Next phase in Trump impeachment inquiry begins
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz spent much of his five minutes of allowed questioning time focusing on one of the four expert witnesses before the House Judiciary Committee: Pamela Karlan, a Stanford Law professor.
In his questioning, Gaetz attempted to paint Karlan as a liberal elite biased against conservatives.
Gaetz first noted that Karlan had previously given money to Democrats, including $1,200 to Barack Obama, $2,000 to Hillary Clinton and $1,000 to Elizabeth Warren. Karlan did not dispute these figures, but later noted that she has a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment to give money to candidates.
Gaetz then pressed Karlan over her appearance at an event affiliated with a podcast called Versus Trump, during which she said that conservatives generally spread out, geographically, “perhaps because they don’t even want to be around themselves,” Gaetz noted.
When asked if she realized that the comment “reflects contempt on people who are conservative,” Karlan replied that she “was talking about there was the natural tendency, if you put the quote in context, the natural tendency of a compactness requirement to favor a party whose voters are more spread out.”
“And I do not have contempt for conservatives,” Karlan concluded.
Gaetz then moved on to attack her reference to President Trump’s son, Barron, when she joked that while Trump could name his son Barron, it does not make him a king.
“Let me also suggest that when you invoke the Presidents son’s name here,” Gaetz said, “when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend credibility to your argument. It makes you look mean. It makes you look like you're attacking someone's family. The minor child of the president of the United States.”
Gaetz did not permit Karlan to respond.
Members will continue their 5-minute rounds of questioning.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office has released the Senate schedule for 2020. The month of January is absent from the 2020 calendar.
January was left off the calendar because of “uncertainty over impeachment," according to a GOP leadership aide.
Another GOP aide said there was pressure to get the calendar out so the Senate community can set vacations. Not knowing exactly how to set the Senate schedule for January – with so much up in the air about how or if a trial will proceed – was holding them up, the aide said.
They do expect to send out a January schedule at some point, one of the aides said.
Note: The days in red are the weeks the Senate plans to be in recess.
In a rebuttal to earlier comments by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz — who brought up that she donated money to several Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren — professor Pamela Karlan pointed out that she has a constitutional right under the First Amendment to donate money to candidates.
"I have a constitutional right under the First Amendment to give money to candidates," Karlan said. "At the same time, we have a constitutional duty to keep foreigners from spending money in our elections — and those two things are two sides of the same coin."
Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman called any interference from foreign governments in the electoral process "a disaster."
The question was posed by David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, during the Judiciary Committee hearing.
"How would it impact our democracy if it became standard practice for the President of the United States to ask a foreign government to interfere with our elections?" Cicilline asked.
"It would be a disaster for the functioning of our democracy if our presidents regularly, as this president has done, ask foreign governments to interfere in our electoral process," Feldman said.
During today's hearing, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan argued that there were four facts that flew against the Democrats impeachment inquiry, among them was Jordan’s assertion that the “Ukrainians…didn’t know that the aid was held up at the time of the [July 25] phone call.”
What we know: It’s unclear when exactly Ukrainian government officials knew that nearly $400 million in military and security aid was being withheld. But there is evidence to suggest that some of them suspected there was an issue with the funding as early as July 25, the same day as Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
According to testimony from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, before the House Intelligence Committee, some members of her staff told her that they had received queries about the aid from Ukrainian officials on July 25.
Cooper did not, however, know if the Ukrainian officials were aware of a hold on the aid or were just checking in.
The New York Times has reported that, according to Olena Zerkal, an ex-top official in Kiev, members of the Ukrainian government knew the aid was being held up at some point in late July, but Zerkal could not recall the exact date.
It wasn’t until Politico reported in late August that President Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine that top Zelensky adviser, Andrey Yermak, texted Kurt Volker, Trump's special envoy for Ukraine, with a link to the article and a message “we need to talk.”
In what is the first real Senate presentation on impeachment from a Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about the mechanics of a trial at today’s caucus lunch, according to a senior Democratic aide.
At today’s lunch, Schumer gave a presentation confined to the mechanics of a potential Senate trial because articles have not been drafted, the senior Senate aide said.
As a part of Schumer’s presentation, members were shown video clips from the 1999 trial to familiarize themselves with the process, the aide said.
One thing to note: Only seven of the current 47 Senate Democrats were in the Senate during President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial.
Professor Pamela Karlan, of Stanford University, said that when Trump asked Ukraine to do "us" a favor, he really meant a personal favor.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries asked Karlan about the White House's transcript of the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine's leader.
"On the July 25 phone call the president uttered five words: 'Do us a favor, though.' He pressured the Ukrainian government to target an American citizen for political gain and simultaneously withheld $391 million in military aid," he said.
That's when Karlan brought up the use of the term "us."
"When the President said 'do us a favor,' he was using the royal we there. It wasn't a favor for the United States. He should have said do me a favor because only kings say 'us' when they mean 'me,'" she said.
Watch the moment here: