The latest on President Trump's impeachment

By Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:09 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019
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7:30 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

White House threatened spending bill veto and potential shutdown over congressional push on Ukraine payments

From CNN's Phil Mattingly, Jim Acosta and Caroline Kelly


The White House insisted House Democrats drop language in the year-end spending bill establishing a specific and quick timeline on deploying appropriated aid to Ukraine or risk a veto, multiple people involved with the talks told CNN.

The disagreement was contentious and the White House drew a red line on the issue, the people said. But the issue was eventually resolved over the course of a few days as Democrats backed down, with the threat of a shutdown never moving to the forefront, people said. A White House official confirmed today that President Trump will sign both the defense bill and the omnibus bill and that the spending bill is not in jeopardy, citing a legal requirement that the defense bill must be signed first. 

The people acknowledged that the White House's position wasn't viewed during the talks as out of line or conspiratorial, and that the limits Democrats were trying to put in place were a stretch. But the optics of the White House rejecting the proposal in a budget deal staving off a government shutdown were not ideal in light of the prominent role of Ukraine in the President's ongoing impeachment ordeal.

Trump leaves Washington today and White House officials say he will sign the $1.4 trillion spending package before he departs, officially taking the threat of a government shutdown off the table.

That House Democrats agreed to drop the proposal underscored that there was an understanding that it was far reaching. An administration official that said there was some friction over what were described as "poison pill riders" that were ultimately dropped as part of the negotiating process.

"We are grateful that together Congress and the administration found a path forward that protected the President's constitutional authority, addressed Congress' interest in this issue and was ultimately enacted into law," Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director and key negotiator on the spending package, said in a statement. 

The issue was first reported by the Washington Post. 

5:49 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

Podcast: What is Nancy Pelosi up to?

Impeachment has become a waiting game, as both parties maneuver to shape the Senate trial, testing President Trump's patience.

Meanwhile, candidates at the Democratic presidential debate tried to move past the effort to remove Trump from office. But will their early advocacy for impeachment help or hurt them at the polls?

In today's episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast, CNN senior writer Zach Wolf makes sense of the road ahead with CNN reporter and producer Marshall Cohen and CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim.

Listen to the podcast here.

5:43 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

Pelosi is looking to select a team that reflects her caucus, sources say

From CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

It's still an open question which House Democratic lawmakers will prosecute the case in the Senate as impeachment managers, which will be selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, though she is expected to name Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, who chair the two committees that spearheaded the impeachment proceedings, as the leaders of the impeachment manager team.

Sources involved in the conversations also believe that Pelosi is looking to select a team that reflects her caucus. Among those being considered are...

  • Florida Rep. Val Demings
  • California Rep. Zoe Lofgren
  • New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries
  • Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi
  • Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes
  • California Rep. Eric Swalwell
  • Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin
  • California Rep. Jackie Speier
  • Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro

But Democrats say Pelosi has not made any final decision, especially because she doesn't know the makeup of the trial. And she has not informed her colleagues who she is expected to name.

"If the Senate decides we're doing to have a full-blown trial with witnesses and cross examination, that might suggest a certain set of individuals with a certain skill set," said Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island. "If instead, the Senate is going to limit it to some legal arguments or some constitutional arguments, that may suggest another set of managers."

The sources say if the Senate is expected to hold a short trial with no witnesses, there will likely be a more limited team. A longer trial would likely to lead to a more robust team.

3:54 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

White House officials talked to McConnell today during their trip to the Capitol

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Ted Barrett

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Eric Ueland, the director of White House legislative affairs, were on Capitol Hill today for a "run-through" in the Senate.

Ueland said they were invited by McConnell to do a run-through today and “we very graciously accepted.”

As Ueland and Cipollone left the Capitol, Ueland said they had a brief conversation with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Beyond that, Ueland just reiterated they were working through logistics and potential office space for the trial. Asked if they had preference for specific office space, Ueland said that would be up to the McConnell.

Some context: McConnell has said he would coordinate with White House counsel on "everything" regarding the looming Senate impeachment trial. The majority leader has faced backlash from Democrats for the comments.

2:34 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

Trump accepts Pelosi's State of the Union invitation

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

The White House just released a statement confirming that President Trump accepted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's invitation to deliver the State of the Union address on Feb. 4. 

Pelosi sent out the invitation earlier today.

The invitation from Pelosi comes just days after the House of Representatives took the historic step of voting to impeach Trump, a move that has led to an escalation of partisan tensions on Capitol Hill.

3:40 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

White House staffers did a "run-through" on the Senate floor

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Ted Barrett

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Eric Ueland, director of White House legislative affairs, arrived at the Capitol and briefly stopped into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

They quickly moved to the Senate floor, where they disappeared inside. The floor is technically closed today and the Senate is in recess.

Ueland said they were invited by McConnell to do a "run-through" today and “we very graciously accepted.”

As to the specifics, Ueland said only: “It will be a good straightforward run-through.”

As Ueland and Cipollone left the Capitol, Ueland said they did have a brief conversation with McConnell, who is still here.

2:02 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

White House counsel's office says it's ready to start the impeachment trial

From CNN's Ted Barret, Pam Brown and Manu Raju

Senator Mitch McConnell is meeting with his staff at the Capitol this afternoon before they break for the holiday.

In the meantime, White House counsel Pat Cipollone is expected to also be on the Hill today.

All this is happening while the White House counsel’s office also continues to prep for the Senate trial despite the uncertainty. A White House official says the counsel’s office is ready to start as soon as the trial starts and is not deterred by the House delay in transmitting the articles. 

President Trump is anxious for the trial to start as soon as possible, despite McConnell saying he’s okay with a delay.

A source familiar adds that McConnell has arranged for the White House team to scout some locations in the Senate this afternoon to see where the trial would physically take place. The source says McConnell and Cipollone are not expected to meet. 

1:34 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

Trump continues to jab at Christian magazine that called for his removal from office

From CNN's Allison Malloy

President Trump is continuing his criticisms of Christianity Today following the op-ed in the magazine Thursday calling for his impeachment.

Trump tweeted, "no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!" 

Trump wrote that the magazine must be "looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!"

More context: The editor in chief of the Christian magazine, who wrote an op-ed that called for Trump to be removed from office, told CNN today he doesn't believe his comments will shake the President's strong hold on evangelicals.

Mark Galli of Christianity Today, which was founded by late evangelist Billy Graham, made headlines yesterday when he called Trump a "grossly immoral character" and said the need to remove him was not about "partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments."

Read Trump's tweet:

1:24 p.m. ET, December 20, 2019

Trump returns today to Mar-a-Lago for the first time since being impeached

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins and Sarah Westwood

President Trump is headed today to Mar-a-Lago for two weeks as White House aides begin drawing careful plans for the coming Senate trial.

There remain a number of decisions on Trump's legal strategy that are likely to be made within the Italianate walls of Mar-a-Lago: finalizing the legal team that will present evidence, determining who will make opening and closing arguments, and arranging who will go on television afterward to amplify the message.

Several officials have quietly expressed concern about the duration of the President's visit, reasoning that the longer he spends in the Florida sun, the more opportunity outsiders will have to influence him or for news coverage to infuriate him, as has happened over and over during his stays at the private club.

As Trump returns to Mar-a-Lago for the first time since being impeached, the risk — or hope, for some — is that the two-week stay will plunge Trump back toward his most reflexive behavior, bridling at his lawyers' and Senate Republicans' efforts to rein him in, people close to Trump said.

"That's the place where he gets the reinforcement. Whatever he wants to do or thinks is right, they say that's great. Nobody challenges him," said Laurence Leamer, the author of "Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump's Presidential Palace."

 Keep reading.