Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 6

Trump asks the Supreme Court to temporarily halt enforcement of another congressional subpoena for Trump’s financial records

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly news conference in the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As expected, President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Friday to temporarily halt the enforcement of congressional subpoenas for financial records of the president and his business from Deutsche Bank and Capital One Financial Corp.

The president filed an emergency request with the justices to halt an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit for “prompt” compliance with the subpoenas — at least until the court can consider Trump’s appeal.

This is the third case with similar issues at the high court in the past few weeks.

 

Apparently, this time the House has taken a stiffer legal tack in court on the subpoenas from the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees.

Trump’s lawyers told the justices that they contacted House General Counsel Doug Letter to agree on a fast appeals schedule as long as the House delayed enforcement.

“That offer was rejected,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

The Supreme Court is likely to grant Trump’s request. The justices already granted Trump’s emergency request to put a hold on a lower court ruling ordering accounting firm Mazars USA to comply with a congressional subpoena for eight years of the president’s financial records.

If the justices agree to hear the Mazars case, the freeze would remain until they rule, likely before the end of the current court term at the end of June. But if the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the House Oversight and Reform Committee could seek the documents as early as this month.

The Supreme Court scheduled a separate but closely related case — Trump’s challenge to a subpoena to Mazars in a Manhattan grand jury probe that is nearly identical to the congressional subpoena — for a closed-door conference on Dec. 13.

Here is the latest in the impeachment inquiry:

Lengthy list: House Judiciary ranking Republican Doug Collins has written to Chairman Jerrold Nadler requesting a long list of impeachment hearing witnesses including the intelligence community whistleblower, Hunter Biden and House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff.

He also wants to call other sources who provided information to the whistleblower and other connected individuals.

“Thus far, the only witnesses Chairman Schiff has permitted to testify publicly are those he has previously vetted and approved in a private deposition setting. He did not permit Republicans or the President to call any additional witnesses,” Collins wrote.

Weekend work: Judiciary Democrats said Friday they still don’t know exactly what they’ll be doing during closed-door weekend meetings that have been scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, but several said they expect preparation for Monday’s hearing and possible discussion about what should go into articles of impeachment.

Judiciary Democrats were advised to stay in Washington this weekend for impeachment strategy sessions.

The committee will receive a presentation from Intelligence Committee counsel on its impeachment inquiry report, as well as a presentation from its own counsel. Members on the panel were not clear what the Judiciary counsel would be presenting.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she had asked the six committee chairmen investigating Trump to draft articles of impeachment.

Senate GOP wants to probe DNC-Ukraine collusion: The Republican chairmen of three Senate committees are seeking documents and interviews about the possibility that a consultant associated with the Democratic National Committee was in contact with Ukrainian officials during the 2016 campaign.

“Election interference by any foreign entity is a serious matter. Since the last presidential election, our nation rightly expended significant resources to examine allegations of collusion and foreign interference by Russia to influence the outcome. While there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, we know that Russia meddled in our democratic processes,” Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said. “However, certain reports of collusion and interference involving Ukrainian officials have not been sufficiently examined, and the few answers that have been given are inadequate.”

Grassley was joined in the request by Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer was critical of his Senate colleagues Friday, responding to the latest inquiries from three Senate Republican chairmen about Ukraine.

“Putin and his intelligence services disinformation campaign team in Moscow couldn’t have cooked up a more useful tool for spreading conjured and baseless conspiracy theories than the one Chairmen Graham, Grassley and Johnson announced today,” he said.

Another deadline: The White House faces a deadline today to tell the House Judiciary Committee if it plans to participate in its impeachment hearing scheduled for Monday, but it appears unlikely that it will.

A White House official on Thursday gave no indication that it would begin to cooperate with the investigation. The official pointed to the president’s comment last week ahead of Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing that he has opted against sending witnesses and attorneys to participate because he views the inquiry as a “hoax.”

The Trump administration has refused to cooperate with the inquiry since October, refusing to produce documents requested by investigating committees and blocking White House and other government agency officials from testifying, though some have defied that guidance and others have testified under subpoena.

Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins told NPR Thursday that while he thinks the White House should participate under the right circumstances, House Democrats has made that impossible by refusing to conduct “a robust set of hearings.”

Collins said that Democrats are conducting a scenario presuming Trump’s guilt where “you have to prove your innocence ... and that’s just not the way our system works.”

