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Impeachment Today Podcast: When Do We Get Our Trial?

In today's episode: Trump's trial has been delayed by a standoff between House Democrats and Senate Republicans. Will it end this week?

Posted on January 8, 2020, at 10:17 p.m. ET

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

It's Wednesday, January 8, 104 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 on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It's Wednesday, January 8th, 2020, 106 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. There's a lot going on in the world right now, but impeachment is still a thing, so we're here givinga you all the updates such as they are. Okay, today we're talking to Buzzfeed News DC Bureau Chief Kate Nocera about Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration's man with a million jobs and the witness Democrats want like you wanted an Nintendo 64 when you were a kid. God, I'm old. Anyway, before we get to all that, let's catch up on what happened yesterday.

Congress inched closer on Tuesday to resolving the standoff that's delayed President Trump's impeachment trial. Emphasis are now inched, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he definitely has enough support among his fellow Republicans to pass legislation, setting up how the trial will run without any input from Democrats.

Mitch McConnell:

We have the votes once the impeachment trial has begun to pass a resolution.

Hayes Brown:

McConnell's framework is being backed by several key moderate Republicans who support both sides had been courting. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, when asked if she wants witnesses to testify in the trial, gave the bold response, "I want a vote on whether to call witnesses." Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said that with her support came a pledge to make sure that we've laid out very clearly what this framework is in terms of timeline and the ability to move to witnesses. And Utah's Senator Mitt Romney said that, "Going with the Clinton impeachment process is satisfactory to me because that process did provide down the road for opportunity to hear from witnesses and I would like to hear from John Bolton."

Bolton, the former White House national security advisor said on Monday he'd be willing to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed. But Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a document released to the public that McConnell's promise of things running just like the Clinton trial was basically a head-fake. He accused the majority leader of trying to punt on witnesses until basically the end of the trial in hopes of just running out the clock and moving to a vote on the charges.

So, McConnell's announcement, not quite good enough for speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi. Since the impeachment vote was held in the house last month, she's refused to name the prosecution and send over the articles of impeachment until the trials process was made clear. And in a letter to her colleagues on Tuesday night, she said those two articles, one accusing Trump of abuse of power, the other of obstruction of Congress would stay in the house until McConnell publicly releases the draft legislation establishing the format. And now it's time for the nixometer reading de jure.

On our scale zero, normal day, normal White House. 10, Richard Nixon resigns, takes off in Marine One. This morning we're at a 7.9. The Senate is gearing up for a trial with no decision on witnesses in place. But that's about all the solid info we have so far as we continue to wait to see whether what comes next is, well, a trial or a cakewalk to an acquittal. Okay. After the break we talk to Kate Nocera about Mick Mulvaney and the office of management and budget, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds, promise. Be back in a tick.

All right. It is time for this fucking guy. Today we are looking at John Michael or Mick Mulvaney. He's the acting White House chief of staff and kind of sort-of-ish head of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Joining us in the studio to mull over Mulvaney is DC Bureau Chief and one of our favorite people here on the show, Kate Nocera. Hello Kate.

KN:

Hi Hayes. How are you?

Hayes Brown:

I'm doing just fine. Tell me, who is Mick Mulvaney and how many jobs does this man have?

KN:

He has a lot of jobs, or at least he has had a lot of jobs, a lot of career turnover for Mick Mulvaney. He originally came to prominence as a tea party Republican in the house of representatives from South Carolina where he was really anti-spending, anti-deficit. That's kind of how he made his name. And then he became the director of the CFPB.

HB:

Oh right. Honestly I forgot about that. That's the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau for those of you out there who don't speak DC.

KN:

Sorry, I only speak in acronym. And then became the acting chief of staff. The acting is weird, like I don't really know why that's in front of it. He's the chief of staff and he's also, as you said, the director of office of management and budget.

HB:

That is so much stuff.

KN:

It's so much stuff and it's because they can't keep people employed in the White House long enough and he just seems to be a guy that's willing to do whatever for Donald Trump.

HB:

Right. How is he still acting chief of staff after year? It not a Senate confirm spot, they just, the press said you're chief of staff.

KN:

Right. Yeah. I mean, he's still there. There are lots of rumors. He's always about to get fired every month or so. But I think the fact is that that's a really hard job under Trump. It's a hard job anyway, but especially under Trump, and I think they've made the calculation that it would be too hard to find anyone else to do it. So, just keep this guy around, I guess.

HB:

So, how did a budget hawk like Mulvaney wind up in the Trump administration where deficits are a magical thing that don't exist and there's just so much money being spent?

KN:

I think of all of the characters in terms of the Republican Party and people that have sort of abandoned their principles to become part of Trump's party. Mick Mulvaney really stands out as a shining beacon on the hill as someone who absolutely just abandoned everything he purported to believe in.

HB:

Right.

KN:

I mean, this was a guy that wanted to cut spending, cut spending, cut spending, only cared about the deficit. And then this year or last year, I forget when it was because time doesn't matter anymore, he got up in front of the press and said, "No one cares about the deficit."

Hayes Brown:

Which is just like, wow. I...

KN:

I mean, I think he is a Trump yes man. And that is the core operating principle for him at this point.

HB:

Let's turn to one of his jobs-ish. He's acting chief of staff. There's an acting director at the OMB. So Mick Mulvaney is still currently kind of has the job. What is the OMB's role? What does it actually do because I feel like we've talked about it a lot on this show without really going through first explaining what they do yet.

