Donald Trump looks all but certain to be acquitted by the Senate as Republicans rejected a Democratic effort to force new evidence and witnesses ahead of the president’s impeachment vote.
Just two Republicans broke rank to vote with Democrats in favour of further witnesses, which will likely allow Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to make good on his previous promise not to act as an impartial juror. In response, Chuck Schumer cast the results as making it impossible for Mr Trump to be truly vindicated.
“If the president is acquitted with no witnesses, no documents, the acquittal will have no value because Americans will know that this trial was not a real trial,” Mr Schumer said.
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Two potential swing vote Republicans, who Democrats had hoped to break from their party line and ask to hear from witnesses, ultimately decided against the proposition. Senators Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski ultimately rejected the motion.
Following the vote, and his desired outcome, Mr McConnell said that the senators will “confer among ourselves, with the House managers, and with the president’s counsel to determine next steps as we prepare to conclude the trial in the coming days”.
Before his departure to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend as the Senate debated the next steps in his impeachment trial, the president announced an expansion of his travel ban, adding six additional countries to a list of seven others with travel restrictions under guidance from his Department of Homeland Security. Many of the impacted countries have majority Muslim populations.
The White House also announced the US will deny entry to foreign nationals attempting to enter the US within two weeks of visiting China in the wake of a rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak that has sickened thousands of people in a dozen countries.
The US has declared a national emergency as it responds to 200 quarantined people, including six infected patients, in the US.
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Hello and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
Senate ready to acquit Trump after Lamar Alexander drops witness supportDonald Trump looks all but certain to be acquitted by the Senate – perhaps as imminently as Friday evening – as a key Republican senator, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, backed away from supporting Democratic calls to extend the impeachment trial by calling new witnesses.Alexander issued a 15-part thread on Twitter overnight, declaring there is “no need” for more evidence as to the president’s conduct, which he admitted was “inappropriate”, because it was not, in his view, impeachable.Here is it’s opening and end – you can read the full statement here.His decision appears to represent a hammer blow to Democratic hopes of finding four GOP senators with a conscience to overcome the 53-47 deficit in the chamber that would have allowed them to force the issue and subpoena the likes of ex-national security adviser John Bolton or current White House aides Mick Mulvaney, Rob Blair and Michael Duffey.It followed Susan Collins of Maine coming forward to pledge that she would support such a motion – Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska might still join her but three would not be enough.The reaction against Senator Alexander has been nothing short of vitriolic:
Senators issue tough questions on Giuliani, Roberts and president’s lies at trialThe Senate finished taking questions from senators yesterday, with Rudy Giuliani and even presiding Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts coming under fire, and will today move on to closing arguments.In the first bipartisan question of the two-day session, four senators asked whether Trump would pledge to stop using private citizens to conduct foreign policy without being formally designated by the president and the State Department – an implicit condemnation of his private attorney, who was running off the leash in Ukraine last spring in pursuit of dirt on Joe Biden and engineered the removal (and surveillance) of US ambassador to Kiev Marie Yovanovitch.Patrick Philbin, a deputy counsel on the president’s legal team, denied anything like that had taken place.Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator running for the White House asked, explosively: “Does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?”Democratic impeachment manager Adam Schiff answered that Justice Roberts had “presided admirably” over the trial.Susan Collins and three GOP colleagues wanted to know if there was a proper means of approaching Ukraine for an investigation into Biden (as opposed to extorting Volodymyr Zelenksy by phone and withholding congressionally-approved military aid). Schiff said the Justice Department should have drafted a mutual legal assistance treaty if it was serious about thwarting corruption.Democrats Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden asked: “If President Trump remains in office, what signal does that send to other countries intent on interfering with our election s in the future and what might we expect from those countries and the president?”Impeachment maganger Hakeem Jeffries answered: “This is not a banana republic. It’s the democratic republic of the United States of America. It’s wrong.”California’s Kamala Harris cited the notorious Access Hollywood tape to ask: “President Nixon said, ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.’ Before he was elected, President Trump said, ‘When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.’ After he was elected, President Trump said that Article II of the Constitution gives him ‘the right to do whatever [he] want[s] as president.’“These statements suggest that each of them believed that the president is above the law – a belief reflected in the improper actions that both presidents took to affect their reelection campaigns. If the Senate fails to hold the president accountable for misconduct, how would that undermine the integrity of our system of justice?”“If you look at the pattern in this president’s conduct in his words, what you see is a president who identifies the state as being himself,” Schiff said in his response.Bernie Sanders went in on Trump for lying: “Republican lawyers have stated on several occasions that two people, Senator [Ron] Johnson and Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland, were told directly by President Trump that there was no quid pro quo in terms of holding back Ukraine aid in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens.“Given the media has documented President Trump’s thousands of lies while in office, more than 16,200 as of January 20, why should we be expected to believe that anything President Trump says has credibility?”But one man whose question went unanswered was Kentucky senator Rand Paul.John T Bennett has more on that one.
