NADLER AND SCHIFF TO LEAD DEMOCRATIC CASE FOR TRUMP IMPEACHMENT

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, one of the key Democratic lawmakers who led the effort to impeach Trump, will help prosecute the case against Trump as one of the House impeachment managers.

During Clinton’s impeachment, Nadler said, “There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come, and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.”

In December, Nadler chaired the House Judiciary Committee that drafted the two articles of impeachment against Trump.

When the full House approved the impeachment allegations, not a single Republican lawmaker voted for them. Trump was impeached exclusively with the votes of Democrats.

California Congressman Adam Schiff is the lead House manager pursuing Trump’s conviction in the Senate and removal from office. He took a different view of impeachment when he first ran in 2000, a year after Clinton was acquitted.

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SCHIFF SPEAKS OUT ON TRUMP IMPEACHMENT

Congressman Adam Schiff, the leader of seven House impeachment managers, told ABC News’ “This Week” show, “The facts aren’t seriously contested, that the president withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to an ally at war with Russia, withheld a White House meeting that the president of Ukraine desperately sought to establish with his country and with his adversary the support of the United States in order to coerce Ukraine to helping him cheat in the next election.”

Schiff added, “They really can’t contest those facts. So the only thing really new about the president’s defense is that they’re now arguing that because they can’t contest the facts that the president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office.”

The Senate has yet to decide whether it will hear witnesses in the impeachment trial, with new testimony opposed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats want to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others to testify about their knowledge of Trump’s Ukraine actions. Trump eventually released the Ukraine military aid in September after a 55-day delay without Zelenskiy launching the Biden investigations.  Republicans say that is proof that Trump did not engage in a reciprocal quid pro quo deal — the military aid in exchange for the investigations to help him politically.

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DEMOCRATS STILL WANT WITNESSES AT IMPEACHMENT TRIAL

Democrats pushing for Trump’s impeachment had sought testimony from Bolton and others in Trump’s orbit, but the potential witnesses complied with the president’s edict to not cooperate with the House investigation, although others ignored it and testified.

Democratic lawmakers abandoned efforts to subpoena some witnesses out of fear that the legal fights over their testimony would extend for months and instead moved ahead to adopt the impeachment articles without hearing them testify under oath.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he will press to try to include witnesses as part of the parameters adopted for the trial, but if McConnell’s vote counting is accurate, Schumer stands to lose such a preliminary skirmish.

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BIDEN HAS EDGE IN SOUTH CAROLINA

South Carolina public opinion surveys suggest Joe Biden has a nearly 19-percentage-point lead over Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Buttigieg is polling at nearly 8%, a distant fourth place. 

Most consider South Carolina a must-win for Biden, especially if he stumbles in the first two nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire — states with lower minority percentages than the nation as a whole. 

In South Carolina, blacks make up nearly a third of Democratic primary voters. Even so, three African American Democratic presidential contenders failed to make significant inroads in the state or nationally. 

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TRUMP INTELLIGENCE CHIEFS COULD STOP ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING

A spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed Thursday that talks about the hearings were ongoing, noting that the “timing and format will be determined by the [committee] chairman.”  
   
But while a formal invitation has yet to be extended to U.S. intelligence officials, the spokesperson said the expectation was the Senate hearing “would keep with previous years,” when the Senate Intelligence Committee heard from intelligence officials in an open, public hearing before discussing classified information behind closed doors.  
   
A separate invitation for the intelligence chiefs to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, requesting both public and classified briefings on February 12, has already gone out. The ODNI spokesperson confirmed intelligence officials received the offer Thursday, reiterating that discussions about exactly when and how to hold the hearing were still under way.  
   
During last January’s public Senate hearings, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel repeatedly contradicted Trump’s statements, in particular on Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State terror group.

