Impeachment Today Podcast: A Vibe Check From Capitol Hill
In today's episode: How it all went down as Democrats spent almost nine hours laying out their case against the president.
It's Thursday, January 23. Day 4 of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.
It's Thursday, January 23rd, 2020, day four of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. And this is Impeachment Today. Good morning. I'm Hayes Brown, reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News. And because fate is stupid, I'm fighting a cold in the midst of this impeachment trial, which great. But the show must go on. Okay, today we're going to be recapping the first full day of oral arguments from the president's impeachment trial, so let's go ahead and dive right in.
Wednesday was the first chunk of the 24 hours that the house managers have available to make their case for the president's removal. And to the senators in the room and the audience outside, they basically said, "Have a seat. Let us tell you a story. Once upon a time in a country called Ukraine." Okay, so it wasn't quite so old school. But the first day of presentations had a distinct arc drawn on everything we've learned from the last four months to form a single narrative. Over the course of eight hours, which is what? Two and a quarter viewings of the Irishman? The managers traced the story from the beginning from the attacks on former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch by Rudy Giuliani, who had been working for Trump.
Disrespected career diplomat abruptly removed from her post. Why was she in fact urged by the state department to catch the first plane home that she was in danger. She shouldn't wait? At the time the white house would not say. But today we know the truth. The truth is Ambassador Yovanovitch was the victim of a smear campaign organized by Rudy Giuliani, amplified by President Trump's allies and designed to give President Trump the pretext he needed to recall her without warning. Mr. Giuliani has admitted as much to the press.
To the July 25th phone call where Trump pushed Ukraine's president to investigate the Bidens and have Ukraine take the heat for interfering in the 2016 years' election, which they did not do. And how concerned that call made government officials.
During the July 25th call, President Trump asked for the favor of these two phony political investigations, immediately after the Ukrainian president brought up the fence assistance for Ukraine. And the following day, ambassador silent confirmed to president Trump that Ukraine would indeed initiate the investigations discussed on the call. Which was the only thing president cared about with respect to Ukraine.
To the withholding of nearly $400 a military aid from Ukraine that the manager's say was secretly held up to pressure the Ukrainian government.
As I explained last night, OMB has key documents that President Trump has refused to turn over to Congress. Key documents that go to the heart of one of the ways in which the president abused his power. Concerns about whether the administration was bending, if not breaking the law, contributed to at least two OMB officials resigning, including an attorney in OMB. According to Sandy, one colleagues specifically disagreed with OMB general counsel about the application of the Impoundment Control act. As I mentioned earlier, the independent and nonpartisan government accountability office has already said that the hold was illegal. But do you remember the OMB correspondence remembering or referencing the quote inter-agency process? As we now know, there was no inter-agency process. It had ended months before. They made it up. They had to make it up because they couldn't say the real reason for the hole.
Now, for those of you who have been listening to this show from the beginning, it's a pretty familiar story. But for many watching, it may in fact be brand new. The managers made the most of the previous testimony from the hearings in the house splicing clips to highlight certain moments throughout their speeches. And I got to say it is wild how smoothly they managed to fit everything together. Check how cleanly manager Val Demings comes in here after playing a clip from former white house staffer Fiona Hill's testimony.
What did you understand him to mean by the drug deal that Mulvaney and SawnLynn were cooking up?
I Took it to mean investigations for a meeting.
Did you go speak to the lawyers?
I certainly did.
Senators, as a former chief of police, I think is quite interesting that ambassador Bolton categorized the corrupt scheme, the pressure campaign as a, "drug deal." I think that ambassador Bolton was trying to send us a very powerful message. A message that not only would the lawyers, the top lawyer understand, but that every person would understand. Every member of the house, every member of the Senate, every member of our great country, every citizen.
Man, it was almost like a podcast, but with video. Weird, right? But lest do you think this had any sort of effect on the Republicans in the audience? Well, let's take a listen to Florida Senator Rick Scott talking to reporters during a break yesterday afternoon.
All they're doing is going through process. Because they don't have anything to do. It's attach anything to Donald Trump. They just hate the guy.
How long do you think they're going to for tonight?
I don't know. I mean it seems like we've gone as long as last time I think we went 13 hours last night. And I mean honestly, it's like the exact same thing. I mean they get a new speaker, they talk about the same stuff. And remember with the standard that they have is treason, bribery, high crime or other high crimes and misdemeanors. And the result of this is they want to kick this guy out of office. They do elect the president. They will overturn the votes of 127 million Americans.
That's funny. Like really funny. Since Republicans on the day before yesterday voted as a whole to prevent any new information from being brought forward to the trial. It also has the benefit of being a distortion of what's actually being said by managers during the trial. Lead manager Adam Schiff used his presentation during prime time last night to really hammer home just what sort of information is being left on the table if the Senate does not get new documents. This was Schiff after playing a clip where a top diplomat explained that he told the state department about his opposition to the military aid for investigation scheme that Trump had cooked up.