Trump mocks rivals, warns farmers their land will ‘go to hell’ without himThe president was on jubilant form at his latest Keep America Great rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday night, mocking his potential 2020 challengers and bizarrely warning his rural audience that the opposition “want to kill our cows” and that their farms would “go to hell” unless he is re-elected in November.“During this campaign season, the good people of Iowa have had a front row seat to the lunacy and the madness of the totally sick left,” he said, speaking from the basketball court on campus at the city’s Drake University.“This November we’re going to defeat the radical socialist Democrats that are right down the street… America will never be a socialist country. We can’t.”He also said he was not worried about his impeachment, insisting: “This is a happy period.”Largely playing the hits, Trump mocked Biden’s failing memory, called Warren “Pocahontas” and Mike Bloomberg “Mini” and took on Pete Buttigieg in unoriginal fashion: ““How about But-Edge-Edge? They call him Mayor Pete. You know why? Nobody can pronounce his name.”His weird bovine warning and scaremongering were part of a broad appeal to local farmers, who he said would be “driving bigger tractors and owning more land” if they voted for four more years of Trump.In a nod to the state’s large number of social and religious conservatives, he talked about his appointment of conservative judges and attacked late-term abortion, all of which earned loud applause.Here’s Andrew Buncombe’s report.
Trump wheels out Sarah Sanders in play to red state base but protesters out in forceTrump was introduced on stage last night by veep Mike Pence and his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and was largely playing to a crowd of crazed MAGA zealots……but there were some protesters out in force.
John Bolton defends officials who testified against president in impeachment inquiryThe former hawk and regime change advocate currently represents something of a shadowy rogue agent operating on the fringes of Trump World as we await a possible subpoena from the Senate (increasingly unlikely, alas) and his forthcoming memoir, The Room Where It Happened.He has though been speaking out in praise of those State Department officials who testified to the House impeachment inquiry in November.Interestingly, Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade – of all people – broke ranks to insist that Bolton is “not a liar” after the conservative echo chamber went into overdrive this week to discredit his Ukraine claims after they were published in The New York Times.Zoe Tidman has this report.
Lindsey Graham was ‘in the loop’, says Lev ParnasWhile the Republicans continue to turn their noses up at the idea of hearing from fresh witnesses, new evidence and the rule of law, Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is still out there begging for a chance to testify.He was on Anderson Cooper’s show last night and dragged a certain senator from South Carolina into the mud…Here’s Clark Mindock with a reminder of his suprise appearance on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Alan Dershowitz distances himself from own argumentThe president’s celebrity defence attorney – who has previously represented OJ Simpson, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein – was on Chris Cuomo’s show last night and distanced himself from his most derided argument on the Senate floor on Wednesday that anything a sitting present does as part of a bid to get re-elected is kosher and not impeachable.Dershowitz reacted impatiently to the CNN host’s questioning and insisting the point had been wilfully misinterpreted and “taken out of context”.Graig Graziosi has this on Adam Schiff’s comments on Dershowitz during yesterday’s session in the Senate.“It’s astonishing on the floor of this body someone would make that argument. It didn’t begin that way in the beginning of the president’s defence. What we have seen over the last couple of days is a descent into constitutional madness because that way madness lies,” he said.
