California Sen. Dianne Feinstein made comments Tuesday about letting the ‘people judge’ – adding to the uncertainty over impeachment.
The longtime lawmaker from San Francisco made the comment just after lawyers for President Trump finished their defense, as Republicans sorted through an internecine fight over whether to allow witness testimony in the impeachment trial.
‘Nine months left to go, the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge,’ Feinstein told reporters Tuesday. ‘That was my view and it still is my view.’
‘The people should judge,’ said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who later clarified her comments and said Donald Trump withheld ‘foreign assistance for personal political gain’
Feinstein immediately moved to clarify the comment. Even if Feinstein were to vote to acquit, it would not likely change the outcome. There is not evidence impeachment backers are anywhere near the two-thirds needed to remove a president.
Feinstein, 86, said what changed her opinion as the trial went on was realizing ‘impeachment isn’t about one offense. It’s really about the character and ability and physical and mental fitness of the individual to serve the people, not themselves.’
Asked about voting to acquit, she said: ‘We’re not finished.’
After the Los Angeles Times reported the comments under a headline indicating Feinstein was a ‘maybe’ on acquittal, she tweeted Tuesday evening: ‘The LA Times misunderstood what I said today. Before the trial I said I’d keep an open mind. Now that both sides made their cases, it’s clear the president’s actions were wrong. He withheld vital foreign assistance for personal political gain. That can’t be allowed to stand,’ she said.
Feinstein issued a statement seeking to clarify her comments after an LA Times report
Feinstein’s comments caused confusion among press members closely watching the impeachment
The former Senate Intelligence chair retweeted a comment by an Axios reporter who asked the question of her. ‘I think the @LATimes has this story backwards. I was the reporter who asked @SenFeinstein these questions. She told me she was initially going to vote against impeachment ‘before this,’ the reporter wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling members of his conference there aren’t currently the votes to block witnesses in the president’s impeachment trial – as a number of influential Republicans diminished the importance of revelations in John Bolton’s book manuscript.
McConnell’s warning came immediately after Donald Trump’s lawyers rested their defense, as party leaders stood firm on the question of keeping out impeachment trial witnesses.
His acknowledgement came during a closed-door meeting with senators Tuesday after Trump’s lawyers ended their defense, and was reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Senate Republicans huddled after Trump’s lawyers made their final arguments that the president’s conduct wasn’t impeachable – using only half their allotted time in a chamber the GOP controls with a 53-vote majority.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said Bolton’s revelations – which prompted a political battle over whether he should be believed – don’t matter.
In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Later, he told fellow Republicans the votes
‘I don’t think anything he says changes the facts,’ Thune said. ‘We’re kind of confident’ the Trump impeachment trial won’t extend beyond Friday, he added.
‘The consensus is that we’ve heard enough and it’s time to go to a final judgement,’ Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming told The Hill.
A small number of Republicans have either expressed potential support for hearing from witnesses, or said they were holding out until the end of the week. McConnell’s comments is certain to focus minds – and potentially bring more outside pressure from President Trump, who has called the trial a hoax and wants it to end.
Senators acknowledge there is no deal yet on how to proceed, after Bolton’s revelations prompted a series of potential proposals – including deals to pair witnesses for each party, or efforts to subpoena his manuscript without putting the witness himself under oath.
But with several key holdouts saying they are still waiting to make up their minds, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is telling colleagues he doesn’t have the votes to dispense with witnesses.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, told Capitol reporters he won’t make up his mind until the Senate spends Wednesday and Thursday taking written questions from senators. ‘Then I’ll make a decision about whether we need more evidence,’ he said.
One Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, appeared to hedge on whether she wold vote to remove Trump from office, only to issue a clarification via Twitter.
Trump’s defense team concluded its opening arguments Tuesday by taking a hit at Bolton’s upcoming book, claiming it is ‘unsourced’ and insisting the manuscript of the memoir would not be admissible in the trial.
‘What we are involved in here, as we conclude, is perhaps the most solemn of duties under our constitutional framework. The trial of the leader of the free world, and the duly elected president of the United States. It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,’ attorney Alan Dershowitz said during the final day of the defense’s opening arguments against the president’s removal.
In the shortest day of the Senate impeachment so far, Trump’s lawyers closed their opening defense arguing against the articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The Senate convened at 1:00 p.m. and the defense wrapped less than two hours later, only presenting the closing remarks of their opening arguments.
Dershowitz, along with the other all-star team of lawyers, including Ken Starr, Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, asserted that the articles being levied against the president are not actually impeachable offenses according to the Constitution.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton is writing a book, and in a leaked manuscript it was revealed that he detailed a conversation where he said Trump directly linked the freeze in millions of military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.
Donald Trump’s defense team, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (right) and the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow (left) concluded their opening arguments Tuesday against removing Trump. They only spoke for about two hours, marking the shortest day, by far, of the trial since it began last Tuesday
Attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is part of Donald Trump’s defense team, said John Bolton’s forthcoming book is ‘unsourced’ and would be ‘inadmissible’ in the trial
Ousted National Security Advisor John Bolton is writing a book, set for release in mid-March – and senators cited revelations from the upcoming book as reasons they want to hear from him. He detailed a first-hand account of a conversation where he said Trump linked Ukraine aid to an investigation into the Bidens
The two-day question period for Trump’s impeachment that forces senators to put their queries in writing
Now that President Trump’s lawyers have rested their defense, the Senate enters two consecutive days of question time – where lawyers will spar over questions that senators must submit in writing.
The period represents the first opportunity for individual senators to shape the debate, outside of the Capitol hallways where only a fraction of them have been addressing reporters who have been assembled in pens during the impeachment trial.
Sen. Mitch McConnell
The rules only define how the general outlines of how the action will proceed. There are no limits on the topics that the senators may choose – although in practice leadership has the ability to screen and order the questions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the outlines of the process for the first time after Trump’s lawyers wrapped up their defense Tuesday.
‘I remind senators that their questions must be in writing and be submitted to the chief justice. During the question period of the Clinton trial, senators were thoughtful and brief with their questions and the managers and counsel were succinct in their answers. I hope we can follow both of these examples during this time,’ said McConnell.
Notably, he said he worked out the basics with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. The two men did not negotiate over the rules for the trial, which Republicans passed on a party-line vote.
Chief Justice John Roberts addressed the Clinton impeachment – where 100 senators from both sides had reached agreement on the rules.
‘Chief Justice Rehnquist advised counsel, quote: ‘Counsel on both sides, that the chair will operate on a rebuttable presumption that each question can be fully and fairly answered in five minutes or less,’ Roberts said.
‘The transcript indicates that the statement was met with quote laughter, end quote,’ he noted. He said the Rehnquist limit ‘was a good one and [he] would ask both sides to abide by it.’
During the Senate’s Clinton trial in 1999, then majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi described how he and minority leader Tom Daschle would work to divide time evenly between the two parties. Lott took the prerogative to deliver the first question, which a Senate staffer delivered then to Roberts.
‘Senator Daschle and I will try to make sure that the time stays pretty even as we go through the day,’ said Lott. He said Rehnquist would make sure that ‘deliberations and the answers are fair’ – indicating the chief justice had a role in seeing how the debate went forward.
McConnell said there would be second eight-hour session on Thursday, as laid out in the rules.
Dershowitz claimed the information detailed in the book would not be admissible, attempting to deter Democrats for subpoenaing a copy of the unpublished manuscript.
‘The vice president’s chief of staff issued a statement,’ Dershowitz said, then quoted: ‘In every conversation with the president and the vice president, in preparation for our trip to Poland,’ – remember that was the trip that was being planned for the meeting with President Zelensky – ‘the president consistently expresses frustration that the United States was bearing the lion’s share of responsibility for aid to Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing their part. The president also expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine, and at no time did I hear him tie Ukraine aid to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma.’
‘That was the response,’ Dershowitz continued. ‘Responding to an unpublished manuscript that may be, some reporters have an idea of what it maybe says. That is what the evidence – if you want to call that evidence, I don’t know what you would call it. I would call it inadmissible, but that’s what it is.’
