‘Heard in the Halls:’ Impeachment Trial Scenes

As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial unfolds, Courthouse News will be gathering interviews with senators, members of Congress, attorneys and other newsmakers in the corridors of the Capitol for this regular feature.

__ 

WASHINGTON (CN) — White House lawyers delivered their first full day of opening arguments in the Senate on Monday, but the talk of Capitol Hill broke a day earlier, in the New York Times.

Politicians and other newsmakers chimed in on the sneak peak the paper of record offered on Ambassador John Bolton’s book and takes on the ongoing impeachment trial for this Courthouse News regular feature.

__ 

6:51 p.m. Senator John Thune, R-S.D., on His Way Into the Senate Chamber

A New York Times report that former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book says Trump told him in August that a $391 million military aid package to Ukraine was on hold until the country announced investigations into the Bidens has shaken up the conversation over whether the Senate will hear from additional witnesses at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

When asked if he was blindsided by news of the manuscript, Thune, the Senate Republican whip, paused before confirming.

“Yeah. I mean, I was caught off guard. I assume that was true for most of our members.”

__  

6:20 p.m. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Senate Reporter Pen, Second Floor

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Cruz told reporters Monday he thought presentations by Trump’s defense team had been devastating to House impeachment managers’ case. Cruz, who believes Trump’s investigations into Ukrainian corruption and 2016 election interference were warranted, thinks House Democrats deflected investigations into Burisma corruption with Biden by attacking President Trump for those actions.

When asked about an unreleased copy of John Bolton’s manuscript reportedly obtained by the New York Times, Cruz said the issue over the manuscript’s contents was not where the Senate was focused on throughout Monday’s hearings. The ultimate issue before the body was whether or not Trump’s actions constituted an impeachable offense, he said.

“I haven’t read the book. I’ve read media accounts of what’s in the book. One of the amazing things about all the testimony in the House is how much of it was hearsay … I don’t think I’ve ever heard quadruple hearsay before. But we heard today how the House testimony was ‘Sondland said, Volker told him, Rudy told him, the President told him.’ That’s four levels back. I don’t know if anyone’s played the game with your kids of telephone where you say one word and whisper it around, you go four levels and you could turn ‘zucchini’ into ‘unicorn.’ That’s the House’s case.”

__   

6:07 p.m. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Coming Out of a Republican Dinner (Featuring Chick-fil-A)

With the Trump defense preparing to finish its argument by Tuesday, senators soon will have the chance to ask questions, which they will submit in writing through Chief Justice John Roberts.  Rounds said Senate Republicans have been discussing how the process of asking questions will work.

“Remember, the chief justice would actually handle the questions. Each of us has the forms right now that are available for providing our questions, but we’ll also be able to combine questions and it’ll be up to the chief justice to try to combine them in an orderly fashion, both sides having an equal opportunity for asking questions.”

__   

3:09 p.m. Reps. Lee Zeldin, Mark Meadows, and John Ratcliffe, Near the Capitol Subway

What’s in a name? Arguing against allowing new witnesses and evidence to come in against President Trump, Representative Zeldin, R-N.Y., kept referring to a “House trial.” The Constitution states: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” Pressed on the inaccurate phrasing, Representative Meadows, R-N.C., interjected that his colleague’s words “should have been ‘investigation.’” But Zeldin and Ratcliffe, R-Texas, defended the constitutionally inaccurate wording.

COURTHOUSE NEWS: Congressman [Zeldin] … the quote unquote trial in the House, why do you keep referring to that when the Constitution –

REP. MEADOWS: Should have been “investigation.”

CNS: – vests the Senate,

(Crosstalk by Rep. Zeldin)

CNS: Excuse me, let me finish my question, vests the Senate with the power to “try all impeachments.” The sole power. Why do you keep referring to a House trial?

ZELDIN: It’s strange, if that’s the case, why aren’t the House impeachment managers asking to call Bill Taylor, why aren’t they asking to call Gordon Sondland?

REPORTER: Because they already got their testimony.

ZELDIN: No, I’m sorry, to the point I was just asked the question just before you, and let me answer. You’re saying if this is the trial –

CNS: I’m not saying it, the Constitution’s saying it.

ZELDIN: Let me answer it, let me answer it. If you’re saying what’s happening up the stairs is the Senate trial and what happened in the House was something else.

CNS: Like a grand jury.

