The latest on President Trump's impeachment
As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked through the halls of the Capitol tonight, he said he was still in the dark over timing of the impeachment articles from the House.
“What do you hear? I haven’t heard,” McConnell told CNN in a brief interview. “I simply don’t know when they are coming over.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to formally introduce the articles to the Senate, so a trial has not yet been set.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN that it's up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to decide when to send the articles to the Senate.
"That will be the speaker’s decision to make,” he said.
Schiff said he has not spoken to Pelosi this week, though he said he was in communication with her over the holiday recess.
Schiff also said he is unlikely to speak after the Iran briefing, which is happening now.
President Trump reacted for the first time to the news that his former national security adviser John Bolton is prepared to testify if issued a subpoena, telling reporters Bolton “would know nothing about what we’re talking about," despite the fact that Bolton was his adviser at the time and has first hand knowledge of the hold on Ukrainian aid.
“That’s gonna be up to the lawyers. It’ll be up to the Senate. And we’ll see how they feel," Trump said. "He would know nothing about what we’re talking about because if you know, the Ukrainian government came out with a very strong statement — no pressure, no anything. And that’s from the boss. That’s from the President of Ukraine…”
"Frankly, if you look at it, and you look at everything all they have to do is read the transcripts," he said.
Trump continued to lament his impeachment and trial as well as his “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Some background: Bolton announced in an unexpected and newsworthy statement Monday that he is prepared to testify if issued a subpoena as part of a Senate impeachment trial.
Bolton is potentially a crucial witness, as he had firsthand knowledge of many of the events that formed the House's impeachment of the President over his dealings with Ukraine. The House sought his testimony but ultimately never subpoenaed Bolton, and Democrats withdrew their subpoena for his former deputy after it was challenged in court, as Democrats wanted to move forward with their impeachment probe and not wait for the court's decision.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that Speaker Nancy Pelosi withheld the articles of impeachment to understand the arena in which she’s working in the Senate.
He argued that holding back on the articles has served its purpose — with John Bolton’s agreement to testify if subpoenaed.
Asked if there’s any other reason for Pelosi to hold back the articles, Schumer sidestepped the question and said it’s her decision and argued her strategy worked.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican senators in a closed-door lunch that he has the votes to move forward on his Senate trial proposal, an official in the room said.
He made clear he had no plans to move forward on a trial until the articles are sent to the Senate, as he has said publicly.
CNN reported he was planning to make this clear earlier today.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who is vulnerable in 2020, indicated he is ready to begin the trial, a sign that Democrats have patience — albeit limited — over the decision to delay sending the impeachment articles to the Senate.
“I’m hoping they will come over here soon,” Jones told CNN. “I think most people are ready to get moving on this.”
The Alabama Democrat said he is more concerned about the GOP refusal to allow witnesses to come forward.
He also explained why he wants to hear from John Bolton.
"We have under oath testimony, in which John Bolton purportedly said that all of the stuff involving Ukraine was a drug deal," Jones told CNN. "Now that has sinister and corrupt connotations to everyone in America. Did he say it? If he did, what did he mean? I think every US senator wants to hear the answer to that right now. And we want to know what was said, what was not done. We need to have first-hand knowledge from witnesses who have first-hand knowledge."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to have the votes to set the ground rules of the Senate impeachment trial without Democrats’ support, GOP senators say.
All he needs is 51 senators, and several swing senators — including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney — have said they back the leader’s approach.
This is different than the Clinton trial, when the ground rules were set by a 100-0 vote. This time it will likely be approved on a party-line vote.
More on this: Democrats want a deal up front to hear from witnesses and get documents, but McConnell says those matters should be dealt with later after opening statements.
McConnell is expected to discuss the matter at a Senate GOP lunch today. They won’t act until they get the articles from the House.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, told CNN that he hopes former White House national security adviser John Bolton's willingness to testify in the Senate might break the impeachment impasse and "purge" the stalemate.
The House, which passed two articles of impeachment against President Trump last month, returned from its holiday recess today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to formally introduce them to the Senate, so a trial has not yet been set.
Manchin said perhaps Bolton's announcement would provide Pelosi the chance to send over the impeachment articles. He has not talked to Pelosi.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said he backs Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to move forward with the impeachment trial and deal with witnesses later in the process.
“I’m comfortable with that,” Romney said.
He reiterated he wants witnesses to testify but said it can be dealt with later in the trial.
“Certainly I’d like to see a process that allows for us to call witnesses,” Romney said.
Asked if he has any concerns with McConnell coordinating with the White House on the impeachment trial, Romney said, “I’m sure the leader will provide impartial justice.”
More on this: McConnell has been ready to move forward with the plan without any Democratic support. Romney’s backing makes it likely all 53 Republican senators will support that effort.
CNN has previously reported that Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two moderate Republicans, also support McConnell’s plan.
Two sources say McConnell and his deputies will move to lock in the whip count during a closed-door policy GOP policy lunch today in preparation for whenever the articles are transmitted to the Senate.
At this point no final decisions have been made, but as has been clear for weeks, the impasse between McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer over witnesses appears as intractable as ever.