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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    Facing opposition from within Republican ranks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented an amended rules proposal on Tuesday to govern the start of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, most significantly giving more time for House prosecutors and the President's lawyers to make their opening arguments. The changes came after a lunch meeting of GOP Senators, where Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and others expressed reservations about the idea of forcing each side to cram 24 hours of opening arguments into just two days. 'She and others raised concerns about the 24 hrs of opening statements in 2 days,' a spokeswoman for Collins told reporters. Along with that change, McConnell backed off a provision which would not allow evidence from the House impeachment investigation to be put in the record without a vote of the Senate. The changes were made as House prosecutors and the President's legal team made their first extended statements of the Trump impeachment trial. 'Why should this trial be any different than any other trial? The short answer is, it shouldn't,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as he made the case that the Senate rules would not pass muster in a regular courtroom. 'This idea that we should ignore what has taken place over the last three years is outrageous,' said Jay Sekulow, the President's personal attorney, who joined White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in arguing against the impeachment charges. 'It's very difficult to sit there and listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,' Cipollone said, in one of the first direct jabs of the impeachment trial. “A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” Cipollone added. While there were GOP differences on the rules package offered by Republican leaders, GOP Senators stuck together on the first substantive vote of the impeachment trial, defeating an effort by Democrats to subpoena certain materials from the White House. The first vote was 53-47 to block an amendment offered by the Democratic Leader, Sen. Schumer.  It was straight along party lines. A second vote along party lines blocked a call by Democrats to subpoena documents from the State Department. Opening arguments are expected to begin on Wednesday.
  • A GOP rules plan for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump unveiled by Senate Republicans on Monday could pave the way for the trial to be finished in as little as two weeks, as the plan envisions squeezing 48 hours of opening arguments into just four days, with the option of voting on the impeachment articles without any additional witnesses or evidence. 'Just because the House proceedings were a circus that doesn’t mean the Senate’s trial needs to be,' said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who fully endorsed the proposal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While GOP Senators said the plan would be modeled on a bipartisan rules deal at the start of the Clinton impeachment trial, there were two notable differences from 21 years ago, governing opening arguments, and the submission of evidence. While each side would get 24 hours to make their opening arguments, this GOP plan would force that time to be used in just two days - raising the specter of an impeachment trial which could stretch well into the night because of those time constraints. Another change would require an affirmative vote by the Senate to simply put the investigatory materials from the House into the trial record, something which was done automatically in the Clinton impeachment trial. Also, even if extra witnesses were approved by Senators, it would not guarantee their testimony on the Senate floor, as there would have to be a vote after the depositions on whether the witness would testify publicly. With a Tuesday debate set on the rules, Republicans also made clear they would not support any move to add witnesses until after opening arguments have been completed. 'If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts,' said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). Meanwhile, Democrats roundly denounced the GOP rules details. 'The proposal that Majority Leader McConnell just released looks more like a cover up than a fair trial,' said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). 'Mitch McConnell doesn't want a fair trial, he wants a fast trial,' said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). 'It's all about the cover up,' said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). 'These are not the Clinton rules.' 'There’s nothing in this resolution that requires hearing witnesses or admitting evidence — which is unlike any trial I’ve ever seen,' said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). 'Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who promised to offer amendments to the plan on Tuesday afternoon. Debate and votes on the rules resolution will start on Tuesday afternoon - and could turn into an extended battle on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
  • In a 171 page submission made to the U.S. Senate on Monday, President Donald Trump's legal team said the impeachment charges submitted by the House do not identify any violations of criminal law and should immediately by dismissed by Senators. 'The articles should be rejected and the President should immediately be acquitted,' the legal brief states, arguing the charge of 'abuse of power' does not state an impeachable offense - even though that charge was drawn up by the House in 1974 against President Richard Nixon. 'House Democrats’ novel conception of “abuse of power” as a supposedly impeachable offense is constitutionally defective,' the Trump brief states. 'It supplants the Framers’ standard of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” with a made-up theory that the President can be impeached and removed from office under an amorphous and undefined standard of 'abuse of power.'' On the question of whether President Trump held back military aid for Ukraine while pressing the Ukraine government to announce investigations related to Joe Biden and his son, the White House legal team says there is no evidence to support those claims. 'The most important piece of evidence demonstrating the President’s innocence is the transcript of the President’s July 25 telephone call with President Zelenskyy,' the trial brief states, referring to the call which President Trump has repeatedly said was 'perfect.' 'President Trump did not even mention the security assistance on the call, and he certainly did not make any connection between the assistance and any investigation,' the White House legal team states, without mentioning that a hold was put on the aid to Ukraine 90 minutes after that phone call concluded on July 25, 2019. From the White House on Monday, the President tweeted out his familiar opposition to the impeachment trial, continuing to characterize the House impeachment process as unfair. Minutes after the White House filed its trial brief, Democrats in the House responded to his initial 'answer' to the Senate trial summons. 'The House denies each and every allegation and defense in the Preamble to the Answer,' the nine page response began. 'He used Presidential powers to pressure a vulnerable foreign partner to interfere in our elections for his own benefit,' referring to the President's interactions with the leader of Ukraine.  'President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment,” the House reply added. “That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong,' the House concluded.
