Impeachment trial of President Trump
In his opening statement today, Deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura aimed to make the case that President Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians got what they wanted without ever announcing an investigation into the 2016 election or the Bidens.
Purpura argued "a presidential meeting took place on September 25 without the Ukrainian government announcing any investigations."
Facts First: This is misleading. While an announcement of investigations never took place, it was planned and discussed between representatives of both the US and Ukraine. The plan was only halted after the withheld aid was released.
In November, the New York Times reported that Ukrainian President Zelensky had planned to announce an investigation into Trump’s political rivals during a September interview on CNN. The Ukrainians cancelled the interview and announcement once Trump released the promised security aid on September 12.
During the July 25 call, Trump also suggested his personal attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, be a point of contact, given that Giuliani had previously lobbied Ukraine to investigate Biden’s call in 2016 to remove the country’s top prosecutor.
More on the call: During the conversation, Zelensky appeared to agree with the President’s request. Zelensky said, “The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.”
The July 25 call was also not the first the Ukrainians had picked up on Trump's desire for investigations.
Two weeks after Zelensky and Trump spoke for the first time in April, Zelensky and his team discussed the pressure they were already feeling from the Trump administration and Giuliani to publicly launch investigations that would benefit the US leader, according to a source familiar with discussions at the meeting.
Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana said his constituents back home are not following the day-to-day developments of the impeachment trial, and added that there are lessons learned from the performance of the House managers he hopes the White House will employ.
“I hope they stick on point, “ Braun began, adding later: "I know where I'm from, Indiana, a broad swath of country, they didn't like the fact that the whole idea of impeachment was being discussed.”
Braun said a voter put it to him this way, “'Hey, we're not measuring the back and forth, especially it's hard to really you know digest, all the minutiae. We’re still worried mostly about two things: how it started and the fact that it came over from the House, purely partisan.'”
Braun also warned taking too much time to make the President’s case could backfire.
“I think here if we'd want to learn one thing. We had 22 hours that even for a guy like me, to wear me out and get you, you know, gosh, I can't wait till we get to a break and so forth. I think that was counterproductive,” Braun said.
Braun suggested the White House team should take a folksier tone, calling the House managers' performance "kind of sanctimonious."
“I thought the wrap up was kind of sanctimonious, some of the comments that came out using words like dictator, carnival barker. You think that's making any headway in places that elected Trump in the first place? So I think the lesson learned is be sharp. Keep it to where you're not trying to belabor the point. I think that'll be well appreciated. And I think we'll hammer our point home,” Braun said.
In his attempt to discredit the impeachment process run by House Democrats, White House counsel Pat Cipollone again falsely suggested that the President’s team wasn’t allowed to participate.
“If you were really confident in your position on the facts, why would you lock everybody out of it from the President's side? Why would you do that?” Cipollone said.
Facts first: This is false. House Democrats made a formal offer to the White House to have a lawyer present during their proceedings, but the offer was rejected in a politically-tinged letter from Cipollone himself. And Republicans were permitted to participate in closed-door deposition of witnesses during the investigation phase.
A total of 48 Republican members of the three committees holding the closed-door hearings — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight — were allowed into the SCIF, and they were given equal time to question witnesses.
A group of House Republicans who were not on those committees attempted to gain access to the SCIF during a closed-door deposition to rail against the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, a political stunt ratcheting up the GOP complaints about the process that delayed Wednesday's scheduled deposition for five hours. They were eventually removed.
The rules for the impeachment proceedings, passed by the House last year, gave the President's counsel the ability to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings. The rules stated that the President and his counsel were invited to attend committee presentations of the evidence as well as ask questions, raise objections, request witnesses or make a concluding presentation.
But the White House counsel rejected that invitation."As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness," Cipollone wrote in a two paragraph letter in December.
The White House called a travel photo lid at 10:14 a.m. ET.
What this means: We won’t see President Trump at all on this rainy Saturday as his defense team presents his case on the Senate floor.
The President tweeted a few times ahead of the proceedings, quoting praise from Pastor Robert Jeffress and Lou Dobbs, as well as encouraging supporters to tune in to the trial.
“Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M. on @FoxNews, @OANN, or Fake News, @CNN, or Fake News MSDNC!” he wrote.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone read quotes from President Trump in his opening arguments regarding the President's relationship with European countries.
In defense of the President, Cipollone repeated false claims Trump has made about contributions from European countries to Ukraine, claiming that German Chancellor Angela Merkel "talks Ukraine but she doesn't do anything. A lot of European countries are the same way."
The President has repeatedly claimed one of the reasons he withheld security assistance to Ukraine was to get other countries to contribute. The facts tell a different story.
Facts First: Germany and France have both sent millions of euros to Ukraine, along with other European nations.
The EU and its member states are the biggest contributors to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's special monitoring mission to Ukraine, to which the EU has donated "40 unarmored and 44 armored vehicles, 35 trauma kits and provided training," an EU spokesperson told CNN.
You can read a longer fact-check here.
Moments into Trump's defense team's opening arguments, Deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura played a clip of Rep. Adam Schiff talking about the transcript of the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine's president.
The Trump team is arguing that Schiff made up the contents of Trump's call.
After playing the video, Purpura said, "That's fake. That's not the real call. That's not the evidence here. That's not the transcript that [White House counsel] Mr. Cipollone just referenced.
He continued: "And we can shrug it off and say we were making light or a joke, but that was in a hearing in the United States House of Representatives discussing the removal of the President of the United States from office."
Here are the facts: Schiff introduced his comments at the September hearing by saying he would be outlining "the essence of what the President communicates," not providing "the exact transcribed version of the call." And it's important to note that we do not even have an "exact transcribed version" of the call -- the rough transcript released by the White House cautions explicitly that it is "not a verbatim transcript."
Still, Schiff's remarks did make it easy for viewers to get confused. He did not make clear which words he was taking directly from Trump's comments in the rough transcript, which words were his own analysis, and which words were meant to be the comedic "parody" he later said he was intending.
Read more about this here.
Watch the moment:
During his opening remarks today, White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone addressed President Trump and his relationship with Russia.
“President Trump has a strong record on confronting Russia,” Cipollone said.
Upon closer examination, the Trump administration has taken some steps to get tough on Russia, like sanctioning prominent oligarchs and sending anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
But these actions have been repeatedly undercut or undermined by President Trump’s public comments, or other actions he’s personally taken.
For instance, he publicly sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin, over the US intelligence agencies, on the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Last year, CNN tallied up 25 times Trump was soft on Russia. This included repeated praise for Putin, criticizing NATO and much more.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, says he is anticipating "a lot of table pounding" and "vitriol" from the President's defense team as they present their case.
“I'm anticipating a lot of table pounding, personal vitriol, name calling, and attacks on the Bidens, I think that the defense team is playing to an audience of one. President of the United States, and his base. I think that they know they have the numbers. They have a vote on the Senate, likely on their side. So, their pitch is going to be to an audience of one the president,” Sen. Blumenthal told CNN.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar implored her Republican colleagues this morning to include witnesses in the impeachment trial moving forward.
“I walked over right there and said to some of my colleagues, ‘come on now, that was pretty convincing,'” Klobuchar said on CNN. “I know you care about Russian expansionism, I know you care about whistle blowers. All of the arguments that were made really were meant I believe, in a good way, to say to them, 'Hey, have the courage to do what you know it right.'"
In anticipation of Trump’s legal team potentially targeting fellow presidential hopeful Joe Biden in their opening arguments today, Klobuchar she instead wants to keep focus on what she considers “relevant witnesses and relevant evidence."