The Senate impeachment trial has officially started

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10:26 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Trump administration disagrees with assessment that it broke the law with aid freeze

The United States Office of Management and Budget just issued a statement disagreeing with the Government Accountability Office's announcement that it broke the law when it withheld US security aid to Ukraine. 

“We disagree with GAO's opinion. OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President's priorities and with the law," OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said. 

A senior administration official added:  

“GAO’s findings are a pretty clear overreach as they attempt to insert themselves into the media’s controversy of the day. Further, GAO has a history of the flip-flops, reversing 40-years of precedent this year on their pocket rescission decision, they were also forced to reverse a legally faulty opinion when they opposed the reimbursement of federal employee travel costs. In their rush to insert themselves in the impeachment narrative, maybe they’ll have to reverse their opinion again.”
10:30 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Trump administration broke the law in withholding Ukraine aid, accountability office says

The Government Accountability Office says the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld US security aid to Ukraine that Congress had been appropriated.

In a decision issued today, the GAO said the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act, which states funds appropriated by Congress cannot be withheld by the White House.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA,” the GAO said.

Some context: The withheld aid has been at the center of Democrats' impeachment of President Trump.

Roughly 90 minutes after President Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Trump's political appointees at the White House's budget office were already ordering the Pentagon to freeze security funding for Ukraine, government documents show.

10:02 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

GOP senator: Senate should "absolutely not" consider new evidence

Republican Sen. David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia and close Trump ally, said the Senate should “absolutely not” consider new evidence. He said that it was the House’s job to do that. 

Perdue remark comes after House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler said yesterday “there may very well be” more evidence from indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that could be used in Senate trial.

Asked if that would be admissible in the Senate trial, Nadler told CNN: “Of course it would be if the Senate is a real trial.”

What's this all about: Parnas's attorney turned over photos, dozens of text messages and thousands of pages of documents to House impeachment investigators this week in an effort to win his client an audience with lawmakers.

The Soviet-born businessman whose work in Ukraine with Giuliani stands at the center of the impeachment inquiry — implicated the President yesterday in an interview with CNN.

Parnas, who was indicted on campaign finance charges last year, said that their efforts were "all about 2020" and not about working in the interest of the United States.

Parnas also alleged that Pence did not attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration because Ukraine had not announced an investigation into Joe Biden. 

9:38 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

How evidence can be admitted in the Senate trial after it starts

The Senate impeachment trial is expected to get underway in earnest next Tuesday.

House Democrats unveiled new evidence this week from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that they plan to send to the Senate as part of their case to remove Trump from office.

So how does submitting evidence actually work? Initial evidence will be submitted by the House managers and admitted into the record once the trial begins. Afterward, any new evidence can be objected to — forcing a ruling by the Chief Justice and/or a vote by the Senate. 

Those Parnas records are expected to be admitted — but if more evidence emerges during the trial, it's an open open question about whether that would be allowed to be presented.  

If there's an objection by a senator or President Trump's defense team to new evidence, Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, could rule on it or punt on the issue and let the senators decide. Senators could also overrule the chief justice. 51 senators would be needed to approve allowing new evidence to be presented.

9:48 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

You might hear the name Lev Parnas a lot today. Here's what you need to know.

Lev Parnas — the Soviet-born businessman whose work in Ukraine with President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani stands at the center of the impeachment inquiry — implicated the President yesterday in an interview with CNN.

Parnas, who was indicted on campaign finance charges last year, said that their efforts were "all about 2020" and not about working in the interest of the United States.

Parnas also alleged that Pence did not attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration because Ukraine had not announced an investigation into Joe Biden. 

Here's what we know about Parnas:

Watch Anderson Cooper's interview with Lev Parnas:

9:09 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

The Senate impeachment trial is set to start soon. Here's what else is happening in DC — and beyond.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House delivered the impeachment articles to the Senate last night, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the impeachment trial will likely begin on Tuesday, after the Monday Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

It's not clear exactly how long the trial could last — there's no time limit or minimum, and procedures are largely up to the Senate. But it's beginning at a busy time in Washington, DC, and on the campaign trail.

Here's a look at some of the events the trial could overlap with:

  • Feb. 3: Iowa caucuses
  • Feb. 4: Trump gives the State of the Union address
  • Feb. 7: Democratic debate
  • Feb. 11: New Hampshire primaries

Remember: Four of the 12 Democrats running for President are sitting senators, meaning they'll serve as jurors in the trial. They are Michael Bennett, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

8:45 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

3 key events we're watching today

Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said the Trump impeachment trial is expected to start in earnest on Tuesday — but there will be some formal, procedural moments today as the chamber prepares to hear the arguments.

Here are three key events we're watching today:

  • 11 a.m. ET: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly news conference. Questions about impeachment will likely come up.
  • 12 p.m. ET: The House impeachment managers are expected to read the articles of impeachment on the Senate floor.
  • 2 p.m. ET: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will arrive in the Senate and be sworn in (Remember: Roberts will preside over the entire trial). After that, the senators — who will serve as jurors at the trial — will also be sworn in.
8:32 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Nadler: "There may very well be" more evidence from Giuliani associate that should be admissible

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said yesterday “there may very well be” more evidence from Lev Parnas that could be used in Senate trial.

Asked if that would be admissible in the Senate trial, Nadler told CNN: “Of course it would be if the Senate is a real trial.”

Nadler added: “We will work that out” when asked how the impeachment managers would divide up their work.

More on Parnas: The indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani turned over photos, dozens of text messages and thousands of pages of documents to House impeachment investigators in an effort to win his client an audience with lawmakers.

Joseph A. Bondy, Parnas' New York attorney, traveled to Washington, DC, last weekend to hand-deliver the contents of an iPhone 11 to Democratic staff on the House Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, according to a series of Bondy's tweets.

Parnas has also provided investigators with documents, recordings, photos, text messages on WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging platform, and materials from a Samsung phone, according to Bondy. Material from two other devices, an iPad and another iPhone, are also expected to be shared with them.

Parnas, his business partner Igor Fruman, and two others were charged with funneling foreign money into US elections and using a straw donor to obscure the true source of political donations. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

8:29 a.m. ET, January 16, 2020

How Mike Pence's office is responding to claims about the Ukraine president's inauguration

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short just responded to allegations made by Lev Parnas.

“Democrat witnesses have testified under oath in direct contradiction to Lev Parnas statements last night. This is very simple: Lev Parnas is under a multi-count indictment and will say anything to anybody who will listen in hopes of staying out of prison. It’s no surprise that only the liberal media is listening to him.”

What this is all about: Parnas alleged last night that Pence did not attend Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration because Ukraine had not announced an investigation into Joe Biden. 

Asked if Pence knew what Giuliani and his associates were up to, Parnas said he wasn't sure if the vice president knew "everything we were doing." Pressed on whether Pence was aware of a quid pro quo, Parnas replied: "Everybody that was close to Trump knew this was a thorn in the side and this was a serious situation."