  • In the first legal submissions of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Democrats on Saturday said the President had violated his oath and should be removed from office, while the White House denounced the impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as 'constitutionally invalid.' In their 111 page legal brief, Democrats said the President had abused his power by trying to pressure the government of Ukraine into announcing investigations against Joe Biden, all in an effort to help Mr. Trump's 2020 re-election bid. Democrats said the very public effort by President Trump to block top White House officials from testifying before Congress - as they defied subpoenas for the impeachment investigation - was a violation of the Constitution. 'In exercising its responsibility to investigate and consider the impeachment of a President of the United States, the House is constitutionally entitled to the relevant information from the Executive Branch concerning the President's misconduct,' Democrats wrote. 'The Framers, the courts, and past Presidents have recognized that honoring Congress’s right to information in an impeachment investigation is a critical safeguard in our system of divided powers,' that trial brief added. In their initial answer to the Senate summons for this impeachment trial, the White House delivered a seven page legal rebuke to Democrats. 'The Articles of Impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face. They fail to allege any crime of violation of law whatsoever,' wrote White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and the President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. 'In the end, this entire process is nothing more than a dangerous attack on the American people themselves and their fundamental right to vote,' the President's legal team concluded. 'The notion that President Trump obstructed Congress is absurd,' said sources close to the President's legal team. The White House has until 12 noon on Monday to file a trial brief to the Senate; Democrats would have until 12 noon on Tuesday to file a rebuttal. The Senate will reconvene as a court of impeachment on Tuesday afternoon. Senators must still approve rules to govern the first phase of the trial. Senate Republicans have said they would base that rules plan on one approved by the Senate for the start of the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999. That rules resolution gave each side 24 hours to make their opening arguments - which would likely be split up over three or more days on the Senate floor. Like 1999, it's possible the Senate may also take an early vote to dismiss the case entirely, an outcome preferred by President Trump.
  • With opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump expected to begin in coming days, the White House on Friday unveiled a team of legal experts including former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to defend the President on Capitol Hill. 'President Trump has done nothing wrong and is confident that this team will defend him, the voters, and our democracy from this baseless, illegitimate impeachment,' White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement. 'The President looks forward to the end of this partisan and unconstitutional impeachment,' Grisham added. The Trump legal team members will join White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and the President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow in defending Mr. Trump. Here is the list provided by the White House: + Ken Starr, Former Independent Counsel, Whitewater investigation + Alan Dershowitz, Professor of Law, Emeritus, Harvard Law School + Pam Bondi, Former Attorney General of Florida + Jane Serene Raskin, Private Counsel to President Donald J. Trump + Eric D. Herschmann, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres LLP + Robert Ray, Former Independent Counsel. While Dershowitz is a famous legal mind, Starr is the more political figure, given that his Whitewater investigation launched the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. And his appearance immediately drew the evil eye from allies of the former President. Democrats mocked the choices. 'If President Trump is looking to turn the impeachment trial into a reality TV show, he chose the right team with Alan Dershowitz, Ken Starr, and Robert Ray,' said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). But this is the U.S. Senate, not the People's Court.  'Well, that's their choice,' Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said of Starr during a Friday interview on MSNBC. 'But it's a weird choice.' The choice of Starr also drew a profane response from Monica Lewinsky, who was the focus of Starr's investigation. The Senate impeachment trial resumes on Tuesday with votes expected on the rules to govern the initial phase of the Trump impeachment trial.