Now in the state department, sending a first person cable is an extraordinary step. State department cables are ordinarily written in the third person as Ambassador Taylor testified at his deposition. Sending a first person cable gets attention because there are not many first person cables that come in. In fact, in his decades of service in the diplomatic core, he had never written a single one until now.
Taylor sent that cable and August 29th would you like me to read that to you right now?
I would like to read it to you right now except I don't have it. Because the state department wouldn't provide it. But if you'd like me to read it to you, we can do something about that. We can insist on getting that from the state department. If you'd like to know what John Bolton had in mind when he thought that ZelEnsky could favorably impress the president and Warsaw, we can find that out too. Just for the asking and a document called a subpoena.
When the Senate wrapped at 10:00 PM it didn't seem like many people present had changed their minds at all. But there's two days left for the managers to make their case. We'll see how that goes I guess. And now today's reading from Nixometer.
This morning we're at a 7.6. As the trial gets underway and our memories are refreshed about how clear it is that the president was involved in this scheme to get Ukraine to hand over information about the Bidens and launched investigations that would help the president. It's kind of demoralizing to realize that that is not really matter to the Senate. Unless they manage to actually vote in new witnesses and new documents, it's hard to see how 20 Republicans break rank and vote to remove the president.
Okay. After the break, we've got some of the weirdness that happened both in and outside of the Senate chamber for you. And a vibe check from the Hill. Stick around. Okay guys, we're trying something new out today. A segment that we are tentatively calling, "What the fuck was that?" It's where we go through some of the weirder moments both inside and outside the Senate chamber as the trial goes on. Now listen, a chamber is meant to be silent during an impeachment trial, but someone didn't get the memo. While house manager Hakeem Jeffries was giving a presentation on the July 25 phone call between president Trump and president Alinsky of Ukraine. A ruckus erupted from the Senate gallery.
Let me read it for your hearing. Today President Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with president Vladimir Zelinski of Ukraine to congratulate him on his recent-
Jesus Christ! We're probably overcharged now [inaudible 00:08:59].
Example will be in order. The sergeant in arms will restore order in the gallery.
Notice how smoothly Jeffrey's transitioned into quoting scripture then right back into his exhibition.
And the scripture says, "For the Lord loves justice and will not abandon his faithful ones."
That's why he got tapped for this team right there. The man who interrupted him had apparently been arrested for protesting abortion in the senate before. As he was led away by police, he could reportedly be heard to be shouting, "Dismiss the charges against president Trump and Schumer is evil." So, that's fun. Meanwhile, the president broke a new record today. En route back to the white house from a trip to Switzerland, trump sent out 140 tweets before 5:00 PM yesterday. That is more than our audio engineer Dan, says he's tweeted at all ever. And as you can guess, all of those tweets and retweets from Trump where people praising him and or slamming the trial as a sham.
Ladies and gentlemen are you ready?
To round this all out, we're going to turn things over to Buzzfeed news, congressional reporter Addy Baird for vibe checked from Capitol Hill.
Hello Hayes and Impeachment Today listeners, this is Addy bringing you a vibe check from the Hill. It is about 10:15 as I'm recording this and the Senate trial has concluded for the evening. So it was a much shorter day today than yesterday, thankfully. The vibe in the chamber was pretty studious, especially as they got underway in the early afternoon. I would say the members who are most studious were probably Senators, Mike Lee and Susan Collins. They were really consistently taking notes.
Even though it was a much shorter day, senators still got antsy by the late afternoon. You could see them getting up, doing stretches, kind of walking around the Senate floor, standing in the back. Interestingly, Diane Feinstein left, was spotted leaving the Capitol about an hour before the trial actually concluded for the evening. So seemed like she was ready to go. One interesting thing is, I talked to a bunch of senators today about the fact that they can't bring their cell phones in. So I thought that would make them crazy. But a lot of them told me they really love it. And it's a great digital detox and a break from their phones. So I guess the impeachment is self-care now.
Thanks Addy. Glad someone's getting something close to rejuvenating out of this process. Okay, it's time for the latest edition of Trial Watch 2020. Today is day two of the house manager's time to make their case. Yesterday was all about the narrative. Today it's all about the constitution. That means we can expect a lot of talk about what is and isn't impeachable and many, many, many references to Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, the guy, not the show. Sorry to disappoint.
And if you don't know, now, you know.
Thanks Hakeem Jeffries for that wisdom. From biggie, not Hamilton, like some thought when Hakeen Jeffrey's first said that this. Has been Trial Watch 2020. Okay, that's it for today. Tomorrow we'll have a recap of day two of the prosecution all queued up for you. Until then, I am going to go take a nap before the hearings start. Someone wake me up at noon, thanks. Thanks to all of you out there who have subscribed. If you're listening for the first time or just haven't gotten around to it yet, be sure to subscribe to Impeachment Today on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you go to hear my disembodied voice. And be sure to stick around as we all figure out how this all ends together.