Moscow Mitch, perjurer

As we head into Donald Trump's impeachment trial next week, it's worth remembering this promise from Moscow Mitch McConnell:

"I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it. […] The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about this at all."

On Thursday, McConnell stood with his hand in the air in front of Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and took the oath "I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God."

When he took that oath, when he signed his name to the book proclaiming that oath, he became a perjurer. It's not just crazy liberal bloggers saying so. Former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter says so, too.

It's time to end his destructive stranglehold on the republic. Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats and end McConnell's career as majority leader.

What we learned from the opening day of Trump’s impeachment trial

President Trump's impeachment trial, only the third such proceeding in U.S. history, opened in the Senate Thursday. Chief Justice John Roberts and 99 senators were sworn in to their official trial roles. Meanwhile, new evidence related to Trump's Ukraine policy was publicly released. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss the trial and Lev Parnas.

Ukraine launches investigation of alleged surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch

Ukraine has announced a criminal investigation into the claims that former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was under illegal surveillance as part of the campaign to get her fired and out of the way of Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to help him in the 2020 elections. Documents and text records from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas showed a Connecticut Republican congressional candidate claiming to have Yovanovitch under surveillance and suggesting that he could arrange for her to be harmed.

“Ukraine's position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” the country's Interior Ministry said in a statement, but “Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.” The statement did, however, acknowledge that “maybe it was just bravado and fake conversation between two U.S. citizens.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has had nothing to say about the possible threats to one of his department’s officials.

Ukraine will also investigate Russia’s alleged hacking of Burisma, the gas company so often mentioned in the impeachment inquiry.

Bombshell-filled Parnas media tour implicates basically everyone on Team Trump in Ukraine plot

Lev Parnas implicated just about everyone on Team Trump in a massive pressure campaign to get Ukraine to help Donald Trump win in 2020. In Wednesday interviews with a series of media outlets, Parnas said of Trump that “I am betting my whole life that Trump knew exactly everything that was going on that Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine,” of Attorney General William Barr that he “was basically on the team,” of Mike Pence that “He couldn’t have not known,” and of the entire effort that it was “all about 2020.”

Parnas also increased the pressure on the Senate to call former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness in the impeachment trial, saying Bolton “could fit in all the dots, I think, because I was on the ground there, and he was over here.” And what Parnas says he was doing “over there” in Ukraine was delivering explicit extortion demands: “I told them, very strict and stern, that several things: A. That he needed—Zelensky needed to immediately make an announcement literally that night or within the next 24 hours that they were opening an investigation on Biden.”

Team Trump is already running its usual “nobody knows that guy” routine, previously run for multiple campaign advisers and former campaign chair Paul Manafort. But in addition to all of Parnas’ known ties to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and all of Parnas’ documented contact with members of the Trump family, Trump’s other personal lawyer Jay Sekulow wrote to former Trump personal lawyer John Dowd saying that “I have discussed the issue of representation with the President” and “The President consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman.” Dowd subsequently wrote to Congress saying that Parnas and Igor Fruman “assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump.” That meant they’d be covered by attorney-client privilege—how convenient.

Parnas obviously can’t be trusted anywhere near 100%—we don’t know all of his motives, but bailing himself out of trouble by incriminating others is likely one of them. Journalist Marcy Wheeler cautioned that “until we understand why Parnas is doing what he’s doing—why he inserted himself into the right wing echo chamber in the first place, and why he’s so insistent on telling us what we want to hear now—we would do well to exercise caution about the stories he’s telling.” But he definitely ramped up the pressure on wobbly Republican senators to vote for a real impeachment trial with witnesses and document subpoenas.

Nadler: Hunter Biden ‘Is Not a Relevant Witness’ in Impeachment Trial

President Donald Trump has wondered aloud about Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father was serving as vice president of the United States.

But apparently Democrats don’t think that’s a big deal.

‘Not a relevant witness’

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who serves as chairman of the Judiciary Committee and is one of the newly named House impeachment managers, said Hunter Biden is “not a relevant witness” in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

RELATED: Hunter Biden Complains That His Baby Mama Is Trying to ‘Embarrass’ Him

A reporter asked Nadler, who appeared alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “Republicans have suggested they would like to call Hunter Biden. Are you and the managers prepared for that?”

Pelosi asked Nadler to reply.

“Let me say we are prepared, but the relevant question is relevance,” Nadler said.