  • President Donald Trump said Thursday that he did not know Lev Parnas, an indicted business associate of Rudy Giuliani who claims the President knew all about Giuliani's efforts to oust the U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine, as well as behind the scenes work to get Ukraine to announce investigations related to Joe Biden, in order to help Mr. Trump's 2020 re-election bid. 'I don't know him. I don't know Parnas,' the President said a number of times to reporters at the White House. 'I don't know him at all. Don't know what he's about,' Mr. Trump added. But in interviews with MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times, Parnas has said the President is not telling the truth about his efforts to put pressure on the leader of Ukraine. Documents and electronic messages provided by Parnas to the House Intelligence Committee in recent days included a letter that Rudy Giuliani wrote in May 2019, asking for a meeting with the newly-elected Ukraine President, in which Giuliani said he was 'private counsel to President Donald J. Trump.' 'I don't know anything about the letter,' President Trump said, praising Giuliani's time as mayor but not addressing what he did for Trump in Ukraine with Parnas and others. Also denying any knowledge of Parnas's claims was Vice President Mike Pence. 'I don’t know the guy,' Pence told reporters during a visit to Florida on Thursday, as the Vice President said the claim by Parnas that Pence knew about pressure being put on the Ukraine leader was 'completely false.' Democrats used those denials to question why Pence's office has refused to declassify further impeachment answers from a State Department official detailed to his office. Some Democrats have raised the possibility of asking to hear testimony from Parnas in the Trump impeachment trial, though any request for witness testimony must get a majority of Senators. As of now, most Republicans remain hotly opposed to any new witnesses, arguing the Senate should not have to find evidence which the House did not uncover. 'That's not our job,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). 'Our job is to look at what they brought us and decide if that rises to the level of impeachment.' Perdue was part of the ceremonial first day of the Senate impeachment trial - just the third time a President has faced such a challenge in U.S. history. Opening arguments will take place next Tuesday.
  • Just before the official start of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday that the White House had broken federal law by withholding over $200 million in military aid for Ukraine, as Democrats said the new findings should be aired before the Senate in coming days. 'Faithful executive of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,' wrote Thomas Armstrong, the General Counsel of the GAO. Democrats immediately latched on to the government watchdog opinion to reinforce their impeachment arguments. 'This is an important ruling that deserves a thorough hearing in the impeachment trial,' said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on the floor of the Senate. 'GAO confirmed the President broke the law,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. 'When President Trump froze congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine, he did so in violation of the law and the Constitution,' said Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT). 'The GAO has confirmed what we’ve always known: President Trump abused his power,' said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME). 'Another fact for the Senate to consider.' 'The hold Trump ordered was illegal,' said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). The law in question is known as the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974,' which was passed after President Nixon had refused to release money approved by Congress.
  • Hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi named seven Democratic lawmakers to act as the prosecutors for the House impeachment case against President Donald Trump, the House on Wednesday evening gave the Senate official notification that it was ready to proceed with a trial of the President on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 'A few minutes ago, the Senate was notified that the House of Representatives is finally ready to proceed with their articles of impeachment,' said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The historic trial - only the third of a President in U.S. history - will officially begin on Thursday with the arrival of Chief Justice John Roberts and the swearing-in of Senators. Opening arguments in the case are expected to begin on Tuesday. The official moves came four weeks after the House had voted to impeach the President on two charges, as Democrats delayed in hopes of forcing Senate Republicans to call witnesses who refused to testify in House impeachment hearings. While that gambit did not work, new evidence did surface over that time period, including documents and messages gathered by Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Parnas worked with Giuliani in Ukraine, helping in his effort to force out then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The new materials, which included texts and other electronic messages involving Parnas, Giuliani, and others, also held notes which mentioned getting Ukraine to announce 'that the Biden case will be investigated.' It was the President's withholding of military aid - combined with an effort to ask for the Ukraine government to announce investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 elections - which prompted Democrats to convene impeachment hearings. Republicans greeted the official arrival of the impeachment charges with scorn and ridicule. 'Democrats have politicized impeachment and denied President Trump his fundamental right to due process,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). 'It’s clear Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives failed to make their case.' 'By delaying the process, Speaker Pelosi confirmed that this impeachment is a partisan political exercise,' said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
  • Four weeks after the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named a team of seven Democrats to lead the prosecution's case in a Senate impeachment trial, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “The emphasis is on litigators.  The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom,” Pelosi told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.  “The emphasis is making the strongest possible case to defend and protect the Constitution,” Pelosi added. Here is the list of the impeachment managers: + Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Schiff led the impeachment hearings and is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Speaker Pelosi said Schiff will serve as the lead manager. + Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). Nadler is the head of the House Judiciary Committee. + Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). A former police chief in Orlando, Florida, Demings serves on both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. + Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO). A lawyer and Army Ranger who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Crow won a GOP seat in the Denver suburbs in 2018. He was not involved in any of the impeachment hearings, and is the only impeachment manager who is not from a safe-Democratic seat. + Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). The head of the House Democratic Caucus, Jeffries is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. + Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). A veteran Democrat who was a staffer during the Nixon impeachment investigation, and also served during the Clinton impeachment. + Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). Garcia is a freshman Democrat from the Houston area, and former judge. She is a member of the Judiciary Committee. In a statement, the White House Press Secretary belittled the Speaker's announcement. The ceremonial start to the trial will come on Thursday, as Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Senators. Opening arguments are expected to begin next Tuesday.
  • As the Congress inched closer to the start of a Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, new evidence emerged on Tuesday night related to actions in Ukraine by the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, including electronic messages which seemingly involved people tracking the movements of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was the target of allies of the President. The materials released by the House Intelligence Committee came from Lev Parnas, a business associated of Giuliani who was arrested on October 9, 2019, just before he was to board a flight to Austria. Parnas was later charged with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. election campaigns. Along with text messages, the Parnas information included handwritten items on notepads from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Vienna, which seemingly were related to the genesis of the Ukraine investigation involving President Trump's May 25 phone call with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. 'Get Zalensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated,' one note says. Also included in the release was a letter from Giuliani to Zelensky. In the letter, Giuliani says he is the 'private counsel' for President Trump, and asks for a half-hour to meet with the Ukraine leader, but does not reveal the subject matter. That letter was dated 15 days before President Trump's 'perfect' call with the leader of Ukraine, where Mr. Trump asked Zelensky to look into 'the Bidens.' The materials made public on Tuesday also included electronic messages involving Robert Hyde, a GOP candidate for Congress in Connecticut, who seemed to have been involved in some type of surveillance and tracking of then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was the target of what she later described as a 'smear campaign' started by Giuliani, which ultimately led to her ouster as Ambassador. In the newly-released messages from late March of 2019 - just as a media campaign against Yovanovitch was underway - Hyde said he was surprised the President 'hasn't fired this bitch.' Over the next few days, Hyde messages that Yovanovitch is 'next to the embassy,' 'Not in the embassy,' and seemingly gives detailed updates on what the Ambassador has been doing.  'She's talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,' one message from March 25, 2019 reads. 'They will let me know when she's on the move,' another message reads, not indicating who the 'They' is. With the consent of federal prosecutors in New York, the attorney for Lev Parnas said the information had been shared with the House Intelligence Committee, which then forwarded the materials to the House Judiciary Committee. The notes quickly attracted the attention of Democrats. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) said on Twitter, “these notes are legitimately insane and damning and hard to fathom.”

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • A lot of listeners to News 96.5 WDBO have been calling the newsroom and using the open mic feature in our app to ask about smoke all over Orange and southern Seminole County on Tuesday afternoon. According to the St. Johns River Water Management District, there’s a 1400 acre prescribed burn happening within the Lake Apopka North Shore, west of Lake Level Canal road.   “The purpose of the burn is to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations and maintain fire-dependent ecosystems,” SJRWMD said. Orange County Fire and Rescue tweeted there are also two burns on the east side of Orange County at 528 and 520, as well as 528 and Dallas. (App users tap here to see tweet) Our meteorologist George Waldenberger says the winds today are driving the smoke over Orlando. (App users tap here to see tweet) Waldenberger later tweeted an aerial view of the smoke: (Tweet)
  • Lucky's Market will close all but ONE of its stores in Florida. It was confirmed by the Sun Sentinel Tuesday morning.  All five stores in Central Florida will close including the Colonial Landing shop that opened 8 months ago.  The only location to survive will be the store in Melbourne.  After an unfavorable portfolio review last year, Kroger pulled out its investment.  Lucky’s hasn’t made a public statement yet but the closures would effect 2,500 employees.
