Top House Democrats are expected to unveil articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump during a press conference Tuesday morning, according to multiple Democratic sources.
The Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday, according to multiple Democratic lawmakers and aides. But several Democrats indicated Monday night the number of articles and specific charges against Trump were still being debated, potentially putting this week’s committee schedule in flux.
“There will be some announcements tomorrow morning,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said as he left a meeting with the other committee chairmen investigating Trump in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office Monday night.
Engel, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and other Democrats involved in the planning meetings declined to provide further details. But nearly a dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides told POLITICO they have been told to plan for a House Judiciary Committee markup on Thursday.
Democrats are considering at least three charges against Trump — abuse of power, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice. Pelosi will ultimately decide which articles Democrats draft and whether those charges will focus on the Ukraine scandal or be broadened to include former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
A Judiciary Committee vote on articles later this week would signal Democratic leaders are planning a full House vote next week in order to meet their informal deadline of wrapping up the impeachment probe before leaving for the holiday recess.
Emerging from a Judiciary Committee meeting late Monday, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the panel’s Democrats plan to re-convene at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning ahead of the press conference. He said the articles of impeachment are being finalized and that aides would be working through the night.
“Our staff has been working on this for quite a period of time,” Cicilline said. “We’re going to work throughout the night.”
Nadler (D-N.Y.) wouldn’t comment as he left the chairmens’ huddle in Pelosi’s office to join the meeting of Judiciary Democrats in a nearby House office building.
Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff are expected to lead the press conference, which is scheduled to start at 8:45 a.m., according to multiple Democrats. The other committee chairmen investigating Trump are also expected to attend.
Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
The release on Monday of a long-awaited watchdog report threw plenty of bones to partisans on both sides of the aisle. While the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, ripped the FBI‘s handling of applications for surveillance warrants on members of the Trump campaign, he also determined that the yearslong investigation into whether President Donald Trump or members of his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in his election had not been tainted by political bias and was adequately predicated.
It also debunked a number of conspiracy theories advanced by the president or his allies over the last several years. Here are some of the top claims refuted by Horowitz‘s report.
The Steele dossier didn’t play a role in opening the Russia probe
Horowitz faulted investigators for various aspects of their use of the so-called Steele dossier, including relying too heavily on it for warrants for surveillance applications when concerns had been raised about its validity and its source of funding. But Horowitz refuted the claims propagated by Trump that the Russia investigation had its roots in the unverified, salacious allegations in the dossier.
The FBI began its investigation at the end of July 2016, based on a tip it received days before about a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, from a foreign ally.
While Steele’s reporting for what became the dossier began prior to the opening of the Russia probe, Horowitz found that the team of investigators at the FBI “did not become aware of Steele‘s election reporting” until weeks after the investigation had already begun, concluding that the dossier “played no role” in the probe being opened.
Neither did Lisa Page or Peter Strzok
Trump has repeatedly attacked Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer, and Peter Strzok, a former top FBI agent, who were both removed from the Russia investigation after text messages uncovered between the two showed “hostility“ toward Trump during his candidacy.
The president and his supporters have long pointed to Page and Strzok as evidence of a “deep state" apparatus and proof of political bias at the heart of the investigation into his candidacy. But the inspector general’s report determined that in Page‘s case, while she attended several discussions regarding the launch of the Russia probe, she had no role in its opening.
And while Strzok was “directly involved“ in the decision to investigate the Trump campaign, according to Horowitz, the watchdog found that “he was not the sole, or even the highest-level, decision maker“ in any of those matters.
Obama never wiretapped Trump Tower
Less than two months after his inauguration in 2017, Trump lobbed the explosive allegation that former President Barack Obama had his “wires tapped“ at Trump Tower “just before the victory.“
The watchdog report mentions no such surveillance, which Trump never provided corroborating evidence for. Moreover, the report found that there was only one member of the Trump campaign whom law enforcement officials requested court approval to wiretap: Carter Page.
Though charges were ultimately brought against three other Trump campaign officials, the inspector general said he found no evidence that investigators ever seriously sought or obtained permission to conduct surveillance on other members of the campaign, including adviser George Papadopoulos, campaign chairman Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn, the eventual national security adviser.
“Although the team also was interested in seeking FISA surveillance targeting Papadopoulos, the FBI [Office of General Counsel] attorneys were not supportive,” Horowitz wrote in the report. “FBI and [National Security Division] officials told us that the Crossfire Hurricane team ultimately did not seek FISA surveillance of Papadopoulos, and we are aware of no information indicating that the team requested or seriously considered FISA surveillance of Manafort or Flynn.”
The FBI didn’t implant spies in Trump’s campaign
The FBI did not embed sources inside Trump‘s campaign, and the sources they did have inside and associated with the campaign were not used in the Russia investigation, contrary to claims pushed by Trump and his supporters.