Nunes’ phone records: Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes told Fox News Thursday evening that in the coming weeks and months he will be looking at “all legal options” for responding to Chairman Adam Schiff’s decision to disclose phone calls he was allegedly a party to in the Intelligence Democrats’ report summarizing evidence compiled in the impeachment inquiry.

“Clearly my civil rights, civil liberties were violated,” the California Republican said.

[Lawmakers weaponize colleagues’ call records]

Nunes confirmed he spoke on the phone with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, saying he’s known him for over a decade and that Giuliani is friends with many Republicans in Congress. But the Intelligence Committee ranking member said he still has to go back through his phone records to determine if there’s truth to Schiff’s claim that he spoke on the phone with indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, whom Nunes claims he never met.

“You have to remember, we are the House Intelligence Committee oversight Committee,” Nunes said when asked wouldn’t he remember if he spoke with Parnas. “So, we get calls from people every day — all walks of life. I get them from all over the world, allies and people that aren’t our allies. In this case, I just don’t know. I have to get my phone records.”

Asked if the calls were from his cell phone or office phone, Nunes said, “We don’t even know that.”

But then Nunes contradicted himself when asked if he didn’t have an opportunity to look at the cell phone records Schiff’s subpoena to AT&T produced.

“We’re sitting with thousands of pages of metadata, OK, of numbers,” he said. “So, somehow they went through there and found my cell number a few times.”

Earlier in the interview Nunes said he doesn’t even know how Schiff has his phone number — a curious statement given that they should be talking as their respective party leaders on the Intelligence Committee.

Nunes also claimed he wasn’t involved in the effort to oust Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, as the Democrats’ report suggests. “No offense, but I didn’t even know who the hell Yovanovitch was until the last couple of months,” he said.

Input: Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters told reporters that “all of the committee chairs that you see meeting with Nancy Pelosi are feeding into what we think, you know, should the Judiciary decide,” before a meeting between Pelosi and the six committee chairs.

The Judiciary Committee will ultimately draft the articles of impeachment, but the other five committees providing input are Intelligence, Oversight, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services and Ways and Means.

Widening the scope: Pelosi declined to answer a question during her weekly news conference about whether the articles of impeachment should be focused on the Ukraine scandal or be broadened to include findings from the special counsel report or other matters Democrats have been investigating.

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said the California Democrat. “Our chairmen will be making recommendations.”

Waters, a California Democrat who has long said she’s ready to impeach Trump, also declined to comment on what charges should be included in the articles — as did several members of the Judiciary Committee who said they expect their panel to have those discussions soon.

While some Democrats have suggested the articles of impeachment could include obstruction of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, others think they should be narrowly tailored to the circumstances around Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he appears to pressure the Ukrainian leader to investigate political rivals.

“I think it’s important to keep the articles of impeachment simple and clear for the American people,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, who serves on both the Intelligence and Oversight panels. “The president corroborated the whistleblower’s complaint when he issued his transcript of the summary of the phone call. The elements of bribery are seeded in that phone call and corroborated by subsequent people.”

GOP reacts: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded Thursday that House Democrats are operating on a predetermined timeline and outcome for impeachment.

“Today with the speaker’s announcement she has weakened the nation,” the California Republican said.

In response to Pelosi quoting George Mason and other founders on why impeachment was necessary, McCarthy said she left out Alexander Hamilton, who warned of partisan impeachments.

“This is the day that Hamilton feared and warned of,” McCarthy said.

Minority day: Collins sent a letter Thursday to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler requesting being contacted as soon as possible to schedule the minority day hearing Republicans requested during the panel’s hearing on Wednesday. The Georgia Republican said House rules are “clear and unequivocal” that the minority is entitled to host a hearing with testimony from their requested witnesses.

“The requested minority hearing day must take place before articles of impeachment are considered by the committee,” Collins wrote.

Recuse yourself: Reps. Mark Walker and Jason Smith, Republican Conference leaders from North Carolina and Missouri, respectively, introduced a resolution co-sponsored by two dozen GOP members to urge the Senate to change its rules requiring any senators running for president to recuse themselves from an impeachment trial.

Senate rules already require the vice president to recuse himself from his role as president of the Senate during an impeachment trial, because of the clear conflict of interest. The leaders argued Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination “are incapable of rendering an impartial verdict” against Trump as they campaign to replace him.

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