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Pelosi defends impeachment pause as White House stands ‘prepared’ for looming Senate trial

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday defended her decision to delay the Senate impeachment trial as the House prepares to formally transfer the two articles.

“What we did want, though, and we think we accomplished in the past few weeks, is that we wanted the public to see the need for witnesses,” Pelosi said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “Witnesses with firsthand knowledge of what happened. Documentation, which the President has prevented from coming out to the Congress, as we review this.”

“Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price,” she added later.

So, what’s next?

The House needs to pass a resolution naming impeachment managers before the articles are formally sent to the Senate, and the chamber will also have to take procedural steps before the trial gets underway.

  • Trump’s legal team is readying for this next phase. “We’ve been prepared since before Christmas. And we remain prepared,” a White House official said.
  • After the House vote, as part of the opening of the trial, the Senate will send a summons to the President asking him to appear, which Trump’s legal team will answer as a formality, a source close to the team told CNN. In its response, the legal team is likely to argue that the impeachment charges do not rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The President is not expected to appear but can be represented by his attorneys.
  • The bulk of the President’s defense will come in the form of a trial brief, which will address key legal arguments of the President’s defense and the legal issues at stake, the source said. That document is already largely completed and will likely be submitted within two days of the House vote to transmit the articles.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone is still expected to lead Trump’s defense, with the President’s outside counsel Jay Sekulow at his side on the Senate floor. The White House is still considering who else will defend the President on the Senate floor and is still considering such attorneys as Alan Dershowitz on constitutional issues.
  • For now, the bottom line remains the same: Trump is impeached, but his trial won’t start until after Pelosi sends the articles. That will begin a whole new drama in the Senate.

‘Cover up’

That’s how Pelosi referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’ support for a resolution to dismiss the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“The dismissing is a cover-up. Dismissing is a cover-up,” Pelosi told ABC. “If they want to go that route, again the senators who are thinking now about voting for witnesses or not, they will have to be accountable for not having a fair trial.”

McConnell signed onto a resolution from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri last week to allow for the dismissal of the obstruction of Congress and abuse of power charges against Trump because Pelosi has not yet transferred the articles to the Senate for a trial. Republicans don’t have the votes to dismiss the articles.

Clash over Bolton testimony escalates

After former national security adviser John Bolton shook the capital last week when he said he is prepared to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial, should he be subpoenaed to do so, the team planning for Trump’s Senate trial believes there are “significant and important” executive privilege issues regarding Bolton’s potential testimony, according to a source familiar with the team’s discussions.

The source told CNN that the Senate trial team sees Bolton’s possible testimony as going “to the heart” of the President’s constitutional powers under Article II.

The source said there has not been a decision yet on whether to invoke executive privilege on any potential testimony from Bolton because it’s not confirmed that he will testify. But Trump himself said on Friday in an interview with Fox News that he would likely invoke executive privilege if Bolton were subpoenaed.

Bolton would be a critical witness due to his firsthand knowledge of many of the events that led to Trump being impeached over his dealings with Ukraine.

As CNN’s Marshall Cohen notes, his testimony could shed light on a range of details from other witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry.

It’s also likely there is even more for Bolton to share, including things that aren’t yet public, but it’s hard to know for sure.

Poll: Iowa voters divided on impeachment

Iowa registered voters are divided over whether the House made the right move in impeaching Trump — and a plurality say he should not be removed from office, according to a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll.

Overall, 45% say they disapprove of the House’s move to impeach Trump, whereas 43% approve. There are sharp partisan divides on that question, with about nine in 10 Democrats saying they approve (87%) as a similar share of Republicans disapprove (90%). Among independents, more disapprove of the impeachment (48%) than approve (39%).

Remember: In three weeks, Iowa caucusgoers will become the first in the nation to signal their preferred candidate and kick off the presidential primary season.

  • The poll also found that more than seven in 10 Iowa voters say it is not OK for a US presidential candidate to try to gain political advantage over an election rival by seeking help from foreign countries.
  • That view holds among a majority across party lines: 92% of Democrats say it’s not OK, as do 73% of independents and 59% of Republicans.
  • Looking ahead to a Senate trial, 48% say the President should not be removed from office, while 40% think he should be.

Will Iran affect Trump’s bottom line?

While Trump carried Iowa by a comfortable 9.4 percentage point margin in the 2016 presidential election, Saturday’s poll suggests he may have a tough time holding it again.

Just 34% of Iowa registered voters say they would definitely vote to reelect Trump if the general election were held today. And more (44%) say they would definitely vote to elect someone else.

So where does Iran come in? Well, presidents have historically seen a bump in their approval ratings during a military crisis. Just look at President Bill Clinton in December 1998 who launched days of airstrikes against Iraq, spiking his poll numbers from 63% before the airstrikes to 73% the week after.

Clinton’s launch against Iraq shows many similarities to Trump’s due to the impending impeachment trials for the presidents, but as CNN’s Grace Sparks notes, the partisanship that has gripped the country in recent years will likely stunt that traditional polling bump previous presidents have enjoyed during a military crisis.

Trump’s latest impeachment falsehood

Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives. Therefore, he obviously lost the impeachment battle in the House.

That did not stop him from telling reporters, on New Year’s Eve, that “we won 196 to nothing.”

  • Facts First: This claim is absurd. Trump did not win any vote related to impeachment, let alone win “196 to nothing.” In fact, he had decisively lost a key process vote and then the two votes to actually impeach him. He appeared to be referring to the fact that no Republican voted against him on these three occasions, but he wasn’t clear at all that this is what he meant.

It’s worth noting the President’s public boasts about having “won” impeachment come alongside some sobering complaints that acknowledge the gravity of being impeached.

“Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?,” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “Read the Transcripts!”

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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