Mazie Hirono: ‘It’s a really sad day when you can only find three courageous Republicans’A little more reaction to the Lamar Alexander bombshell, with Hawaii Democratic senator Mazie Hirono putting the boot in in her customary style.Former White House ethics chief Richard W Painter had an even more devastating assessment of the development.
President attempts to reassure Americans on coronavirus as epidemic declared global emergencyTrump was not entirely convincing on the subject of the deadly flu yesterday, attempting to reassure crowds in both Warren, Michigan, and later in Iowa that everything was under control.”We’re working very strongly with China on the coronavirus. That’s a new thing that a lot of people are talking about. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as some people think it could be, but we’re working very closely with them and with a lot of other people, in a lot of other countries,” Trump said at a Dana Incorporated manufacturing plant in Michigan on Thursday afternoon.”We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment – five and those people are all recuperating successfully. “It was all worryingly light on specifics but he has set up a task force to tackle it and his thoughts were at least noticeably more humane than those of his commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, whose economic assessment of the crisis when interviewed on Fox Business yesterday was jaw-dropping.There was also this tweet from the Situation Room of the White House, which is a great deal more presidential than most of his output (very much the point of the exercise).Here’s Vincent Wood with the latest from the World Health Organisation after the first case was discovered in Britain, fittingly, on Brexit morning.
Trump rape accuser asks for DNA sample from president in bid to prove allegationLawyers acting for E Jean Carroll – who has accused the president of raping her in the 1990s – are requesting a DNA sample to determine if his genetic material is on a dress she wore during the encounter.The advice columnist’s lawyers served notice to a Trump attorney on Thursday asking for the president to submit a sample for “analysis and comparison against unidentified male DNA present on the dress.” They ask that a sample of saliva be submitted on 2 March in Washington, DC.Carroll filed a defamation suit against Trump in November 2019 after the president denied her allegation saying that she was “totally lying”, that he did not know her and that she was not his type.Oliver O’Connell has this report.
God put Trump in White House, says US ambassador to IsraelDavid Friedman managed to be even more effusive than Benjamin Netanyahu in expressing his gratitude to Trump over his proposed plan to bring peace to the Middle East – angrily rejected by the Palestinian leadership earlier this week.Alex Woodward has more on his comments to the Christian Broadcast Network.
Trump to create human trafficking post as key groups avoid White House summitThe president is due to address the subject of human trafficking at the White House later before jetting to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend and is expected to announce the expansion of a key domestic policy office by appointing an individual to focus exclusively on the issue.A candidate has yet to be identified for the new post on the Domestic Policy Council, according to a White House official, who told the AP that Trump wants to fill the slot quickly with someone detailed from another government agency. Trump has sought to elevate human trafficking since taking office by speaking publicly about the issue and inviting reporters into his White House meetings with victims and anti-trafficking advocates.A partner in the effort is Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser. During a visit to Atlanta, Georgia, this month, she compared trafficking to “modern-day slavery” and said the White House is committed to ending it.Ivanka Trump is also scheduled to speak at Friday’s summit. She said on Thursday in a statement that the coming executive order will provide additional resources to combat human trafficking: “From funding for prevention education programs, to enhanced intelligence-level coordination, to fighting child pornography, to a new full-time position within his White House’s Domestic Policy Council, the president is using all tools at his disposal to ensure that the end of modern-day slavery becomes a reality.”Under the executive order, the State Department will reportedly be tasked with creating a website to serve as a clearinghouse where law enforcement officials, victims, advocates and others can get information on government-wide efforts to combat human trafficking.Federal departments and agencies will also be asked to propose legislative and executive actions to help law enforcement officials track the sharing – in real time – of child sexual abuse material on the internet.The Justice and Homeland Security departments will also be directed to work with the Education Department to fund prevention education programmes for the nation’s schools.Some groups criticised the summit. Other groups that have been invited said they will not attend.Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, said in a statement that the Trump administration has pursued policies that endanger trafficking victims by chipping away at their legal protections. Schwartz cited an increase in the denial rate for special visas that allow trafficking victims to legalize their status, access services and seek punishment for their abusers.
