Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, is about to be impeached.
Democrats unveiled text for the articles of impeachment Tuesday. The offenses alleged: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They’ll mark them up and vote on them in the House Judiciary Committee this week, and vote to impeach Trump next week.
Narrowly tailored to Ukraine
It’s important to note that Democrats have not gone as big or as broad as many in the party wanted. They left off elements of the Mueller report, for instance. Rather, staying focused on Trump’s pressure on Ukraine and his effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry, they hope to have the broadest possible support in their party and in the public. That doesn’t mean it’ll be bipartisan. It almost surely won’t.
“The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
Trump/McConnell divided on Senate trial
Meanwhile, Republicans are squabbling too. Trump wants to make a show and a spectacle of his impeachment trial. He wants Hunter Biden and Adam Schiff to testify, according to CNN’s report. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader who wants to be the Senate’s majority leader in 2021, wants to get this done and move on. But he wants a breather. While Trump and the White House want to turn immediately toward a Senate trial, Republicans there could come to an agreement with Democrats for a breather.
Mitt Romney has an open mind
Removal from office takes a supermajority of the Senate, and nobody thinks there are 20 Republican senators who would defect and remove Trump from office. But keep an eye on Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and… Mitt Romney.
“It’s way too early for me to make that assessment,” Romney, the former presidential nominee and Utah senator, told CNN. “There will be a trial in the Senate — we will hear the arguments from both sides. Upon those arguments, and whatever evidence they present, I’ll make a decision.”
Impeachment Watch Podcast: CNN political director David Chalian unpacked this historic day with CNN reporter & producer Marshall Cohen and CNN legal analyst Shan Wu. Listen here.
Trump’s Tuesday: A stunning rebuke with impeachment, and a huge political win on trade
Within hours of introducing articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats handed Trump a massive legislative win by announcing a deal with him to replace the 1994 NAFTA deal signed by President Bill Clinton with the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement — an arrangement all sides seem happy with.
Democrats argued they added important enforcement requirements to the trade deal, which helped get union leaders like Richard Trumka, president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO, on board.
The sense behind impeaching Trump and handing him a win
“It feels like cognitive dissonance, but I think it fits together a little more than you might think at first blush for two reasons,” said CNN senior political analyst Ronald Brownstein after the deal was announced.
Here they are:
1. 31 Democrats represent districts Trump won in 2016
“First, Democrats have very clearly tried to send the message that what they are doing with impeachment is not litigating a difference in policy, a disagreement over policy. They are responding to an abuse of power,” Brownstein said.
He added: “I actually don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two things are happening in the same day. If you look at the question on impeachment, the weakest link are the 31 Democrats who we have talked about many times that are representing districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2016.”
2. Republicans need to gain 18 seats to win back the House
“And they want to be able to show that in addition to holding him to account for his behavior, they are capable of working with him when interests align. By the way, they’ll also pass their prescription drug bill this week to reduce prescription drug prices, which will be another piece of evidence against the inevitable Republican charge in these districts that all they have done is wage a campaign,” Brownstein said.
The Clinton impeachment vs. the Trump impeachment
This NPR examination of Clinton’s impeachment compared to Trump’s is very educational. For instance, there are 55 lawmakers in Congress now who were there for the Clinton vote. For a lot of them, they’re now on the other side of the impeachment question.
Brian Naylor, the NPR reporter, talks to Ray LaHood, a Republican who presided over the vote after the Speaker-in-waiting Bob Livingston stepped aside after admitting his own affairs. Livingston, by the way, has a bit of a part in Trump’s impeachment too. He lobbied State Department officials against Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador.
Vulnerable Democrats want censure on the menu
CNN’s Manu Raju and Haley Byrd report that some Democrats from those districts Brownstein is talking about — the ones represented by Democrats but won in 2016 by Trump — met to discuss the possibility of censuring Trump and, perhaps, gaining some bipartisan support. It doesn’t seem likely given the party is catapulting toward an impeachment vote next week.
“I wouldn’t say we were advocating for a censure,” New York Rep. Anthony Brindisi said Tuesday about the meeting, where censure was raised as an alternative — albeit an unlikely one.
“I think all options should be on the table, and I’ll look at each one as they come about,” Brindisi said when pressed further on if he wants censure to be an option. He said he has not discussed censure with anyone in the Democratic leadership.
Ukrainian aide disputes impeachment testimony
During his public testimony before the impeachment inquiry, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland recalled telling a top aide to Ukraine’s President on September 1, during a trip to Poland, that military aid was contingent on the Ukrainians announcing the investigations.
That aide, Andrey Yermak, does not recall Sondland saying aid was conditional at that meeting.
From Time: “Gordon and I were never alone together,” he said when TIME asked about the Warsaw meeting. “We bumped into each other in the hallway next to the escalator, as I was walking out.”
“And I remember — everything is fine with my memory — we talked about how well the meeting went. That’s all we talked about,” Yermak said.
Trump’s FBI director sides with FBI against Trump conspiracy theory, and Trump is angry
FBI Director Christopher Wray affirmed the findings of the DOJ Inspector General that there was no deep state conspiracy behind the beginnings of the Russia investigation.
“The inspector general did not find political bias or improper motivations impacting the opening of the investigation or the decision to use certain investigative tools during the investigation,” Wray said on Monday night, in an interview with ABC News.
That didn’t sit well with Trump, who tweeted on Tuesday: “I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”
This is Trump’s way
Writes CNN’s Chris Cillizza: This is how Trump operates, of course. People who disagree with him — even for perfectly valid reasons like, you know, facts — have been cast as insufficiently loyal or, worse, part of some broad group of so-called “deep state” that he believes has long aimed to undermine his presidency.
Trump’s attorney general goes all-out against the DOJ inspector general report
In an interview with NBC News, Attorney General Bill Barr pushed the idea that the Russia investigation was improperly begun and refuted his own watchdog’s year-long-plus inquiry in terms Trump will like very much.
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years, I think, based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press, and I think that there were gross abuses of FISA and inexplicable behavior that isn’t tolerable in the FBI,” Barr told NBC News.
Still coming: A separate review, commissioned by Barr and overseen by US attorney John Durham. Here’s what he said about the IG report on Monday.
Lavrov denies Russian meddling before meeting with Trump
Before meeting with Trump at the White House and while standing next to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied, again, any Russian meddling in 2016.
“We have highlighted once again that all speculation about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the US are baseless. There are no facts that would support that …no one has given us this proof because it simply does not exist.”
According to the White House readout of Trump’s visit with Lavrov Tuesday, the President “warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections and urged Russia to resolve the conflict with Ukraine.”
But at a news conference at the Russian embassy at the end of the day, Lavrov didn’t answer directly when asked about the White House claim that Trump warned him about Russia interfering in the 2020 elections.
“President Trump, oh, by the way I told him that State Secretary mentioned that publicly,” Lavrov said, referring to Pompeo.
More on the meeting here from Nicole Gaouette, Kevin Liptak and Kylie Atwood.
Side note: Trump pays $2 million after misusing charity
Trump has paid $2 million ordered by a court for misuse of money in his charity. Remember? He bought a large painting of himself? The money will be split among eight charities, according to The Washington Post.
Imagine if there were any other President. Any other presidency. This would be a very big deal. But Trump creates so much weather it’s hard to focus on stuff like this.
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats want to impeach him for it. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.