour recess, the House Judiciary Committee will reconvene to vote Friday morning on the articles of impeachment. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching. Read More
At several moments during Thursday’s impeachment inquiry, Republicans relied on a misleading reading of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to defend President Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine.
Happy Thursday, December 12. The House Judiciary Committee is poised to vote the articles of impeachment out of committee today, after which a full House vote will probably take place late next week. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said several times during his testimony Wednesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that his comments there could not go farther than what he looked at in his new report on the 2016 Trump-Russia probe.
Good morning and happy Wednesday, December 11. Attorney General Bill Barr has been highly critical of the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s findings laid out in his report on the launch of the Russia probe. President Trump and Republicans have taken a similar stance, meaning things will likely get heated during Horowitz’s hearing before Congress today. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following. Read More
From TPM Reader BM …
It is very much too absurd, but I do fear that Democrats are failing to appreciate the necessity of explaining very slowly and clearly what has happened every single time the cameras start rolling or a new MoC starts her five minutes:
TPM Reader WH with some impeachment thoughts …
Agree with your last two blog posts, especially the misguided anger from Democrats regarding the last two hearings in the Judiciary Committee. I, too, found myself having to tune out simply because half the time was allotted to Republicans making (at best) specious or contradictory claims. Admitting this is deeply disheartening, as it forces me to admit that the GOP efforts to disorient and disgust those following along at home are very effective.