On July 25, 2019, President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate 2016 election interference based on a conspiracy theory, and to dig up dirt on his potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. This led to a whistleblower complaint about the call; private and public hearings from everyone from Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, to Fiona Hill, Trump’s top Russia advisor. We saw dogs; drag queens attended; Kim Kardashian and A$AP Rocky’s names were dropped; there were some very weird turkey pardons; we had deadline promises that weren’t kept; a House Judiciary Committee vote took place; and, oh yeah, Trump was officially impeached by the House of Representatives.
What You Missed Over Our Break
We last caught up on December 20, when we were waiting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to name the impeachment managers who will make her case in the Senate, and send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate — but she isn’t doing either of those until she learns about about how the upper chamber will conduct a potential trial, per Vox. She says she’s worried Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t hold a fair trial, particularly after McConnell said everything he is doing during the impeachment trial he is in coordination with the White House. “There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” McConnell said on December 12, according to the Daily Beast.
Both sides are seemingly at an impasse. Over these past two weeks, however, we found out a lot of new information regarding that frozen Ukrainian military aid, predominantly thanks to reporting out of the New York Times.
The Times reported on December 29 that top Cabinet officials tried to convince Trump to release the aid during a meeting in August, but he did not oblige. The Times also got their hands on a set of emails, via a Freedom of Information Act request, that showed that the U.S. suspended Ukraine aid just 90 minutes after Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky.
We also learned that Joe Biden might have to testify before Congress, per the Washington Post. That all depends on if he’s subpoenaed, and at the moment we don’t know much about this trial.
So what happened this week?
Monday, January 6
John Bolton, the former national security advisor whom Trump fired in September 2019, released a statement saying that “if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.” This is a big change of course from his previous indications that he would not testify if subpoenaed by the House of Representatives.
*Pan to the entirety of the House staring directly into the camera.*
Republican senators don’t appear pumped to subpoena Bolton, according to Axios, but an ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that a majority of Americans want all of Trump’s top aides to testify. And this move is bigger than just one extra person testifying: It could force McConnell to hold a full trial in order to speak to Bolton, who might have more knowledge about Ukraine dealings than many other witnesses that the House has heard from.
Bolton’s lawyer said in November that he had information about “many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far,” per the New York Times. Furthermore, Tim Morrison, one of the White House’s top Russia experts, testified that Bolton had a meeting with Trump that was specifically about Ukraine, according to the Times. Ultimately, we don’t know if he’ll be subpoenaed. And if he is, who knows what he’d even end up saying — maybe he’ll just talk about his forthcoming book.
Tuesday, January 7
In a closed-door meeting, Pelosi reinforced to Democrats that she will not be sending the impeachment articles to the Senate until she’s confident that the upper chamber will conduct a fair trial, according to the Washington Post. But Senate Republican leaders also said on Tuesday that they finally have enough votes to set the impeachment trial rules — completely on their own terms — without reaching a deal with Pelosi, who wants them to call more witnesses and introduce more evidence that was originally stonewalled by the president, Politico reported. The new plan would allow the House to make an opening statement alongside the president before senators ask both sides questions.
“All we are doing here is saying we are going to get started in exactly the same way 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago,” McConnell told reporters, according to NPR. “What was good enough for President Clinton is good enough for President Trump.”
It’s true that this plan is similar to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999, but, as the New York Times points out, every major witness had already testified and all key documentary evidence had been revealed by the time Clinton’s impeachment trial reached the Senate.
Wednesday, January 8
In case it hasn’t been clear enough, McConnell reiterated that he will not be negotiating with Pelosi on any terms of the Senate impeachment trial, the New York Times reported. At the same time, people are getting tired of the holdup — including some Democrats.
“The rules are going to be what they are,” Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) said. “She should know that now, so let’s just go ahead and see what we’ve got.”
Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said “it’s probably time” to start the trial, adding that “Mitch McConnell made clear what he’s moving forward in terms of rules,” according to CNN’s Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju.
Raju also reported that Chris Murphy (D-CT) said: “My hope is that we’ll be able to get the trial started next week … I think if we’re trying to create leverage on the Republicans, that leverage really exists when we put them on the record on motions to call witnesses.”
Murphy’s Connecticut counterpart, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, told Raju he’s “ready to begin the trial tomorrow. As a former prosecutor, I’m ready to go to court.”
Thursday, January 9
The standoff between Pelosi and McConnell continues, but that could end any day. “I’m not holding them indefinitely. I’ll send them when I’m ready, and that probably will be soon,” Pelosi said, according to NBC News. She also said they don’t “have to agree to the rules” or even “like the rules.” Instead, she insisted, according to WAMU: “We just want to know what they are.”
McConnell is having none of it, telling reporters at the Capitol, according to the New York Times, “No, we’re not going to do that.”
McConnell also signed onto a resolution by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) that would dismiss any articles of impeachment if they aren’t delivered within 25 days of their House approval — in this case, Sunday (Jan. 12). McConnell joined 12 other all-Republican cosponsors in signing the resolution; among them are Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Rand Paul (R-KY). Axios reported that the constitutionality of the move isn’t clear, this move could force Pelosi’s hand to turn over the articles within the next 100 hours. However, it would also require a supermajority of senators to be enforced — which would require help from the Democrats.