A day later, Trump blasted Coats and Haspel on Twitter, calling their assessment of Iran “extremely passive and naive,” warning, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”  

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TRUMP ASKS PENTAGON DIVERT FUNDS TO BUILD BORDER WALL

The Pentagon has received a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to divert funds to help build roughly 270 miles of fencing on the southern U.S. border with Mexico, according to a senior U.S. Defense Department official.

The Defense Department “is now beginning an assessment of that request for assistance,” which was sent Wednesday, the official said.

The request calls for building fences, roads and lighting across multiple states in six “highly trafficked” sectors along the southwest border, including some urban areas.

The official did not know how much the request from DHS would potentially cost the Pentagon because the request was for “border miles” and not for a specific funding amount.

DHS has asked for the assistance under the Pentagon’s Title 10 U.S. Code 284, which authorizes the military to defend the U.S. from drug trafficking.

“It has to be in drug-smuggling corridors. DHS, as you know, has designated the southwest border a drug-smuggling corridor,” the official told a small group of reporters.

A spending deal by Congress that was signed into law in December granted the administration about $1.4 billion for border wall construction. Administration officials, however, had asked for $5 billion.

Recommendation

According to the defense official, the Pentagon will take about two weeks to provide a recommendation to the secretary of defense, who would be responsible for approving any requests.

That recommendation will include a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers on whether the requested projects are feasible, an assessment from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the impacts that could be made on military preparedness, and an identification from the comptroller of potential funding sources.
  
Last year, the Trump administration took $2.5 billion from military counter-drug programs for border barrier construction and about $3.6 billion from military construction funding. Congress did not replace the money taken from those accounts in the current budget.

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WARREN CLAIMS SANDERS SAID HE DIDN’T THINK A WOMAN COULD WIN THE PRESIDENCY

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren says Bernie Sanders “disagreed” with her that a woman could be elected president when they met in 2018.

Warren issued a statement late Monday after Sanders said it is “ludicrous” to think he could have ever made such a remark.

“It is sad that three weeks before the Iowa Caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened,” Sanders said in a statement to CNN who reported on his alleged comment to Warren.

“Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course. After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016,” Sanders said.

Warren said later Monday Sanders simply “disagreed” when she told him a woman could win.

But she said she has no interest in talking about it because “Bernie and I have far more in common…we have been friends and allies in this fight for a long time and I have no doubt we will continue to work together to defeat Donald Trump and put our government on the side of the people.”

The latest poll in Iowa by CNN and The Des Moines Register newspaper puts Sanders in the lead among likely caucus participants with 20%, followed by Warren with 19%. Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden trail.

Sanders and Warren did share common ground Monday — both thanked Democratic Senator Cory Booker for running a campaign both said was based on love, justice, and equality.

Booker announced Monday he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

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SPEAKER PELOSI SEEKS A FAIR IMPEACHMENT TRIAL

The U.S. House last month approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump linked to his efforts to get Ukraine to launch investigations to benefit himself politically — that he abused the office of the presidency and then obstructed congressional efforts to investigate his Ukraine-related actions.

But U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for three weeks has balked at sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a futile effort to get Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch Trump ally supporting his acquittal, to agree to hear key Trump aides testify at the Senate trial about the president’s actions and subpoena White House documents.

The House leader will be consulting with her Democratic colleagues about the timing of sending the impeachment articles to the Senate, but is planning on naming a handful of lawmakers to press the case against Trump. If that happens, the Senate trial could start later in the week.

Pelosi warned the majority Senate Republicans, some of whom have sought to quickly acquit Trump without hearing new witnesses, that history would judge them harshly if they do not conduct an extensive impeachment trial, only the third such time in the country’s 244-year history that a president has faced an impeachment trial and possible removal from office.

“It’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi said. “They take an oath to have a fair trial and we think that should be with witnesses and documents.”

“Do that or pay a price,” she said.

“We have confidence in our case,” Pelosi said. “This president is impeached for life regardless of any gamesmanship on the part of Mitch McConnell.” She said Democrats believe there is already enough evidence to remove Trump from office, “However, we want the American public to see the truth and why are they afraid of the truth?”