Trump and his allies have claimed numerous times that the FBI under Obama had implanted a spy among his campaign, another potentially explosive accusation, dubbed “Spygate,” that was debunked by Horowitz.
The inspector general found that although investigators had informants, or confidential human sources, “with either a connection to candidate Trump or a role in the Trump campaign,” and one of those sources provided the bureau with information about Page and Manafort, that informant was unaware of the ongoing investigation. Furthermore, Horowitz found, the information they provided was open-source — “[a]II over the Internet.“
Horowitz wrote: “Although the Crossfire Hurricane team was aware of these CHSs during the 2016 presidential campaign, we were told that operational use of these CHSs would not have furthered the investigation, and so these CHSs were not tasked with any investigative activities.“
Joseph Mifsud was never an FBI informant
Another theory advanced by Trump and his allies involved the role played by a professor named Joseph Mifsud, a Russian proxy who informed Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that the Kremlin had “dirt“ on Trump‘s 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton. That interaction, which Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about, set off the series of events that began the Russia probe.
Horowitz reiterated in his report that the Russia investigation was first opened after Papadopoulos boasted about the revelation to an Australian diplomat, prompting Australian officials to alert their U.S. counterparts.
Papadopoulos has since claimed, without evidence, that Mifsud was actually an intelligence asset sent to entrap the Trump campaign, a suggestion shot down in Horowitz‘s report.
“The FBI‘s Delta files contain no evidence that Mifsud has ever acted as an FBI CHS and none of the witnesses we interviewed or documents we reviewed had any information to support such an allegation,“ the report reads.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
McKinsey and Co. will allow Pete Buttigieg to disclose the clients he served at the management consulting firm a decade ago, the latest development in a weeklong battle over transparency as Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren scrap for position in the Democratic presidential primary.
Buttigieg has faced weeks of criticism from rival campaigns and Democratic activists over his employment at McKinsey and his closed-door fundraisers with wealthy donors, particularly from Warren, who has banned in-person fundraisers on her campaign as part of an anti-corruption platform. But Buttigieg has fired back by criticizing Warren for not releasing her tax returns during years that covered her corporate legal work.
The transparency duel — yielding more financial details about Warren’s legal work and, earlier Monday, a pledge from Buttigieg to open his private fundraisers to the press — comes as the two candidates jostle for an overlapping pool of voters and compete at the top of Iowa caucus polling. The competition has led Warren, who’s lost some ground recently in early-state polling, to call out Buttigieg by name for the first time — a break from her prior approach of not directly attacking rivals.
“They’ve always been on a collision course because they’re in the same vortex of voters,” said Tom McMahon, former executive director of the Democratic National Committee. “If you’re Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg, you have to do reasonably well in Iowa and New Hampshire to survive and advance, and what they’re realizing right now is the other may be blocking their path forward.”
The back-and-forth has broken into the open in the past week, as Warren and Buttigieg battled for the top spot in Iowa throughout the fall. Warren eclipsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the lead in Iowa by late September and led the field into October. But by November, Buttigieg, who sank millions into TV ads and grew his on-the-ground operation, jumped ahead in the first caucus state, leading the field in multiple polls last month.
“It appears that both campaigns believe that [Bernie] Sanders and Biden have a firm set of supporters, while Buttigieg and Warren are competing over everyone else,” said Sean Bagniewski, chairman of the Polk County, Iowa, Democratic Party. “Both of them have overlapping voters, both feel like their organizations are in close competition for first- and second-place finishes” in Iowa.
But there is still more unknown from both candidates as they battle over transparency: the actual names on Buttigieg’s McKinsey client list and Warren’s pre-2008 tax returns, which Buttigieg’s campaign is still calling on her to release after her disclosure of the income she earned from corporate legal work.
Buttigieg’s campaign pledged to release a list of his McKinsey clients soon: “stay tuned,” Buttigieg’s senior adviser Lis Smith tweeted. Buttigieg critics have long questioned whether he worked for problematic or unethical corporations, as McKinsey has come under criticism for a series of controversial projects.
But “unless there’s a very unpleasant surprise on the list,” it likely won’t impact voters, said Tom Peters, a former management consultant at McKinsey and author of “In Search of Excellence.”
Starting Tuesday in New York City, Buttigieg’s campaign will “pool” its private, high-dollar fundraisers — allowing one reporter or a small group of them to attend events and email a report of what happened inside to the whole Buttigieg campaign press list. It’s a similar approach to the one Biden has taken.
The Buttigieg campaign also pledged to release the names of its “bundlers,” donors who have helped raise money for the campaign from other people, within a week. Buttigieg has not released a list of its top donors since April.
As Buttigieg’s campaign said it would open its fundraisers, it still jabbed at Warren in a statement, saying that “no other candidate for president has released the entirety of their tax returns since their education concluded,” said Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager.
Warren has released a decade-plus of tax returns, though none predating 2008, which would cover her corporate legal work when she taught at Harvard Law School. On Sunday, Warren’s campaign released an earnings breakdown, totaling $1.9 million, for the 42 cases she worked on during that period. She had released the client list earlier this year.