  • A California mother of two died during childbirth last week while acting as a surrogate for another family, according to multiple reports. Community members came together to support the family of Michelle Reaves after she died Thursday, according to KGTV and a GoFundMe campaign set up to support Reaves’ family. Jamie Herwehe, a close family friend of Reaves', launched the GoFundMe campaign last week, with donations slated to go toward covering funeral costs and supporting Reaves’ husband and children, CNN reported. “For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Michelle, she will always be known for the love she had for her family,” Herwehe wrote on the campaign page. “Michelle has the best, most sarcastic, funny personality and always had you laughing.” Herwehe said Reaves was acting for the second time as a surrogate for a family when 'one complication led to the next.' She died during childbirth, but Herwehe said the baby she was carrying survived. 'I can’t even begin to imagine what her husband Chris and her two babies are going through,' Herwehe wrote. 'No one deserves to lose their mama so young or the mother of their children.' Reaves was survived by her husband and their children, Gage and Monroe, Herwehe said.
  • The Lake City Police Department in Florida is asking for the public’s help in locating Kellie Woofe, 13. Kellie was last seen running west on Faith Road near the Bascom Norris intersection on Monday. Police said her grandfather reported her missing. After an argument that happened in his car, he told police Kellie got out of the car while they were in the Interface parking lot and ran off. LCPD said she was wearing a black jacket and ripped blue jeans. If you see her, you are asked to call police at 386-752-4343 or call 911. Kellie is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She has red hair and blue eyes.
  • Search crews have found the body of a Montana teen who vanished on New Year’s Day, deputies said. According to USA Today, 16-year-old Selena Not Afraid was found dead near an Interstate 90 rest area Monday morning, weeks after she disappeared while traveling from Billings to Hardin after a New Year’s Eve party. Investigators do not suspect foul play, the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office said. In an FBI notice, authorities said the girl “left a disabled vehicle and walked into a field adjacent to the rest area” about 2 p.m. Jan. 1. She was “not dressed for the weather conditions,” authorities said. Not Afraid’s disappearance sparked a multiagency search involving hundreds of people, the Billings Gazette reported. Read more here or here.

Washington Insider

  • Facing opposition from within Republican ranks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented an amended rules proposal on Tuesday to govern the start of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, most significantly giving more time for House prosecutors and the President's lawyers to make their opening arguments. The changes came after a lunch meeting of GOP Senators, where Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and others expressed reservations about the idea of forcing each side to cram 24 hours of opening arguments into just two days. 'She and others raised concerns about the 24 hrs of opening statements in 2 days,' a spokeswoman for Collins told reporters. Along with that change, McConnell backed off a provision which would not allow evidence from the House impeachment investigation to be put in the record without a vote of the Senate. The changes were made as House prosecutors and the President's legal team made their first extended statements of the Trump impeachment trial. 'Why should this trial be any different than any other trial? The short answer is, it shouldn't,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as he made the case that the Senate rules would not pass muster in a regular courtroom. 'This idea that we should ignore what has taken place over the last three years is outrageous,' said Jay Sekulow, the President's personal attorney, who joined White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in arguing against the impeachment charges. 'It's very difficult to sit there and listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,' Cipollone said, in one of the first direct jabs of the impeachment trial. “A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” Cipollone added. While there were GOP differences on the rules package offered by Republican leaders, GOP Senators stuck together on the first substantive vote of the impeachment trial, defeating an effort by Democrats to subpoena certain materials from the White House. The first vote was 53-47 to block an amendment offered by the Democratic Leader, Sen. Schumer.  It was straight along party lines. A second vote along party lines blocked a call by Democrats to subpoena documents from the State Department. Opening arguments are expected to begin on Wednesday.