House prepares to vote on impeachment

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6:33 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

Romney refuses to say if he wants witnesses at Senate trial

From CNN's Manu Raju 

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said that he wants to talk to his colleagues about whether witnesses are necessary, saying he has a point of view on the topic but didn’t want to talk about it yet. 

He also refused to say if President Trump’s ask to investigate a political rival was appropriate, saying he had put out some tweets on the topic already.

More on this: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a letter that he prefers a Senate impeachment trial with witness testimony and new documents. The New York Democrat wants at least four witnesses to testify.

"We believe all of this should be considered in one resolution. The issue of witnesses and documents, which are the most important issues facing us, should be decided before we move forward with any part of the trial," Schumer wrote in the letter, adding that he would be "open to hearing the testimony of additional witnesses."

Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, rejected Chuck Schumer's demands for the four witnesses, saying today that the Senate is the "jury" and that we "shouldn't be sort of trying to retry it or redo something that they've already had a shot at."

5:01 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

Podcast: Schumer is ready to negotiate for four witnesses

President Trump is about to be impeached by the House, yet somehow it is anticlimactic.

Still, major questions remain about the inevitable Senate trial. In particular, will there be witnesses? (Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for at least four witnesses to testify.) Will we hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton? And is the entire saga finally weighing on Trump?

In the latest episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast, CNN political director David Chalian previews a historic week with CNN senior writer Zach Wolf and CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood.

Listen to the podcast here.

5:56 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

Burr says he doesn’t want to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton at Senate trial

From CNN's Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly 

Republican Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked if he wanted to hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton in a Senate trial.

Burr simply responded, “No.”

Some background: In the letter obtained by CNN, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for at least four witnesses to testify: Mulvaney, Bolton, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.

Asked about Schumer’s Senate trial proposal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’ll be getting together and have more to say tomorrow.”

3:53 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

Trump says he hasn't learned "too much" about Giuliani's trip to Ukraine

From CNN's Matthew Hoye

President Trump said he hasn’t learned “too much” about his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s recent trip to Ukraine.

Asked today how much Giuliani shared with him about the trip, Trump responded, “Not too much.” 

Then the President proceeded to defend Giuliani’s reputation, calling him a “great crime fighter” and “the best mayor in the history of the city of New York.” 

“He’s a great person who loves our country and he does this out of love, believe me. He does it out of love. He sees what goes on. He sees what’s happening. He sees all of the hoax that happens when they talk about impeachment hoax or the Russian collusion delusion and he sees it,” Trump said. 

CNN previously reported that Trump met with Giuliani on Friday.

 

3:46 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

McConnell opposes impeachment witnesses now. But he supported them during Clinton's trial.

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is arguing against witnesses giving testimony in the expected impeachment trial of President Trump — but he had a different view in 1999 when he advocated for a request by Republican House impeachment managers to have witnesses testify in the case against then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. 

“There have been 15 impeachments in the history of the country. Two of them were cut short by resignations. In the other 13 impeachments there were witnesses,” he told CNN’s Larry King Live on January 28, 1999, as the Clinton trial played out in the Senate. “It’s not unusual to have a witness in a trial. It’s certainly not unusual to have witness in an impeachment trial.”

“The House managers have only asked for three witnesses. I think that’s pretty modest,” he added.

McConnell opposes witnesses now. He is pressing for a short trial and a vote on the articles of impeachment sometime soon after the trial gets underway.

Speaking to Fox’s Sean Hannity last week, McConnell explained why he opposes extending a trial by having witnesses even as he indicated no final decisions have been made and he would “take my cues” from Trump’s lawyers on the issue. 

“If you know you have the votes, you’ve listened to the arguments on both sides and believe the case is so slim, so weak that you have the votes to end it, that might be what the President’s lawyers would prefer. And you can certainly make the case for making it shorter rather than longer since it’s such a weak case,” McConnell said. 

A Republican aide said the circumstances were different in the Clinton matter because the House managers wanted to play videotaped depositions, not live witnesses as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded in a letter sent to McConnell Sunday. The aide also said McConnell would have been open to Clinton presenting witness testimony too.

3:46 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

How the White House is responding to Schumer's trial proposal

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

Today the White House reviewed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's proposal for a Senate trial.

Here's the response from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham:

“House Democrats violated their own rules and any historical precedent of fairness while conducting their illegitimate impeachment sham. Senator Schumer’s letter is just more proof that the only evidence the House produced, actually proves President Trump did nothing wrong.” 

What Schumer wants: In the letter obtained by CNN, Schumer called for at least four witnesses to testify: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey. Several Republican senators have warned that live witnesses could lead to a circus atmosphere in the Senate.

He also laid out his preference for how long House managers and White House counsel would have to make their cases, cross-examine witnesses and give closing arguments.

2:53 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

House argues it still needs access to Mueller grand jury details for impeachment proceedings

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

With a historic vote in the impeachment inquiry looming, the House is arguing to a federal appeals court today that it still needs access to confidential grand jury information from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for use in the current impeachment proceedings.

Attorneys for the House told the DC Circuit Court of Appeals some of the still-secret information may have to do with Ukraine.

The grand jury information allegedly contains “certain redacted materials [that] pertain to a Trump Campaign member’s dealings with Ukraine, and bear on whether the President committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 Presidential election,” the House wrote in a court filing today.

“The need for the withheld material grows more urgent by the day,” the attorneys wrote.

The House says the material, which apparently includes information collected about the Trump campaign’s interest in WikiLeaks in 2016, is “bearing on the impeachment of President Trump” and whether Trump obstructed Mueller with his written answers to questions about WikiLeaks.

What happens next: The case will be argued at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 3. The Justice Department is still attempting to block the House’s request for the grand jury material after a lower-level judge sided with the House.

2:39 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

These former GOP lawmakers want Don McGahn to testify under House subpoena

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Several Republican former members of Congress and notable lawyers have signed a brief encouraging an appellate court to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify under a House subpoena.

Five of the 20 Republicans who signed the brief are members of the group Checks and Balances, including George Conway, husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

The case will be argued Jan. 3 at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here's a list of those GOP lawmakers:

  • Former Texas Rep. Steve Bartlett
  • Former Missouri Reps. Jack Buechner and Tom Coleman
  • Former Oklahoma Rep. Mickey Edwards
  • Former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon J. Humphrey
  • Former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis
  • Former Arizona Rep. James Kolbe
  • Former California Rep. Steven T. Kuykendall
  • Former Iowa Rep. Jim Leach
  • Former Mississippi Rep. Mike Parker
  • Former Wisconsin Reps. Thomas E. Petri and Reid J. Ribble
  • Former Vermont Rep. Peter Smith
  • Former New Jersey Rep. Dick Zimmer
2:38 p.m. ET, December 16, 2019

Top Senate Democrat says there is "no good reason" for witnesses not to testify at impeachment trial

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, held a news conference this afternoon to address his request that four White House witnesses testify if impeachment reaches a trial in the Senate.

Asked if he thought the House should have gone to court to try to compel the testimony of these witnesses, Schumer said he wouldn't "second guess" the House but added there is "no good argument" not to have these witnesses testify at a possible Senate trial "if you're interested in facts."

He added that he thinks live testimony from witnesses "is the best way to go" at trial.

What's this all about: Earlier today, Schumer sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell requesting testimony from: acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, Mulvaney's senior adviser Robert Blair, and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.

"These are the four who have the most direct contact of the facts that are in dispute," Schumer said today.