KN:

Yeah. I mean they run the government, right? So if you're a federal employee, you generally work and report to the OMB. Those are the people that sign your checks today. They said everyone can go home a couple hours early because it's supposed to snow like a half inch in DC and we can't handle that. That's the kind of decision making that they do. And then they decide how money appropriated from Congress can and should be spent. When things like government shutdown is about to happen or they're about to run out of money, it's OMB who's in charge and says, "Okay, we have this much money. This is when the government's actually going to shut down."

HB:

Right. Does it normally get a lot of attention because I feel like, no. I feel like we've heard the letters OMB more in the last couple of months than we have in a very long time.

KN:

Yeah, they're really, really important. But like most things that happen under Trump, everything takes on a bit of an outsized role and you're suddenly like, "Oh, that's an agency that's important. Oh that's an agency that has power." I mean, they've always had power and they've always been important. It's just that in other administrations-

HB:

They just kind of did the work and had to keep their head down.

KN:

Exactly. Very heads down federal government workers kind of.

HB:

What do we know about Mulvaney's role in the push by the White House for these Ukraine investigations?

KN:

From what I understand is Mulvaney, in his dual role as acting chief of staff and acting OMB director, was kind of the point man to disseminate information around this hold on the Ukraine money throughout the federal government. I mean, he was really the point guy for getting this information out to other agencies and get through what Trump wanted.

HB:

Right. When Trump says, "I don't want you to spend this nearly $400 million in military aid in Ukraine, Mulvaney-

KN:

Congressionally approved.

HB:

Congressionally approved and already notified Congress that it was going to be spent, Mick Mulvaney gets this order, he tells OMB, "Stop the presses. Don't you dare spend this money."

KN:

And gets their lawyers to come up with a legal justification to do so crucially-

HB:

Right. That recent report.

KN:

Yeah. The New York Times reported that.

HB:

So then Mulvaney has this amazing press conference where... and we forget, Mulvaney was only standing in front of the press that day to talk about Trump awarding the G7 Summit to his own resort. He gets up there and he gets asked about Ukraine and start saying all this damaging stuff about how, yeah, there was totally a quid pro quo.

KN:

Mick Mulvaney is the guy that then got up there and was like, "Yeah, no. There was a quid pro quo. I do, yeah."

HB:

Yeah. Could you get over it.

KN:

And like, own it girl. And then he had to walk that back a little bit, but they're going to do what they're going to do and there are blatantly partisan reasons behind it and he doesn't give a shit.

HB:

So what do you think? If Mulvaney is called in the eventual Senate trial, does he actually speak his piece and say what he knows, which is a lot? He just seems to me like the kind of person that if the screws are applied, pressure is put on, he will talk.

KN:

That's a good question. I mean, I think it really depends on how the Senate trial ends up being set up. I don't really envision a world in which Mitch McConnell decides that they're going to subpoena people or they're going to work out the rules to do so. But like, Hayes, you can do this every day. I don't know what's going to happen.

HB:

I know. Right, man.

KN:

When are the articles going to go to the Senate? What's Nancy doing? I don't know. There's so much stuff-

HB:

That's just up in the air right now.

KN:

That's up in the air right now ruining my life.

HB:

I feel that very deeply.

KN:

I'm sure you do.

HB:

So something interesting to remember about Mulvaney is that back in December there was a case working its way through the courts that basically asked a judge to decide whether a staffer at the White House has to listen to a congressional subpoena or the White House telling him to ignore it. So Mulvaney tries to get in on this as a defendant before backing off when people are like, "What are you doing?" So, given this apparent lack of loyalty, which Trump values so much, how is this guy still acting as chief of staff?

KN:

Again, I think it just comes down to, he is a guy who knows a lot about a lot of things, right? And so, the calculation of better to keep him on our team than to send him out. He'd write a book in two seconds-

HB:

Absolutely.

KN:

... and will write a book in two seconds when he gets out of there, he read John Bolton.

HB:

Oh geez. Another guy who we will talk about more, I'm sure a lot moving forward.

KN:

I'm sure this week.

HB:

Okay, so let's jump forward a little in time. It is a year from now. The 2020 election is in the rear view mirror. What is Mick Mulvaney up to?

KN:

I don't know is he still the acting chief of staff.

HB:

Is he still acting in front of there. Even if Trump wins reelection, who knows? Maybe.

KN:

He'll be like acting secretary of agriculture or something like that.

HB:

Congratulations to Mick Mulvaney on your new job.

KN:

And secretary of energy. I don't know. He'll have like five more jobs by then or he'll be back in South Carolina doing God knows what.

HB:

Kate, thank you so much for coming on and talking to us about the man who does it all in Washington.

KN::

The man who make the legend, yeah.

HB:

Thank you.

KN:

Thanks.

HB:

Okay, it's time for the latest edition of our newest segment, Trial Watch 2020. We are now a full three weeks since the house voted to impeach the press and still no clue when the trial will actually start. We will hopefully have more for you tomorrow, but for now this has been Trial Wash 2020. Okay. That's it for today. Tomorrow we will finally be talking about the man at the actual center of this whole shit show, current Democratic nomination front runner Joseph Robert, No Malarkey, Biden himself.

Before we leave you to your Wednesday, a reminder. We'd love to hear your predictions for the rest of the impeachment saga as we plow ahead in the new year: when will the trial start? How long will it last? What's the final vote going to be? Will Chief Justice John Robert bedazzle his robes for the big event. Send us all your best educated guesses. Read some tarot cards, consult the stars.

Just open the voicemail app on your phone for cordial prediction and email it to impeachment@buzzfeed.com, or just send me a direct message on Twitter. I'm @HayesBrown and my DMs are always open. Be sure to subscribe to Impeachment Today on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you go to hear my disembodied voice, and maybe please leave a rating and review. Also, tell your friends about the show as we all figure this out together.

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