John Delaney dropping out of 2020 raceThe Maryland congressman has become the latest name to drop out of the Democratic 2020 race, saying “God has a different purpose for me” and not even waiting for Monday’s Iowa caucus.Ah well, we’ll always have this photo.
Nancy Pelosi calls for Trump’s legal team to be disbarredAs Trump’s legal team look to have prevailed in the Senate, it’s worth revisiting Nancy Pelosi’s remarks to journalists yesterday at her weekly press conference.While she expressed pride in the performance of her own impeachment managers, the speaker said of the president: “He will not be acquitted. You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation and all of that. Does the president know right from wrong? I don’t think so.”On his lawyers specifically – Dershowitz, Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, Ken Starr, Robert Ray, Pat Philbin and Pam Bondi – Pelosi said ought to be disbarred for their disingenuous arguments: “I don’t know how they can retain their lawyer status, in the comments that they’re making. I don’t think they made the case. I think they disgraced themselves terribly in terms of their violation of what our Constitution is about and what a president’s behavior should be.”“Imagine that you would say – ever, of any president, no matter who he or she is or whatever party – if the president thinks that his or her presidency… is good for the country, then any action is justified – including encouraging a foreign government to have an impact on our elections,” she continued.“[That] is exactly what our Founders were opposed to – and they feared. I don’t think they made the case. I think they disgraced themselves terribly in terms of their violation of what our Constitution is about and what a president’s behavior should be.”
Trump repurposes trial clip to claim rift between Democratic impeachment managersThe president’s first tweet of the day is this childish attempt to play his opposition off against each other.He’s now launching into one of his tiresome retweet dumps.The New York Daily News meanwhile has this stellar front page this morning summing it up the current state of play.
Joe Biden: ‘George Washington is rolling over in his grave’The Democratic front-runner gave an exclusive interview to George Stephanopoulos on ABC this morning and did not mince his words on the Republicans.He also defended himself over claims of a contradiction between his current line of attack and his attitude during the Bill Clinton impeachment of 1999 and pledged to back whichever Democrat’s win their party’s nomination to take on Trump.
President firefights disastrous border wall storyYesterday we learned that a section of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall had blown over in El Centro, California, after being blasted by desert winds, making a nonsense of his hyberbolic claims about its sturdiness.The president sought to counter the resulting mockery on Twitter yesterday by posting a series of images of construction underway. The wall was of course a signature campaign promise in 2016 and his failure to raise it in time won’t look good to supporters promised an immigration crackdown last time out.Here’s Andy Gregory on the original incident.
Lamar Alexander: Trump guilty of ‘error or judgement’ but does not deserve impeachmentThe retiring Tenessee senator who appears to have driven the final nail into the coffin of Democratic hopes to see Trump removed from office has been elaborating on his statement of last night in conversation with reporters in DC.”I concluded after nine long days, and hearing 200 video clips of witnesses from the House, I didn’t need any more evidence, because I thought it was proof the President did what he was charged with doing, but it didn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense. I didn’t need any more evidence to make my decision,” he said.”I thought about it, but I wanted to wait until the very last minute because around here you never know what might happen. You might get a surprise during the question and answer period.””Impeachable conduct is a very high bar,” he continued. “It’s treason, bribery, it’s high crimes and misdemeanors. And to me, an error in judgement, an inappropriate and improper telephone call or action doesn’t add up to treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.Alexander said he thinks it was “inappropriate and wrong for the president to do what he did – and I think it was proved. The question is whether you apply capital punishment to every offense. And I think in this case, I think the answer is no, let the people make that decision… and especially since the election begins Monday.”
Monica Lewinsky derides Republicans over trial hypocrisyThe former White House intern offers this bitterly sarcastic take on the GOP’s cynicism over impeachment witnesses, especially galling for her personally as Ken Starr is on Team Trump this time around.