Democrats are seeking to hear the testimony of at least four Trump aides, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, neither of whom testified in the lead-up to the House impeaching Trump. The president ordered both to not participate in the House impeachment investigation, but Bolton last week said he would testify at the Senate trial if he is subpoenaed.

The minority bloc of 47 Senate Democrats would need four Republican lawmakers to join them to override McConnell’s opposition to new witnesses and vote to hear new testimony. Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Friday she is working with a “small number” of Republicans to ensure that new testimony would be heard. McConnell says he has enough Republican votes to ensure that no vote on new witnesses would occur until after House managers present their case against Trump and the president’s lawyers state their defense.  

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US HOUSE TO VOTE WEDNESDAY ON TRANSMITTING IMPEACHMENT CHARGES

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House of Representatives will vote Wednesday to send official impeachment charges to the Senate, bringing the start of U.S. President Donald Trump’s historical impeachment trial one step closer to reality.

Pelosi made the announcement in a statement that was released shortly after discussing the impeachment proceedings at a private meeting with House Democrats nearly a month after the Democrat-led House voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.“

The American people will fully understand the Senate’s move to begin the trial without witnesses and documents as a pure political cover-up,” the statement said. ‘(Senate Majority) Leader (Mitch) McConnell and the President are afraid of more facts coming to light. The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.”

Pelosi said the House would also vote Wednesday to name the impeachment managers.

The impeachment allegations contend Trump abused the office of the presidency by pressing Ukraine to launch an investigation into one of his main 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and obstructing congressional efforts to investigate his Ukraine-related actions.

Choosing managers

Democrats at Tuesday’s closed-door meeting said Pelosi is expected to name House managers for the impeachment case on Wednesday.

Pelosi had delayed sending the articles to the Senate in a futile effort to get Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to agree to hear testimony from key Trump aides who were directly involved with the president as he temporarily withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine while urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open the Biden investigation.

A Wednesday vote would enable the Senate to start the trial as soon as this week. But opening arguments probably won’t be heard until next week at the earliest, as the Senate will likely take several days to complete formalities such as swearing in Chief Justice John Roberts and approving a set of rules.

Trump, only the fourth U.S. president to be targeted with a serious impeachment effort in the country’s 244-year history, has denied any wrongdoing. He has also ridiculed the Democrats’ impeachment effort.

Two other U.S. presidents, Andrew Johnson in the 19th century and Bill Clinton two decades ago, were also impeached by the House but acquitted in Senate trials, while a third U.S. leader, Richard Nixon, resigned in 1974 while facing a certain impeachment in a political corruption scandal.

Acquittal likely

The Republican-controlled Senate is widely expected to acquit Trump, particularly since no Republicans have expressed support for removing him from office.

A two-thirds vote in the 100-member Senate would be needed to convict Trump to remove him from office. At least 20 Republicans would need to turn against Trump for a conviction, if all 47 Democrats voted against the president. A handful of Republicans have criticized Trump’s Ukraine actions, but none has called for his conviction and removal from office.

Trump released the military aid to Ukraine in September without Zelenskiy opening the investigation of Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to undermine Trump’s campaign. Republicans say releasing the aid is proof Trump did not engage in a reciprocal quid pro quo deal with Ukraine — the military aid for the Biden investigations.

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TRUMP SENDS BIRTHDAY GREETING TO NORTH KOREA’S KIM

When you have spent the last week quietly eroding environmental and healthcare laws, how else would you cap off a week, but with a warm, greeting to a ruthless dictator. This is exactly what President Trump did and as always, its an embarrassment.

President Donald Trump has sent a happy birthday message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is believed to have turned 36 Wednesday. It is the first recent reported contact between the two leaders amid stalled nuclear talks.

Trump asked that South Korea deliver the birthday message to Kim, according to South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who met briefly with Trump this week in Washington.

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