Warren’s campaign has argued that this accounting, coupled with the 11 years of tax returns she’s already released, provides a fuller picture of Warren’s financial history than her tax returns.
Though both Buttigieg and Warren’s campaigns sought to put the other on the defensive with their flurry of releases over the past 24 hours, it may not have broken through to those Iowa voters. Bagniewski, the Iowa Democratic official, cautioned that “it seems like both their advisers are paying too much attention to Twitter.”
“I don’t know that many people who care that much about it or who are following it,” Bagniewski said.
Still, Warren supporters credited the Massachusetts senator for pressuring Buttigieg into shedding more light on his fundraising and questioned what Buttigieg’s McKinsey client list will reveal.
“It's great that voters will have more transparency into the corporate CEOs Pete worked for and the big-money donors who decided to go all-in for this 37-year-old mayor who lost his last two campaigns,” said Adam Green, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder, which has endorsed Warren. “Voters need Pete to address new concerns that at McKinsey he may have helped lay off workers in places like Michigan.”
Activists from the Sunrise Movement and the Democratic Socialists of America said they planned to protest Buttigieg’s fundraisers in New York City this week, calling on his campaign to release the addresses for the events.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
Senators aren’t likely to let a little thing like impeachment ruin their holiday plans.
As soon as the House impeaches President Donald Trump, the Senate is in theory required to immediately begin a trial. But for a multitude of reasons, both strategic and mundane, senators say they are aiming to reach an agreement to take a breather and come back for the trial in January.
Despite bipartisan hopes of not letting impeachment drag on, absolutely no one in the Senate seems to want to sacrifice their Christmas or New Year’s. And though nothing has been finalized, senators expect party leaders who have sway on the matter to agree in the coming days.
“That’s the last thing we want to do is be here over Christmas,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “I can’t imagine anyone will object. You never know for sure. It would be widely criticized by folks on both sides of the aisle, anybody who [fought it] and forced us to stay here.”
“Impeachment is a huge issue. And I don’t think we should rush into it,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “We ought to find a way to wait ‘til January, get through the holidays and then tackle it. I think to take it up before Christmas, a lot of bad things can happen, you move too fast, you don’t really hear it all.”
A delay might not be to everyone’s benefit. A person familiar with the White House’s thinking said that the administration’s preference is to start the trial with no delay, and it is actively seeking that result. And five Senate Democrats are still running for president; a trial starting in December would be less disruptive to their work campaigning in the early states with the Iowa Caucuses on Feb. 2.
But the Senate takes its scheduled breaks seriously and senators may need to rest up ahead of the grueling impeachment trial and its six-day work week. Though many are certainly busy when they are back in their home states, senators are accustomed to something far more laid back when in Washington: Fly-in on Monday afternoon and leave early Thursday afternoon.
And canceling a holiday recess for one of the most extraordinary events in the Senate’s history is not popular in any corner of the chamber. Plus there’s precedent for a delay: The Senate similarly postponed December action on former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial until January the next year.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who often takes lone positions that chafe his colleagues, signaled he wasn’t likely to spoil the holiday break. While he preferred the trial start “never,” he predicted it would begin in January.
“We don’t agree on a lot around here but that should be one thing we can agree on,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).
The House is on track to impeach Trump by the end of next week, but as of Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) still hadn’t sat down to discuss the timing and structure of a trial. And if they are eager to move the trial to January, they will have to form some sort of an agreement.
McConnell and Schumer have a few options. They could adjourn the chamber until January, stifling the House articles of impeachment from coming up immediately. They could strike an agreement requiring the unanimous consent of all senators on when to handle the trial. Or they could even start the trial and immediately vote at a simple majority threshold to resume it in January.
Pushing the trial back by even a few weeks might lead to a more civil discourse. The longer the Senate stays in town — particularly at the end of the year — the crankier senators get. It could also help everyone gear up for combat.
Both the accuser and the accused still have work to do and might benefit from the extra time. The House needs to select its managers and prepare its case that Trump abused the power of his office in his pressure campaign against Ukraine; the president has to plot his defense.
“The defense needs some time, too. In the previous impeachment trials, the defense wanted time to mount their case. And I imagine that will be the same again,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
Of course, strange things happen in December as most senators eye the holiday exits and some see new points of leverage.
Aside from impeachment, Congress is trying to pass a raft of spending bills and a new North American trade deal over the next two weeks, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he won’t consent to quick votes or quick passage of anything until he’s assured action on expiring pensions for miners.
“I’m just worried about the miners and the health care pension. That might keep us here with old Saint Nick. Everybody knows: I am not signing off on any [unanimous consent agreements] on anything. Nothing,” Manchin said.
Asked if he might use his leverage on impeachment, he replied: “I didn’t even think about that one.”
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine