January 25, 2020

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:

Democrats are having a field day after Trump's lawyers accidentally made the strongest case to call witnesses in his impeachment trial (Sonam Sheth, 1/25/20, Business Insider)

[O]n Saturday, Trump's lawyers seemed to bolster Democrats' case by repeatedly claiming that they hadn't heard from a single witness who had "direct contact" with the president.

Although their statements were misleading (Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union, was in frequent touch with Trump and testified to Congress that the president engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine), Democratic lawmakers noted that their statements underscored the need to hear from more firsthand witnesses.

It's worth noting, too, that though the president's lawyers complain of not hearing testimony from witnesses who spoke to Trump directly, the defense team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone could easily solve that problem by retracting the Cipollone's sweeping directive last year which barred all executive branch officials across six agencies from cooperating with the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry.

Multiple senior administration officials in the president's inner circle -- like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former national security adviser John Bolton -- cited Cipollone's command, which he made at the president's direction, as the reason they would not testify or provide relevant documents.

Bolton, who was at the center of a number of episodes investigated in the inquiry, has since said that he will testify if the Senate decides to subpoena him.

"Now, the first point that I would like to make is that the president's counsel did something that they did not intend: They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents," said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

"They kept saying there are no eyewitness accounts, but there are people who have eyewitness accounts, the very four witnesses and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for," he said. "But there are people who do know. Mick Mulvaney knows. In all likelihood, Mr. [Robert] Blair, [an aide to Mulvaney], knows. Mr. Bolton may know. 'Why shouldn't we have witnesses and documents here?' I thought."

Sen. Joe Manchin of Virginia, who is widely considered a Democratic swing vote because he represents a deep-red state, told CNN he thought Trump's team did a "good job" of "making me think about things." He added, "One thing that stuck in my mind is they said there isn't a witness they have had so far that had direct contact with the president. I'd love to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton."

Posted by at January 25, 2020 5:15 PM

  

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