‘To argue that the president is not acting in our national interest and is violating his oath of office which the managers have put forward is wrong based on the facts in the way the Constitution designed,’ he continued.
Immediately following the conclusion of opening arguments Tuesday, the seven Democratic impeachment managers, who presented the prosecution last week, held a press conference on the House side of the Capitol.
Schiff called the ending to the defense ‘abrupt’ and said Trump’s team of lawyers were still shaken up from the revelations in Bolton’s book.
‘I want to begin this afternoon with a few observations on the rather abrupt end to the president’s case. It’s clear today, I think, that they are still reeling from the revelation of John Bolton’s book and what he has to say,’ leade impeachment manager Adam Schiff said.
H added that Bolton’s testimony would be ‘relevant’ to the case.
He also referenced that Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly came out Tuesday claiming he believed Bolton’s account of his interaction with the president.
‘As I’m sure you’ve seen, the president’s own former chief of staff, General Kelly, has stated that he believes John Bolton, and more importantly – and that is extraordinary in and of itself, that the president’s own former chief of staff believes John Bolton, and by implication does not believe the President of the United States that he worked closely with for such a long time. But more importantly he also recognizes the importance of calling John Bolton as a witness,’ Schiff said.
The next step following the conclusion of opening statements if that the Senate will spend the next two days on the questioning period, including a resolution on whether to allow the defense and prosecution to call new witnesses to testify in the trial.
The president’s defense presented a case against the articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – claiming they are not actually impeachable offenses, according to the Constitution.
Trump’s legal team opened up an all-out attack on Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, on the second day of its defense Monday, unleashing White House advisor Pam Bondi to accuse him of cashing in on his powerful father.
‘We would prefer not to be talking about this,’ Bondi said of the Bidens in the trial where primarily the Democrats and prosecution brought up the father-son duo to make the case that Trump held up millions in security aide to Ukraine to get an investigation of his political rival.
‘We would prefer not to be discussing this,’ the former Florida attorney general continued in her argument on the Senate floor Monday. ‘But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it.’
She then opened up an attack on Hunter, whose personal struggles have drawn headlines amid disclosures about his work for the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
Dershowitz, and the rest of the defense team, also argued that the articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – are not impeachable offenses as outlined by the Constitution
Herschmann suggested that it could have been used to impeach Obama then read his version of the first article of impeachment – abuse of power – changing Trump’s name for Obama’s and the Ukraine aid allegations for what Obama said.
Bondi described how Hunter Biden joined the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings as a board member even after warning signs about it, and chose not to relinquish his role amid cautions from his business partners.
‘Remember, this is just one month after the United Kingdom serious fraud office opened a money laundering case into Burisma, Hunter Biden joins their board,’ said Bondi.
Democrats argued during their opening last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had a key role in the events that led to the impeachment inquiry.
But the defense pushed back on this claim Monday, insisting that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was only a ‘minor player’ and a ‘distraction’ from the real issues at hand – the Bidens potential corruption.
Jane Raskin, one of Trump’s defense lawyers, downplayed Giuliani’s role as an unofficial presidential envoy to the Ukraine government, and lauded him as a ‘national hero’ for his leadership of New York City after 9/11.
‘In this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player, that shiny object designed to distract you,’ Raskin said on the Senate floor. ‘Senators, I urge you most respectfully, do not be distracted.’
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi defended Donald Trump during the sixth day of impeachment proceedings Monday, tearing into Hunter and Joe Biden. ‘We would prefer not to be discussing this,’ Bondi said of the Bidens. ‘But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it’
The defense wants to call Joe (left) and Hunter Biden (right) to testify if witnesses are permitted in the Senate impeachment trial – claiming their ‘corruption’ in Ukraine is at the center of the proceedings
Giuliani, Democrats charge, engaged in shadow diplomacy in Ukraine, including corresponding with President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into Hunter’s role at Burisma.
The defense also found itself having to address Monday a bombshell report that emerged over the weekend revealing Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton details in a new book his first-hand account of the president linking Ukraine military aid to a probe into the Bidens.
Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Democrat lawyer brought on to engage in opening arguments against Trump’s removal, told senators in a prime-time law lecture Monday that Bolton’s revelations about a quid pro quo – ‘even if true’ – must not be used to remove Trump from office.
Despite the defense’s dismissal of the revelations that emerged from the leaked Bolton manuscript, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested the upcoming book just helps the prosecution’s case in demanding new witnesses.
‘The New York Times reported on several stunning chapters from Ambassador Bolton’s book,’ Schumer said during a press conference Tuesday morning.
‘The same New York Times story places Mick Mulvaney at the center of this plot. He’s more important, probably, than Bolton. And the emails from Duffey and Blair – the two other witnesses we seek – are even more relevant as this information comes out,’ Schumer continued.
‘So I understand why Leader McConnell and President Trump wanted a very short, incredibly rushed trial: because they longer it goes on, the more likely that new evidence, and more new evidence will comes out that further implicates the president,’ he told reporters at the Capitol.
Democrats in the Senate want to hear from witnesses they say are relevant: Bolton, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, his senior advisor Robert Blair and associate director of the Office of Management and Budget’s National Security Program, Michael Duffey.
Blair was in the room when Trump held the infamous July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart and Duffey was given authority by the White House to freeze millions in military aid to the Eastern European nation.
Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and former O.J. Simpson attorney, made the impassioned plea as the headliner at Monday’s impeachment trial, appearing after numerous other Trump lawyers at the end of the second-day of Trump’s defense.
He revisited his controversial argument that ‘Abuse of Power’ does not constitute an impeachable offense, telling senators that the Founders specifically rejected such vague terms when hashing out the Constitution in Philadelphia.
Dershowitz said Monday that even if the allegations in the book were true, they could not be used to remove the president
READ THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST DONALD TRUMP
In 1,414 words, the articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives lay out two charges against President Donald Trump.
Article I: Abuse of Power
Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.
He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.
President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.’
Article II: Obstruction of Congress
As part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials.
In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment — and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.
He counted it among the ‘vague, open-ended, and subjective terms that the framers feared and rejected.’
‘Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,’ said Dershowitz, who has been a strong defender of the president’s on Fox news and in other venues.
‘If a president, any president, were to have done what the [New York] Times reported about the contact of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute and impeachable offense,’ Dershowitz intoned.
‘It is inconceivable that the framers would have intended so politically loaded and promiscuously deployed a term as abuse of power to be weaponized as a tool of impeachment,’ he said.
At one point he turned to opposing Democratic lawyers, and said: ‘I’m sorry, House managers, you just picked the wrong criteria. You picked the most dangerous possible criteria to serve as a precedent for with you we supervise future presidents.’
After dissing the language they chose for the name of the articles, he acknowledged that they were not ‘saved’ by the inclusion of ‘somewhat more specific but still non criminal-type conduct.’
Among the disclosures reported about from the Bolton manuscript is that Trump told him in August 2019 that he wouldn’t release millions in frozen military aid to Ukraine unless it publicly announced it was investigating the Bidens.
Democratic impeachment members have repeatedly alleged the episode as part of their case for abuse of power, and demanded the Senate hear from Bolton as a witness under oath.
Trump’s team resumed its efforts to blast the case against him and defend the president’s interactions with Ukraine – with Independent Counsel Ken Starr taking making the case that impeachment is invoked ‘all too frequently.’
Starr, who led the impeachment case in the same chamber in 1999, bemoaned the arrival of an ‘age of impeachment’ without sufficient justification.
‘Like war, impeachment is hell. Or at least, presidential impeachment is hell,’ said Starr.
Starr began his remarks hours after bombshell revelations in a new book manuscript claimed the president personally tied millions in military aide to Biden investigations.
Starr began his remarks not by pointing to fights over Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine or the murky way a whistleblower came to light – but with a history lesson that referenced the Nixon impeachment, Iran Contra, and other partisan clashes – then went back to the British parliament of the 19th Century.
