The Horn News
JANUARY 30, 2020
President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial lurched into a final day of questions and answers Thursday before a crucial vote on calling witnesses — and the president’s legal team says it’s not over yet.
The vote on witnesses that begins Friday will likely end in a “cliffhanger” that won’t be resolved until the weekend, the White House’s legal team warned.
Once the votes are cast, it could lead to an abrupt end of the trial with the expected acquittal. Or, should Democrats prevail, it could bring weeks more of argument and then testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter, and others.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. opened Thursday’s session bracing for an attempt by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to officially put the name of the Ukraine whistleblower, believed to be CIA Agent Eric Ciaramella, in the public trial. McConnell urged restraint by his colleagues.
But to no avail.
Paul quickly rose to put forward one of the first questions of the day, drawing a long pause in the chamber as Chief Justice John Roberts looked over the submission.
Said Roberts: “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”
The chief justice, who plays the rare role of fielding questions during the impeachment trial, had communicated through his staff to McConnell’s office that he did not want to read the whistleblower’s name, according to insiders.
Paul promised to press on. His office said the senator believes “it is crucial the American people get the full story on what started the Democrats’ push to impeach President Donald Trump.”
Senators faced eight hours Thursday of final questions ahead of Friday’s expected votes.
In a day-after tweet, Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz complained about the media’s portrayal of his testimony Wednesday night that a president, if he believes his re-election is in the “national interest,” is essentially immune from impeachment for actions in support of that idea.
“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything,” Dershowitz, the longtime mentor of former President Barack Obama, said Thursday. “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”
Dershowitz testified to the Senate jurors late Wednesday that the quid pro quo charge at the heart of Trump’s impeachment — even if proven — could not be grounds for his impeachment.
“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” he said Wednesday night. “And if a president does something, which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Republicans appear intently focused on bringing the impeachment trial to a vote of acquittal, possibly in a matter of days. New revelations from former national security adviser Bolton are being countered by the president’s lawyers, who used Wednesday’s unusual question-and-answer session to warn off prolonging the proceeding.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. warned Trump on Thursday that a sham trial is not acquittal of the impeachment charges against him.
“You can’t be acquitted if you don’t have a trial,” said Pelosi, arguing anew that Trump will be “impeached forever.”
In a Senate split 53-47 in favor of Republicans, at least four GOP senators must join all Democrats to reach the 51 votes required to call witnesses, decide whom to call or do nearly anything else in the trial.
Experts say that remains unlikely — but observers will likely have to wait until the weekend to find out.
Posted Julius Neal Wolfson