Senate Democrats Demand White House Testimony on Impeachment

Erik Wasson, Hailey Waller and Jordan Yadoo

(Bloomberg) -- Democrats demanded that members of the Trump administration testify in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, in a letter sent Sunday night from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Schumer laid out detailed proposals for the impeachment trial, which he said should start on Jan. 9 after “pre-trial housekeeping measures” are adopted Jan. 6, and follow a similar structure to the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton were among those named by Schumer.

The letter comes as a top Democrat in the House, Representative Adam Schiff said the impeachment process won’t be a failure if Trump is acquitted by the Senate, as seems almost certain. Republicans control the 100-member body; some GOP members have declared their minds made up.

“No, it isn’t a failure. At least it’s not a failure in the sense of our constitutional duty in the House,” Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

On the same program, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, continued to press the Democrats’ case, saying Trump “poses a continuing threat” to U.S. national security and democracy.

“Do we have a constitutional democracy, or do we have a monarchy where the president is unaccountable? That’s what at stake here,” Nadler said.

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The judiciary committee on Friday recommended Trump’s impeachment in a party-line vote. The panel acted on two counts, one charging Trump with abuse of power and the other with obstruction of Congress for his conduct around a July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president.

Bitter partisan disagreement continues over whether the ultimate constitutional punishment fits the nature of the president’s alleged misconduct. Across the country, polls show about half of Americans support impeaching Trump, with responses falling along party lines.

Trump said again on Sunday that he’d done nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, including a “PERFECT phone call” with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump urged the Ukrainian leader to “look into” allegations of wrongdoing by former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 competitor, and his son, Hunter.

The votes to advance the articles of impeachment for consideration by the full House this week will almost inevitably lead to Trump becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Schiff said he was “confident” there will be a majority in the House to impeach the president, even as Republicans target 31 Democratic lawmakers from districts that Trump won in 2016.

The process would then move to a trial in the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority.

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Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally, on Saturday rejected the idea that he must be a “fair juror” in the Senate. “I think impeachment is going to end quickly in the Senate,” Graham told CNN from Qatar, where he was attending the Doha Forum. “I want to end this matter quickly and move on to other things.”

A handful of Democrats are likely to vote against impeachment in the House, Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, predicted Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He indicted that he would most likely vote to acquit Trump.

By contrast, Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, indicated a more open mind. “We ought to hear what the House impeachment managers have to say, give the president‘s attorneys an opportunity to make the defense, and then make a decision about whether, and to what extent it will go forward from there,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said on CNN that he would withhold judgment “until I see the evidence and hear the prosecution.”

Trump Unbound

Brown and Nadler joined other Democrats in criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for vowing, in an interview on Fox News on Thursday, “total coordination with the White House” on impeachment strategy.

“The constitution prescribes a special oath for the senators when they sit as a trial in impeachment,” Nadler said. “They have to pledge to do impartial justice. And here you have the majority leader of the Senate, in effect the foreman of the jury, saying he’s going to work hand in glove with the defense attorney.”

On “Meet the Press,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said that if Trump is exonerated, “he will be unbounded. I’m gravely concerned about what else he might do between now and the 2020 election, when there are no restrictions on his behavior.”

Graham also told CBS on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” that he would welcome a meeting with Rudy Giuliani to discuss the Trump lawyer’s just-ended trip to Ukraine to dig up political dirt for Trump.

“I don’t know what Rudy found. I don’t know what he was up to when he was in the Ukraine,” Graham said. “We can look at what Rudy’s got and Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and anything else you want to look at, after impeachment. But if Rudy wants to come to the Judiciary Committee and testify about what he found, he’s welcome to do so.”

Guiliani issued a series of tweets on Sunday that he said were evidence “garnered through hundreds of hours of research” including the visit to Ukraine, where he traveled with a camera crew from the conservative One America News cable network.

The impeachment process threatens to create peril for Democratic lawmakers in moderate districts, including several elected in November’s midterm election and others who serve in districts won by Trump in 2016.

On Saturday, freshman Representative Jeff Van Drew reportedly was considering changing his party affiliation to Republican, a possible switch applauded by the president on Twitter.

On ABC, Nadler said Van Drew’s falling approval ratings in his Southern New Jersey district were the real motivation. “What he’s reacting to is public polling that shows he can’t get renominated, his electorate in his district is 24% to renominate him and 60% to nominate someone else,” Nadler said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.net;Hailey Waller in New York at hwaller@bloomberg.net;Jordan Yadoo in Washington at jyadoo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Ian Fisher

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