January 15, 2020

Tonight at 5:00, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi signed the articles of impeachment and the seven House impeachment managers Pelosi has selected formally walked over to the Senate to notify it that the articles were ready to be transmitted whenever the Senate was ready for them. (As I wrote before, the Republicans wrote a curiously specific and heavy-handed handbook for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and this little back and forth is part of that drama).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed, and the handover will take place at noon tomorrow. Then, at 2:00, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts will be sworn in to preside over the trial, and then he will swear in the 100 Senators. Their oath—again, prescribed in 1989—has caused trouble. It reads: “I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of _____ _____, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.” That McConnell and most Republican Senators have already declared Trump not guilty suggests that they are not going to be as impartial as the oath they are about to take requires.

Interestingly, for all McConnell’s insistence that there is no precedent for calling witnesses (which is dead wrong: every impeachment case has had witnesses), there is a form in the Republicans’ own handbook for how to issue subpoenas. It includes the words “you are hereby commanded to appear before the Senate of the United States,” and “Fail not.” (OK, I read this stuff for a living, and this twentieth-century imitation of historical formal language is so ahistorical it’s just hokey. “Fail not?!?”)

The seven House impeachment managers reflect prosecutorial depth and a desire to balance the group by race and gender. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) will lead the managers—no surprise, since he is deeply qualified, a strong and moderate voice, and drives Trump crazy. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary virtually had to be on there—his position places him at the top of lawmakers among those who understand the workings of the Constitution—but he’s not a scrapper and will likely stand behind Schiff.

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has more experience with impeachment than any other manager: she was a staffer for the Judiciary during Nixon’s impeachment, was on the Judiciary Committee for the Clinton impeachment, and now has been named a House manager for the Trump impeachment. Lofgren sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Also on the Judiciary Committee is Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). He is a key Pelosi ally.

Another Judiciary Committee member is Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). She’s in her first term, and it seems likely that Pelosi tapped her to give Texas Democrats some key media time.

A surprise, but a smart surprise, is Jason Crow (D-CO). He, too, is in his first term, but is a powerful voice for the Democrats because he is a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who jumped early on the idea of an impeachment inquiry after the Ukraine scandal broke.

For my part, I’ll be watching Val Demings (D-FL), the former chief of police in Orlando. She sits on both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, meaning she knows a lot. And she tends to be clear and to the point when she speaks.

So the managers have geographic, racial, and gender diversity, which will make a dramatic contrast to the Senate and to the president’s people, almost all of whom will be white men.

While all this happened as expected, there were, in fact, important fireworks today. Both had to do with transparency.

The Senate leadership has severely limited reporters’ access to Senators and to electronics during the trial. Reporters are being kept from their usual spots to enable them to ask senators questions, and the Senate has refused to let reporters use a laptop or cellphones in the Senate balcony during the trial (the House allows such devices; the Senate does not, and it has refused to relax that rule). This will, of course, mean that Senators will not be able to be challenged about their actions, as they were—many to their discomfort—during the nomination hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats oppose these restrictions and so, surprisingly, do some Republicans.

This morning, the State Department abruptly canceled a scheduled (and required) classified briefing on the decision to kill Qassem Soleimani. While that briefing would have been problematic enough, considering the many reasons we’ve heard for the killing, last night’s revelations that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine was under surveillance by people with evidently nefarious purposes demanded the question of what Secretary of State Pompeo had done to protect her. You will remember that he refused to defend her, and that he, too, has been implicated in the Ukraine scheme.

There has also been more news from Lev Parnas, the indicted political operative who gave Russian money to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Last night, in the flurry of activity over the astounding exchanges about the surveillance of Yovanovitch, there were more voicemails and documents released that suggest high-level interest in Yovanovitch’s ouster.

And tonight, Parnas gave an exclusive interview to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. He stated categorically that he was acting with the full knowledge and blessing of Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. This story was breaking as I finished writing this; I will focus on it tomorrow.

The Parnas news dovetails nicely with details released about a forthcoming book by two Washington Post reporters, Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, about the president. Titled “A Very Stable Genius,” as Trump calls himself, the book outlines the many ways and times in which Trump explodes, lies, leaks to reporters and then complains about leakers, abuses, and proves himself “dangerously uninformed.”

“Are you an act?” Anthony Scaramucci, the eleven-day communications advisor, asked Trump.

“I’m a total act and I don’t understand why people don’t get it,” Trump answered.

Perhaps we are starting to.


Senate impeachment rules: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/SMAN-113/pdf/SMAN-113-pg223.pdf

Today’s proceedings: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/prime/senate-impeachment-calm-before-storm

Cancelled meeting: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/15/state-department-cancels-embassy-security-meeting-099296