Pelosi: ‘The president violated his oath of office’

Then House Speaker Pelosi added, “Let me just say that what is at stake here is the Constitution of the United States. This is what an impeachment is about. The president violated his oath of office, undermined our national security, jeopardized the integrity of our elections, tried to use the appropriations process as his private ATM machine to grant or withhold funds granted by Congress in order to advance his personal and political advantage. That is what the senators should be looking into.”

President Trump said in a July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

This was one day removed from Robert Mueller testifying that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Trump told Zelensky that “a lot of it — the election interference — supposedly started in Ukraine: I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people…  The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation.”

“I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people,” Trump continued. “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”

RELATED: Rand Paul Threatens to Drag Hunter Biden Into Impeachment Trial

Zelensky later brought up “investigations.”

“I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you,” he told President Trump.

Trump responded, “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”

The post Nadler: Hunter Biden ‘Is Not a Relevant Witness’ in Impeachment Trial appeared first on The Political Insider.

White House responds to House impeachment with more lies and gibberish

White House "press secretary" Stephanie Grisham, who may or may not be a crisis actor hired on for three hours a week or Andy Kaufman doing a bit from beyond the grave, is out with the official Trump White House response to impeachment.

It's not worth more than a cursory going-over, because Stephanie Grisham is a propagandist working against the interests of this nation. She is a liar. The brief statement is a rehash of Team Trump burnings on "this sham, illegitimate impeachment process," the claim that the House Speaker "lied," and an attack on the House for holding the articles of impeachment over the holidays rather than letting the corrupt McConnell punt them into the Atlantic the day after the House vote. It claims Trump was denied "due process" by the House—when in fact the House had been asking the White House to participate every step of the way. White House lawyers were invited to appear and argue their case; the White House refused. Trump was invited to produce witnesses who could rebut the charges—not only did the White House refuse, Trump's team issued a blanket order forbidding any of his team with direct knowledge from testifying.

The tactical pause in sending impeachment articles to the Senate has already proven its value. Over the holidays and into January, new evidence has continued to come out both confirming the details of the effort to extort the Ukrainian government into opening an "investigation" of one of Trump's political enemies, highlighting Trump's "lawyer" Rudy Giuliani's role not only in that bit of election manipulation but in the efforts of a set of corrupt Ukrainian oligarchs to sabotage the current Ukrainian government, and adding astonishing new hints that the team may have contemplated violent acts against the U.S. ambassador they saw as blocking their efforts.

All of this is information that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Trump's other Senate allies had intended to render moot with a quick, no-witnesses, no-arguments nullification of the House charges. McConnell was quite open in stating his intentions. He publicly bragged about it.

The House thwarted that plan with the holiday delay. Now that House impeachment investigators have a much clearer picture of how the Senate intends to comport itself, how far Republican senators are willing to go to block evidence, and how unstable McConnell's protection of Trump's extortion racket truly is, in the face of ever-expanding evidence confirming the White House scheme, it has named impeachment managers best equipped to present the House case in those circumstances.

That does not mean anyone in the nation can convince current Republican lawmakers to condemn Trump's plain abuses of the office or prod them into not being active accomplices to corrupt acts. There is no Republican voice—and certainly, not even a single person in the White House itself—not working to assist Trump in getting away with his every profit-seeking and Constitution-bending act. But the House is not going to allow those crimes to be brushed aside so easily. History, at least, will know damn well what each Republican lawmaker stood for, and defended.

Pelosi names effective, experienced team of impeachment managers

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the following members as impeachment managers to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, and to prosecute the case there.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California will serve as the lead manager. He is chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and proved his mettle in that committee's impeachment hearings. He is a formal federal prosecutor. In the announcement, Schiff went straight at Mitch McConnell. "If the Senate wants to see the evidence, they should demand to see the documents and not participate in an effort to stonewall or cover up the President's misconduct."

Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York is chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a graduate of Fordham Law School. He has been a member of the Judiciary Committee for the entirety of his congressional career. In his statement this morning, Nadler reiterated the burden on McConnell. "The Senate is on trial as well as the president."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, is also on the Judiciary Committee, and has the distinction of having worked on every modern impeachment inquiry. As a law student, Lofgren worked on the staff of former Rep. Don Edwards during Watergate, and wrote an article focused on bombing of Cambodia, an article that ended up not being adopted by the House. She was on the Committee during the Clinton proceeding, ultimately voting against those articles, saying "High crimes and misdemeanors is about the government. […] It's about whether the activity of the president really threatens the Constitution or the democracy. That's a very high standard, but it had nothing to do with President Clinton lying about sex."

Rep. Val Demings, the first chief of police of Orlando, Florida, brings strong law enforcement credentials and a blistering, sharp performance in questioning during the Judiciary Committee hearings. Her opening statement in the Judiciary Committee was remarkable: "I come before you tonight as a descendent of slaves. Slaves who knew they would not make it, but dreamed and prayed that one day, that I would make it. I come before you tonight proclaiming that in spite of America’s complicated history, my faith is in the Constitution. […] I've enforced the laws and now I write the laws, and I know that nobody is above the law. But the law means nothing if the accused, whether the man who breaks into your house or the president, can destroy evidence, stop witnesses from testifying and blatantly refuse to cooperate in the investigation." She is also a member of the Intelligence Committee and thus has a comprehensive view of the case.

Rep. Jason Crow is a freshman representative from Colorado. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee, is a veteran, lawyer, and former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with impeccable national security credentials. He is one of the standout, swing-state freshman who wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post early on, in September, making the national security case for impeachment.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from New York is another Judiciary Committee member and part of Pelosi's leadership team, serving as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He attended New York University School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude and served on Law Review. He galvanized the hearings with a history lesson about the threat of "divisiveness" of impeachment. "Slavery once divided the nation, but emancipators rose up to clarify that all men are created equally," he said. "Suffrage once divided the nation, but women rose up to clarify that all voices must be heard in our democracy. Jim Crow once divided the nation, but civil rights champions rose up to clarify that all are entitled to equal protection under the law." This impeachment, he said, "will clarify that in America, no one is above the law."

Rep. Sylvia Garcia, another freshman, is the first Latina ever to represent Texas 29th congressional district and is a lawyer and former judge who is also on the Judiciary Committee. In her statement following her affirmative vote for impeachment, she said "I believe it is important that the Committee follows the evidence wherever it may lead us in determining whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment. […] No person is above the law, including the President of the United States. We have a constitutional obligation to investigate all potentially impeachable offenses."

New documents show new levels of filth and corruption in Trump’s Ukraine extortion campaign

No wonder Donald Trump wants the Senate to quickly short-circuit his impeachment trial: New evidence is constantly coming out about his campaign to extort Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 election. Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released documents from Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani associate who’s already been indicted for funneling foreign money to political campaigns, and they contain bombshell after bombshell. Coming as the House prepares to send the impeachment articles to the Senate, this puts additional pressure on wobbly Republicans to vote to call witnesses in the trial—and it’s information that would not have been out in time for a trial if Speaker Nancy Pelosi hadn’t held the articles since December.

The newly released documents include a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky making it very clear that he’s working for Donald Trump, not the United States government—literally “I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States”—before asking for a meeting with Zelensky in very interesting language. “I have a more specific request. In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you.” With Trump’s knowledge and consent.

They include Giuliani promising to revive a visa for former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin that had been turned down due to his corruption, with Giuliani specifically telling Parnas that “I have no 1 in it.” (Shokin did not end up receiving a visa.)

Parnas also took handwritten notes saying “Get Zalensky to Annouce that the Biden case will be Investigated,” of which former top government lawyers Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer write that it shows that “the real goal here” was “not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of a leading political rival, Joe Biden.” Actual investigations, they point out, happen in secret.

All of these documents are bombshells because they confirm things we already knew, things that are implicit in the White House summary of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky but that Republicans have claimed were innocent or somehow unproven. That’s huge. But Parnas also turned over documents that reveal something new: As Parnas was in contact with Giuliani and working to get Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch removed from her post in Ukraine, another of his associates apparently had her under surveillance. Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, told Parnas he was in touch with a “private security team” and that, at one point, “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off.” At another point, “They will let me know when she’s on the move.” 

”They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde even wrote. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money . . . what I was told.” In other words, you don’t have to get very many steps removed from Trump himself before people involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine into trashing Trump’s political opponents were actually suggesting violence against a United States government official.

And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had his way, the Senate would already have acquitted Trump in a speedy trial with no witnesses. If he has his way, the Senate will still acquit Trump in a speedy trial with no witnesses, even with this information available and former national security adviser John Bolton having said he would testify under subpoena. It’s not just Donald Trump. The Republican Party is a corrupt enterprise throughout its leadership.