ZELDIN: Let me answer it. Please. I appreciate it. You asked your question, I’m going to give the answer. Now, in Adam Schiff’s words, he said that his closed-door depositions were quote analogous to a grand jury investigation. He said the closed-door depositions, that was the phase that was quote analogous to a grand jury testimony. Now in that grand jury testimony he was – imagine this for a grand jury in the United States if we want to draw equivalencies – he was the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the witness coach. You know how he ruled in anyone’s objection with regards to absolutely anything during closed-door depositions? 100% of the time he ruled in his own favor. Now going back to the original part as far as the Senate piece being a trial. How telling is it to you, if that was the case, and if this is the trial where it’s supposed to be just like any other trial, that any witness that was called on the House side that they don’t want to hear their testimony. To your point if that’s what’s going on right now, isn’t it amazing that they’re saying then that they don’t want to hear from Gordon Sondland or Bill Taylor or Fiona Hill or Lt. Col. Vindman. I tell you what, it’d be great if we could just hear from Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison, but guess what, we did already. During open intelligence committee hearings, which by the way, they don’t want to call these people. You know who wasn’t present during all that testimony and all the questions? Any of the president’s counsel, was not even allowed in the room to be able to cross examine any of those witnesses at all. They were banned. And if you want to carry it even further, putting that aside, again, as I’ve pointed out already, there is a lot that wouldn’t be admissible if the federal rules of evidence applied, it wouldn’t be admissible. If you can’t make statements of facts that are not in evidence so on and so forth.”

RATCLIFFE: Let me follow up on the question here before we get to the question witnesses about what happened. You keep asking, isn’t the trial supposed to occur in the Senate? Yes, it is, And the trial is supposed to occur on the House’s record. (Crosstalk) And the House said very clearly –

CNS: According to what precedent, sir?

RATCLIFFE: According to the precedent of the United States. Every time –

CNS: Which impeachment precedent? 

RATCLIFFE: Are you going to ask questions or are you going to answer questions? So, in the House what we heard was this is overwhelming, it’s indisputable and we can’t wait one more day. You don’t need to hear from a single witness because this is impeachable. You have everything you need. We stood on the floor and said, ‘if we have everything we need to impeach a president, why down the hall 100 yards, are the United States senators already saying we’ll need more witnesses and evidence in that trial.’ Now you’re all in here saying let’s talk about a witness related to an unpublished manuscript. You haven’t asked me any questions about an actual transcript. There’s a 179-page transcript of an actual witness named Michael Atkinson who’s the inspector general of the intelligence community of the United States. He’s the only witness in this whose testimony hasn’t been turned over. His is testimony that we should have heard by now. You’re cherry-picking witnesses. I want to hear from all of the witnesses. I wanted to do that over in the House. We wanted a complete process. Adam Schiff decided what witnesses we would hear from, what witnesses we wouldn’t hear from. And the minute it became clear that he had met with the whistleblower after he publicly said that he didn’t, he immediately changed his tune and said the whistleblower’s testimony is no longer necessary. He ruled that he was not a fact witness, that his staff was not a fact witness, that the whistleblower was not a fact witness. He has cherry-picked this all the way. He had the opportunity to do a fulsome investigation in the House and he blew it. He dumped this garbage on the Senate’s doorstep and is asking them to do the job in the House, we could have done in the House, we didn’t do in the House because the most conflicted member of the House of Representatives, the only one out of 435 that is a fact witness, that the inspector general says in his transcript is a fact witnesses, is the one leading this investigation. The person that got to make every single decision. That’s why we’re watching the thinnest, weakest impeachment in U.S. history unraveling and getting thinner and weaker every time we hear from witnesses and the testimony that’s being played.

__   

9:06 p.m. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in Senate Subway



Asked about the relationship between President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associate Lev Parnas, Murkowski did not say whether she believes whether Trump knows the man accused of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. 

COURTHOUSE NEWS: Senator, do you think that President Trump should have told the truth that he knew Lev Parnas now that we’ve all seen the video. 

MURKOWSKI: I don’t know what he knows about Parnas. He’s got to figure that out.

CNS: Even based on the video evidence, photographic evidence, all of that, you don’t know whether he knows him? 

Murkowski shrugged as the doors closed in front of her on the subway in the Senate basement.

__   

Reporting by ADAM KLASFELD, JACK RODGERS and TIM RYAN

%d bloggers like this: