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Impeachment Today Podcast: Lev Parnas Kept The Receipts

In today's episode: the impeachment story just got a whole lot more wild thanks to the cellphone of Fraud Guarantee founder Lev Parnas

Posted on January 15, 2020, at 10:18 p.m. ET

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

It's Wednesday, January 15, 113 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

You can listen to today's episode below, or check it out on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It's Wednesday, January 15, 2020, 113 days since the House began its impeachment inquiry, and this is Impeachment Today.

Good morning. I'm Hayes Brown, reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News. The House of Representatives will be voting today to send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. Finally, get hype. Okay, today we're talking to Addy Baird about the members of the House who will be prosecuting the president, AKA the House managers, as it were. But before we get to all that, let's catch up on what happened yesterday.

Yo, my guys, what the fuck? After what feels like an eternity of things being in a holding pattern, there's a ton of news to fill you in on this morning. House Democrats announced Monday evening that they were including new information with the impeachment documents being sent over to the Senate. That included a ton of text messages, WhatsApp messages, and you know what not taken from Rudy Giuliani associate/lackey Lev Parnas's cell phone.

Rudy had Parnas and his partner running around Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens and connect the former mayor with Ukrainian officials. And the new documents show just how deeply Rudy was involved in that hunt and apparently how much his client, President Trump, knew as it was happening. Among those documents are a letter from Rudy Giuliani to then president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. It was sent last May. In it, Giuliani says that he would like a meeting with Zelensky. He also says that he's reaching out in his quote capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, which is wild. It's Giuliani saying very clearly that he was acting in Ukraine with the president's consent, with his knowledge, and what he was doing was pressuring the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into the Bidens for Trump's political benefit, as it was made very clear during the impeachment inquiry and the public hearings.

What was missing was a clear connection between that little side project of Giuliani's and the president himself. This letter fills that gap. There's also messages between Parnas and a former Ukrainian official who gave Giuliani a bunch of the lies that he then spread. Many of those lies targeted than U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. She had frequently clashed with the Ukrainian official and he was clear in how important it was to him that she be removed. In one message to Parnas, he stresses that if Yovanovitch isn't handled, "You are bringing into question all my allegations, including against B." B as in Biden, clearly. And that I'll know quid pro quo, if you will, where Yovanovitch goes away and the official keeps leaning on the Bidens makes that subplot of impeachment a lot clearer.

Meanwhile, this is soon to be the Senate's problem. Later today, the House will vote to send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate. That ends a month of speculation about when this might actually happen. We'll talk more later in the show about what the chain of events that triggers will look like. Oh, and one more thing. Apparently, we're closer than ever to having witnesses called during the trial. There are apparently at least enough Republican Senators who are willing to have witnesses at all to make that happen. At least three seem to be willing to have former National Security Advisor John Bolton testify, but some Republicans are now considering witness reciprocity where if Democrats get to call Bolton they get to call, say, Hunter Biden. Things are very much still up in the air with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying they'll probably vote on the trial structure next Tuesday. And I got to say guys, things are just less certain than they have been at any time in the last month.

And now we have today's reading from our Nixometer.

Well, I'm not a crook.

On our scale, a zero is a normal day in a normal White House and 10 is President Richard Nixon resigning and flying away in Marine One. And this morning we're at an 8.2. I'll be real with y'all, I wasn't expecting the Nixometer to be jumping up at all as we moved closer to the trial and the acquittal most Senate Republicans are gunning towards, but this new information is mad incriminating, and with a chance of more coming out in the weeks ahead, we're entering uncharted waters. Will it get to the point then more Republicans question sticking with the president? We'll certainly find out.

Okay, after the break we're talking to Addy about the House impeachment managers, and they have a little more to work with now, don't they? Stick around.

All right. Time for These Fucking Guys: House Manager Edition. Today we're talking about the folks who will be running the show during the Senate trial, making the case for Trump's removal. Joining us by phone direct from Capitol Hill is BuzzFeed Congressional correspondent and BFF of the show, Addy Baird. Hello, Addy.

Addy Baird:

Hi, Hayes.

Hayes Brown:

So refresh our audience's memory if you will, just what are the House managers and what will they be doing during the trial?

AB:

So the House managers are a group of members of the House of Representatives who will, during the Senate trial, make the House's case to the Senate. Basically, they will go over and they will talk about why the House voted to impeach the president.

HB:

Fair enough. So that sounds like a gig that a lot of people will be after. Has there been a lot of behind the scenes jockeying in the Democratic caucus for a slot on this team?

AB:

Well, yes and no. Basically, it is, like you said, a really high profile job for someone who is ambitious, who might want to be in House leadership, who might want to run for another higher office someday. It is absolutely the kind of job that you want. And yes, there absolutely has been some behind the scenes sort of jockeying for these roles, but it's actually happened much more, I would argue, right in the public eye. A lot of the jockeying for these roles actually came during the hearings late last year in the Intel and Judiciary Committee. And the people who really want to be House managers were thinking a lot during those hearings about the kind of questions they would ask, how they would use their time, how they would interact with the witnesses and with their colleagues across the aisle. That was mostly, I would argue, the jockeying for these roles.

HB:

Sort of an audition process out in the public?

AB:

100% yes. It was totally an audition process.

HB:

So a moment of transparency, we are in the past, recording this on Tuesday. As folks are listening to this on Wednesday morning, should they expect to have an answer to the big question, who will be serving as managers?

AB:

It depends on what time in the morning you're listening to it.

HB:

Fair.

AB:

What we do know is that they are going to vote on a resolution tomorrow to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate and name House managers. The House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, told us today that he doesn't know for sure on timing. We don't know what time the House will vote on any given bill until the night before usually. So he said he didn't know on timing yet, but he did say that it's possible that Pelosi will announce the names of the impeachment managers before they actually vote on the resolution. But that's kind of all he said and all that we know so far. So it's possible by the end of the day tomorrow, yes, you will absolutely know. The end of the day, today when you're listening to this. It's really anyone's guess when that will ...

HB:

So let's play a guessing game then. Whose names are being floated then as possible managers?

AB:

Yeah. This has been a game that we have been playing on the Hill with the other reporters for a while now. There are two that we basically know for sure. And then other members have said absolutely Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, the Intel and Judiciary chairs respectively, will be impeachment managers and they will lead the impeachment managers team. A few other names that have been floating around, all of them have been members of the Intel and Judiciary Committees, which were obviously really closely involved in the impeachment investigation in the House. So a few other names that people have floated: Jim Himes of Connecticut, Eric Swalwell of California who's a close ally of Pelosi's. He's on TV all the time and really good at going out and making the House Democrats message.

AB:

Val Demings of Florida. I think that Pelosi wants to be conscious about making sure it's not just white dudes that are headed over there to make the case. And Demings is a black woman who's on the Judiciary Committee and was really, really kind of some star moments in the hearings. She's a really apt questioner. She's very, very smart, and so she's also been talked about a lot. I do know that Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, she's a really smart freshman member also on Judiciary who has kind of been jockeying for the role. And she's the kind of person who this could really kind of ... and this is true for Demings as well, who could really kind of have a star turn.

HB:

Question. What's the latest word on Justin Amash, the now Independent Congressman from Michigan who left the Republican party mid last year?

AB:

We haven't really heard anything in particular. This is one of those things, the impeachment managers are one of those things that Nancy Pelosi is holding really close to the chest, and I don't think that even people really close to her know what she's thinking. But Justin Amash has really been floated, members of Congress, by some reporters. Like you said, he left the Republican party over differences about supporting impeachment, and he is the kind of person that could maybe go and talk to people like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in a more moderate Republican case for why they should vote to remove Trump from office. So I don't know, but I think it would be a really, really interesting choice and I think he would be great at it.

HB:

So when Clinton was impeached, the Republicans send over 13 members to act as managers. It sounds though like we're not looking at nearly that many in this trial, right?

AB:

No, I mean, again, we haven't been given any hard numbers, but I would be really surprised. I would say five or six maybe, that would beat my bet. But who's to say?

HB:

On Thursday's episode we'll be talking about the defense. And it sounds like on that side they've managed to pretty neatly divvy up the tasks of who will be doing what during the trial. Has anyone done anything similar with the House managers, basically a fantasy casting to see who would be playing which role?

AB:

Not really. You know, it's hard to fantasy cast, I would say, before you know who you're really looking at and working with. I do think Justin Amash is sort of fantasy casting. I think that that would be a really particular role that he could play. This isn't fantasy casting, this is just like reality, like Schiff and Nadler are going to lead this and play similar roles to the roles that they played in the hearings where they led their committees and really made the case in their statements. But yeah, outside of that, I think that a lot is up in the air and it'll be kind of fun to see how these things shake out, especially with some of these members, like Val Demings, who don't have as much of a national profile. I think that we'll be able to kind of see her, or a member or two like her, craft a role for themselves.

HB:

Yeah. There are just so many huge question marks still as we head into the trial, including the question of witnesses. But Addy, as we continue to hunt for those answers, I know that we will be able to turn to you for guidance. Thank you so much for joining us today.

AB:

Thank you, Hayes.

HB:

Okay. It is time for the latest edition of Trial Watch 2020. It's where we run down what's happening next in the Senate impeachment trial. So, we described in Monday's episode what happens once the House managers are named and how they march on over to the Senate side of the Capitol to start the trial. They will be doing that tomorrow. Then on Thursday, per the Senate's rules is when the process of the trial really gets into gear. Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts will come on over from the Supreme Court and be sworn in as the presiding officer for the length of the trial. He, in turn, will swear in the Senators as a jury with a special oath which reads, "I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God."

HB:

Every Senator will agree to those words and sign something called an oath book. So yeah, it's like taking the black in Game of Thrones except not at all because some Senators seem to have different ideas of impartiality: McConnell, Graham, every GOP Senator basically. Jeez, a lot of dust in the studio today. We really need to clean in here. They'll also send a summon to the president saying, "You've been impeached. Got anything to say about it?" That's what we have for you today. Tune in tomorrow for more Trial Watch 2020.

HB:

Okay, that's it for today. Tomorrow we'll tell you all about the other side of this trial, the defense team of one Donald J. Trump. They're basically The Avengers. They are nothing like The Avengers. Be sure to subscribe to Impeachment Today on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you prefer to get my disembodied voice, and maybe leave us a rating and a review. Please and thank you. Also, tell your friends about the show as we all figure this out together.

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