‘Instead of a once in a century phenomenon, which it had been, presidential impeachment has become a weapon,’ he said.
Democrats included an ‘Obstruction of Congress’ article after the administration refused to provide documents or make witnesses available for the impeachment inquiry in the House.
Republicans senators are saying it’s increasingly likely there will be witnesses called in Donald Trump ‘s impeachment trial in the wake of revelations from John Bolton’s forth coming book.
‘Like war, impeachment is hell,’ former Independent Counsel Ken Starr told senators as a member of President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense
LEGAL SHOWDOWN AT THE CAPITOL: Trump impeachment attorney Kenneth Starr arrives at the U.S. Capitol on the sixth day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, in Washington, DC, Monday, January 27, 2020
Ken Starr, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020
Mitt Romney and Susan Collins said it’s increasingly likely witnesses will be called in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial
JOHN BOLTON’S KEY REVELATIONS
John Bolton makes a series of bombshell claims in his book, according to the part of the manuscript seen by the New York Times.
- Trump told Bolton in August 2019 that he would not release military aid to the Ukraine until they investigated the Bidens and claims of trying to intervene in 2016 in favor of Hillary Clinton
- Mike Pompeo privately admitted that Rudy Giuliani’s claims Marie Yovanovitch were corrupt were baseless – and that he suspected they were being made to help other Giuliani clients
- Bolton warned White House lawyers that he feared Giuliani was using his work with the president to help his private clients
- Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, was present at least once when Trump and Giuliani discussed Yovanovitch. Mulvaney has told ‘associates’ he stepped away from such conversations
- Pompeo told Bill Barr that he was mentioned in the July call with Zelensky. The Justice Department claims Barr did not know until mid-August
- Trump railed about Ukraine trying to ‘damage’ him in May 2019 when he met Ron Johnson, a Republican senator who was going to Zelensky’s inauguration. And Trump also mentioned the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had a hacked Democratic server
- Bill Barr expressed concerns about Trump doing personal favors for autocrats including China’s Xi and Turkey’s Erdogan when Bolton raised the issue with him
Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins – two crucial votes in the Democrats’ quest to bring more witnesses in the trial – said it’s important to hear from the former national security adviser.
They also both said they have spoken with their colleagues about the topic, which could be seen as a warning to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell that support is there for such a move.
Democrats need four Republican senators to cross to their side and vote to subpoena witnesses.
‘It’s increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton,’ Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday.
‘I of course will make a final decision on witnesses after we hear not only from the prosecution but from the defense,’ he said. ‘I think at this stage it’s fair to say John Bolton has a relevant testimony.’
Bolton has said he will testify if subpoenaed by the Senate.
Some of the president’s defenders, however, have charged Bolton with trying to sell a book. Bolton was fired from the White House in September of last year.
‘Truly there’s nothing new here. It does seem to be an effort to sell books. I think there’s going to be a new revelation every day. Today’s just one more day,’ said Republican Sen. John Barrasso.
‘I don’t think it changes any fundamental information of the basic case, that the House has to put the case together,’ said Sen. Roy Blunt.
McConnell has said the Senate will vote on calling witnesses after opening arguments are made. That would set up a vote sometime this week.
President Trump denied the charges in Bolton’s book
The impeachment trial was upended Sunday night when The New York Times reported on a leaked copy of an unpublished manuscript for the new book Bolton is writing.
‘The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,’ is scheduled to be published March 17.
In it, Bolton wrote that the president told him he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until the Eastern European nation helped with political investigations into his political rivals.
Trump has denied the charge.
‘I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,’ he tweeted in response.
The president also told reporters at the White House on Monday that he has not seen Bolton’s manuscript.
Bolton had sent it to the White House for pre-publishing clear, which is required by federal law when former government employees with security clearances are writing about their time in government service in order to assure classified information is not compromised.
Sarah Tinsley, an advisor to Bolton, said in a statement: ‘The ambassador’s manuscript was transmitted to the White House in hard copy several weeks ago for pre-publication review by the NSC. The ambassador has not passed the draft manuscript to anyone else. Period.’