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Dems Push for WH Officials Testimony   12/16 06:29

   Senate Democrats are pushing for testimony from top White House officials in 
the rare impeachment trial that is fast becoming the next battleground ahead of 
House voting that is all but certain to result in President Donald Trump's 
impeachment.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Democrats are pushing for testimony from top White 
House officials in the rare impeachment trial that is fast becoming the next 
battleground ahead of House voting that is all but certain to result in 
President Donald Trump's impeachment.

   Trump faces two articles of impeachment by House Democrats: abuse of power 
and obstruction of Congress. They point to Trump pressuring Ukraine to 
investigate 2020 political rival Joe Biden while withholding as leverage 
military aid the country relies to counter Russia as well as his efforts to 
block the House investigation.

   Only the fourth U.S. president to be charged in impeachment proceedings, 
Trump has insisted he has done nothing wrong. Votes are set for Wednesday in 
the House. But already attention is turning to the Senate trial, where the 
Republicans are expected to acquit Trump in January.

   "There ought to be a fair trial where the whole truth comes out," Senate 
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Sunday in New York. "And I'm going 
to work to get that done."

   The top Senate Democrat called for new evidence and testimony from former 
national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick 
Mulvaney and two others as part of a detailed proposal outlined in a letter 
Sunday to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to spur negotiations with the GOP.

   "This trial must be one that is fair, that considers all of the relevant 
facts," Schumer wrote. "The trial must be one that not only hears all of the 
evidence and adjudicates the case fairly; it must also pass the fairness test 
with the American people."

   Trump has expressed interest in a robust trial that would not only clear him 
of the charges in the Senate but also vindicate him, but his desire for a 
lengthy proceeding is something Senate Republicans are hoping to avoid.

   A spokesman for McConnell said the two Senate leaders are expected to meet. 
They are expected to discuss how to conduct the trial, much as the Democrats 
and Republicans did during Bill Clinton's impeachment two decades ago. 

   "Leader McConnell has made it clear he plans to meet with Leader Schumer to 
discuss the contours of a trial soon," McConnell spokesman Doug Andres said. 
"That timeline has not changed."

   The witness list will be key to the proceedings.

   Despite Republican control in the Senate, McConnell's slim 53-47 majority 
limits his ability to steer the impeachment trial. It takes 51 votes to approve 
most motions in the proceedings, even to set the rules, which means the leader 
can only afford to lose two Republican senators and still pass his preferred 
options.

   Some Republican senators may feel pressure from Democrats to call additional 
witnesses or expand the proceedings, especially those up for reelection next 
year in swing states where voters are split in their views of Trump.

   At the same time, Democrats face political risks if Republicans lean into 
Trump's demands for a showier trial, summoning Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, 
or others to appear. Republicans claim without evidence that Hunter Biden's 
work for a gas company in Ukraine merited the investigation Trump sought from 
that country's officials.

   As House Democrats prepare to prosecute the case in the Senate, a group of 
freshmen lawmakers is urging leaders to make an unusual choice by naming Rep. 
Justin Amash of Michigan as an impeachment manager. A libertarian-leaning 
conservative, Amash left the GOP and is now an independent after becoming the 
rare Republican to call for the president's impeachment. Rep. Dean Phillips, 
D-Minn., has been leading the effort, and talked with both the congressman and 
party leaders, his spokesman Bryan Doyle said.

   The attention on the Senate comes as the vote is all but certain Wednesday 
in the House. After months of debate it appears Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who once 
resisted the undertaking unless it had support from Republicans, now has the 
votes needed from Democrats alone to impeach Trump.

   Trump lashed out at the speaker, tweeting at one point Sunday that "Nancy's 
teeth were falling out of her mouth," suggesting she was unable "to think!"

   Pelosi, who spent the weekend leading a bipartisan congressional delegation 
in Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, did 
not directly respond. 

   Democrats expect support for impeachment from all but a few of their 
members; no Republicans are expected to join them. Trump says impeachment is 
nothing but an effort to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Democrats 
counter that left unchecked Trump will try again to seek foreign interference 
in the 2020 race.

   ``This is the defense of our democracy," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., 
the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 

   In the letter, Schumer proposes a detailed structure and timeline for a 
trial to begin Jan. 7, with the swearing-in of Chief Justice John Roberts to 
oversee the proceedings and stretch for several weeks as Democrats subpoena 
witnesses and testimony, specifically around Trump's decision to withhold 
military aid from Ukraine. A day of what Schumer calls "pretrial housekeeping 
measures" would take place Jan. 6.

   Democrats want to hear from Bolton, who labeled the alternative foreign 
policy being run by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others as a "drug deal'' he 
wanted no part of. He left the White House in September. 

   They also want testimony from Mulvaney, who has acknowledged the military 
aid to Ukraine was being held up, as well as two other White House officials: 
Robert Blair, a top Mulvaney aide, and Michael Duffey, a budget official who 
was tasked with handling the Ukraine issue. Those officials defied House 
Democrats' subpoenas to appear before the inquiry. 

   Schumer additionally sets out a specific schedule that would allow for 24 
hours of opening arguments by the House Democrats' impeachment managers and 
then 24 hours for the White House lawyers to present their arguments, followed 
by days of witness testimony. He also sets time for questioning of House 
managers and Trump's counsel by senators; final arguments by House managers and 
Trump's counsel; and as many as 24 hours for deliberations by senators. All 
told, Schumer suggests as many as 126 hours of proceedings.

   McConnell has indicated in recent days his preference for a swift trial 
without calling witnesses in what Republicans fear could become a spectacle. At 
the same time, the GOP leader has said he's taking his "cues" from the White 
House and will conduct the proceedings as Trump wants them.

   One top Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said Sunday he 
too prefers a quick end to impeachment proceedings. 

   "I'd tell the president, if somebody is ready to acquit you, I'd sort of get 
out of the way," Graham said. "I clearly made up my mind."

   Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Sunday that Trump should be able to call 
witnesses, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower whose complaint about 
Trump's July telephone conversation with Ukraine's president sparked the 
impeachment investigation. 

   Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father 
was vice president, and Trump has alleged without evidence a conflict. Joe 
Biden says they did nothing wrong.

   Cruz appeared on ABC's ``This Week'' while Graham was on CBS' ``Face the 
Nation.''


(KR)

 
 
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