Schiff: McConnell’s proposed impeachment trial is ‘the process for a rigged trial’

WASHINGTON – House managers who will prosecute the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump blasted the proposed Senate rules for how the trial will be conducted as “rigged,” just hours before the trial resumes Tuesday.

The lead manager, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said requiring votes to admit evidence the House has collected, and to determine whether to subpoena witnesses or documents, is a recipe for hiding evidence from the American people.

Schiff also said compressing arguments into 12-hour days that begin at 1 p.m., as proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would discourage people from watching the trial. Schiff said the argument time was expanded from six-hour days during the 1999 trial of former President Bill Clinton.

The Senate will resume its impeachment trial of the president at 1 p.m. 

“This is not a process for a fair trial. This is the process for a rigged trial,” Schiff told reporters at a news conference. “This is the process for if you do not want the American people to see the evidence.”

What to expect Tuesday:What is planned to take place as the Senate trial resumes

As an example, Schiff cited text messages between top diplomats questioning Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, which are at the heart of his impeachment. Schiff also said it is important to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who each declined invitations to testify during the House inquiry.

“It will not prove the president innocent,” Schiff said of blocking their testimony. “It will mere prove the Senate guilty of working with the president to obstruct the truth from coming out.”

– Bart Jansen

House impeachment manager Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks on the impeachment rules proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday

Debate on rules to begin at 1 p.m. EST

After House Democrats and Trump’s legal team traded written jabs over the weekend, the Senate will resume its impeachment trial of the president at 1 p.m. Tuesday with a contentious debate about the rules for conducting the proceeding.

McConnell proposed allocating 24 hours to each side to present their case over two session days for each side. With sessions expected to start at 1 p.m. daily, Democrats assailed the proposal for having the trial run late into the night.

After opening arguments, senators would have 16 hours to pose written questions to both sides through Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.

But the Senate wouldn’t automatically accept the House evidence gathered so far. Under McConnell’s proposal, four hours of debate over whether to subpoena witnesses or documents would come after the opening arguments and questions.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the proposal a “national disgrace” and said he would offer amendments.

“Under this resolution, Sen. McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,” Schumer said.

Who are the managers?:Who are the 7 impeachment managers selected for the Senate trial of President Donald Trump?

The seven House managers who will prosecute the case issued a joint statement calling McConnell’s proposal “an effort to prevent the full truth of the president’s conduct from coming to light.” The managers said it could become the first trial in history without House witnesses and documents.

“That is not a fair trial. In fact, it is no trial at all,” said the managers: Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff of California, Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Zoe Lofgren of California, Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia Garcia of Texas. “A White House-driven and rigged process, with a truncated schedule designed to go late into the night and further conceal the President’s misconduct, is not what the American people expect or deserve.”

The Constitution sets few requirements for a Senate trial, so senators must still decide basic rules such as to when the trial will be conducted each day and how long each side will have to speak. The set of rules is called an organizing resolution.

A 51-vote majority of senators will set the rules – both at the beginning of the trial and whether to call witnesses – in a chamber with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats.

Trump will spend the opening two days of the trial at an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. “He has a full day here in Davos, but will be briefed by staff periodically,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

– Bart Jansen

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 16, 2020. The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump will be formally read to the Senate by Adam Schiff, lead impeachment manager.

White House lawyer could be disqualified, Dems say

House managers who are prosecuting the case against Trump suggested Tuesday that the president’s top defense lawyer, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, could be disqualified from the trial because of his first-hand knowledge about the case.

The managers sent a five-page letter to Cipollone saying he could be a witness and should disclose any facts and information before making legal arguments on Trump’s behalf in the trial. The managers said the disclosure is important so that senators and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, could be aware of any ethics issues, conflicts or biases.

“These risks are so serious that they can require a lawyer’s disqualification,” the letter said.

What is a manager?:What is an impeachment manager, and what do they do?

Managers focused on information that Cipollone had about concerns about Ukraine that several officials raised to the top lawyer at the National Security Council, John Eisenberg. Fiona Hill, a former NSC aide, said Eisenberg became “very concerned” when he learned that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was involved. Other NSC staffers – Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison – also reported concerns to Eisenberg about Trump’s July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The call is at the heart of the impeachment accusations against Trump, which accuse him of pressuring Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“In light of your extensive knowledge of these key events, your personal representation of President Trump threatens to undermine the integrity of the pending trial,” the managers said in the letter.

– Bart Jansen

Will witnesses and documents be permitted?

Whatever logistics are set for arguments, one of most contentious issues is whether the Senate will subpoena witnesses and documents, to gather additional evidence. But the final answer to that question isn’t expected Tuesday.

Schumer has proposed issuing subpoenas for four witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and three batches of documents.

Senate legacy:Trump’s impeachment trial could render verdict on Senate and key players

But McConnell has said he has the votes to postpone that decision until after opening arguments and written questions. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., suggested that if Democrats are allowed to call their witnesses, Republicans will call witnesses such as Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, who worked at a Ukraine gas company.

The articles of impeachment accuse Trump of abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, while withholding $391 million in military aid. The articles also accuse Trump of obstruction of Congress because the White House then directed aides and agencies to defy subpoenas for testimony and documents during the inquiry.

Once the organizing resolution is adopted, the arguments about the evidence begins. House managers and Trump’s legal team offered a sample of their arguments over the weekend, in written briefs.

Trump in Davos:Trump says ‘America is thriving’ at Davos, Switzerland, economic forum before impeachment trial

House Democrats said  there was “overwhelming” evidence against Trump and said he was a danger to the country’s national security.

“President Trump’s misconduct presents a danger to our democratic processes, our national security, and our commitment to the rule of law. He must be removed from office,” the seven House managers wrote in a 111-page filing summarizing their opening arguments for the trial.

Trump’s legal team, meanwhile, called the House impeachment drive “a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election – now just months away.”

Trump’s lawyers said the articles “do not identify any impeachable offense” and that the inquiry was “irredeemably flawed.”

“All that House Democrats have succeeded in proving is that the President did absolutely nothing wrong,” the filing said.

– Bart Jansen

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