The latest on President Trump's impeachment

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2:56 p.m. ET, December 22, 2019

Sen. Chuck Schumer: "Witnesses are the most important part of the trial"

Sen. Chuck Schumer told CNN today that he believes witnesses are crucial to the Senate trial.

"Witnesses are the most important part of the trial—and documents, don’t forget that. Witnesses and documents are the most important part. So we should negotiate those first, ‘cause that’s the biggest—that’s the biggest issue. It’ll be easy to negotiate the other stuff. But if we just do that, as McConnell wants, he could then cut the whole thing off and say, ‘No witnesses. No documents,'" Schumer told CNN.

More on Schumer, McConnell and the impeachment: Schumer on Monday blasted his Republican counterpart, McConnell, for taking cues from the White House on impeachment ahead of the looming Senate trial, saying the Kentucky Republican is "totally out of line."

As the House prepares to vote this week on two articles of impeachment, Schumer has been leading Democratic efforts to shape how the expected Senate trial will play out. But already, several leading Senate Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, have publicly declared their intention to acquit Trump, regardless of whatever evidence is presented.

In an interview with CNN's John Berman on "New Day," Schumer blasted McConnell for coordinating with the White House ahead of the trial.

"For him to talk to the President is one thing. For him to say, 'I'm going to do just what the President wants,' is totally out of line," said Schumer, a New York Democrat.

CNN previously reported McConnell and White House counsel Pat Cipollone discussed plans to coordinate a strategy for an impeachment trial in the Senate during closed-door meetings last week. While no final decisions have been made, McConnell and Cipollone agreed that when a trial begins, the House Democratic impeachment managers would have an opportunity to present, followed by Trump's lawyers presenting the President's defense, sources have told CNN

1:59 p.m. ET, December 22, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham criticizes Pelosi over not sending the articles of impeachment

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican and one of President Trump’s staunchest allies, appeared on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures” and blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi again for refusing to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

“She’s trampling on the separation of powers,” he said. 

Regarding the recent Inspector General report outlining some of the problems found with the way the FISA surveillance applications were made by the FBI, Graham as Judiciary Chairman said he wants FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire somebody and for someone to go to jail. 

Graham said he also wants US Attorney John Durham, who is doing his own investigation of how the FBI conducted the Russia probe, to “hold people criminally accountable.”

12:34 p.m. ET, December 22, 2019

Giuliani appears in West Palm Beach after being seen at Mar-a-Lago

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani held court on an outside patio of a West Palm Beach hotel restaurant this morning—the final day of Turning Point’s Student Action Summit, a gathering of conservative students.

The morning after being seen at Mar-a-Lago, Giuliani dined with his communications director Christianne Allen, while a body guard fended off the students trickling in looking for selfies.

Trump’s personal attorney was speaking loudly about his strong relationship with the President, how his support has never wavered and said he is currently going to the capitol two times a week; “traveling like crazy.”

Giuliani met with multiple people over his breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon leading mostly mundane conversations about politicking, who to donate to, and a project he is working on to protect Trump supporting students who “are abused” for their beliefs, he said.

Giuliani and the impeachment: The former mayor of New York City's role in the impeachment has been reinforced over the past few months as numerous Trump officials have testified that Giuliani was essentially running a shadow foreign policy toward Ukraine that many feared ran counter to US national security interests.

Giuliani disputes this and has particularly harsh words for Trump's EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, whose testimony includes the acknowledgment that Trump did direct him to work with Giuliani on Ukraine.

"He never said anything to me that remotely resembles what he said in his testimony," he says of Sondland.

Giuliani also finds himself the target of federal prosecutors in New York who are scrutinizing his business dealings with two indicted associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. CNN has reported he is also the subject of a counterintelligence probe. Giuliani has hired a white-collar criminal attorney Bob Costello and two additional lawyers.

11:49 a.m. ET, December 22, 2019

President Trump was impeached this week. Here's what happens next.

Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images
Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

The House voted Wednesday to approve two articles of impeachment against President Trump — obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

The House and Senate are now in recess for the holidays. Here's where things stand:

  • The House hasn't sent the case to the Senate yet: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not commit to sending the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Republican-held Senate. The Senate will eventually hold a trial to determine if Trump should be removed from office, but can't take up the issue until the House formally transmits the articles.
  • A key point: Pelosi told reporters that she was waiting for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to cut a deal first on the rules that would govern the Senate trial before she sends over the articles.
  • Next month: We're not sure when McConnell and Schumer will decide on trial rules and when the House will send over the articles of impeachment. However, even before Trump was impeached, McConnell had said the Senate would hold the trial in the new year. House Democrats are privately preparing for a trial to begin as soon as the week of Jan. 6. 

11:15 a.m. ET, December 22, 2019

Pence's chief of staff calls the withholding of the articles of impeachment from Senate “untenable” 

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the White House believes Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s position on withholding the articles of impeachment from the Senate is “untenable” and that the White House is “quite confident” she will back off of it when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell negotiate trial procedures. 

Short said President Trump is “looking forward” to being “exonerated” in the Senate trial, but said the ideal scenario for the trial would be for both sides to present their cases and then hold a vote on how to proceed – something McConnell has suggested as well.

Pence’s chief of staff also noted that President Trump still wants Ukraine’s alleged role in the 2016 election probed.

“He thinks that we should at least investigate it,” Short said. “It’s quite possible that both [Russia and Ukraine] were interfering in the election.”

More on Ukraine and 2016: US intelligence officials have told lawmakers that Russia has been engaging in a years-long effort to shift the blame of Moscow's interference in the 2016 US presidential election to Ukraine, a message that was echoed during public testimony by Trump's former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill and other witnesses in the impeachment probe.

10:42 a.m. ET, December 22, 2019

Republican senator says trial should start and then decision later can be made on witnesses

Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images
Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, appeared with Dana Bash on “State of the Union” today to explain the best way to proceed regarding witnesses in the Senate trial.

Blunt said the best course of action is to follow what was done during the Clinton impeachment: start the trial and then vote later on witnesses.

Blunt criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not sending over the articles to the Senate and said he believes by the time Congress comes back next month things will be resolved.

"I, frankly, don't think the speaker has the right to do this or the power to do this. The speaker has a lot of power. But once the House has spoken, the speaker doesn't get the decision as to whether or not she transmits that decision to the Senate, in my view," Blunt said.

Blunt said he personally does not believe the House Democrats have made their case against President Trump. Blunt defended Trump’s actions and policies saying they have helped evangelicals.  

9:42 a.m. ET, December 22, 2019

How senators are preparing for an impeachment trial

Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Now that the House of Representatives has taken the historic step of impeaching the President, senators are getting ready for a trial where they will decide whether President Donald Trump should be removed from office.

To prepare, Republicans and Democrats are studying up.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, an occasional critic of the President who has been careful not to tip his hand ahead of a Senate impeachment trial, has read over the Federalist Papers in an effort to get a sense of how the Founding Fathers viewed impeachment.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, is working through multiple books on impeachment. The best one he's read so far is "The Breach," an account by journalist Peter Baker of former President Bill Clinton's impeachment in the House and Senate trial.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas just finished reading "The Impeachers," a newly-released book on the impeachment and trial of former President Andrew Johnson, the first presidential impeachment to take place in the United States.

"We're all trying to get up to speed because this doesn't happen very often," Cornyn told CNN, adding that the book "brought home how serious and really unique impeachment is."

8:43 a.m. ET, December 22, 2019

Newly released emails offer more details in timeline of pause to Ukraine aid

Shortly after President Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Trump's political appointees were already tasked with carrying out a freeze on security funding for Ukraine, newly released government documents show.

"Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process," Mike Duffey, the White House official in the Office of Management and Budget responsible for overseeing national security money and a Trump political appointee, wrote to select OMB and Pentagon officials on July 25.

Duffey's email suggests that he knew the hold could raise concerns.

While a formal notification would be sent later that day, this was the first clear sign that the aid was being held, a short time after the phone call in which Trump pressed Zelensky for investigations that could boost Trump politically.

A judge ordered the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon to hand the documents over to the Center for Public Integrity Friday in response to a FOIA request.

The Center for Public Integrity published the documents late Friday night.

While much of the release was redacted, the documents shed some light on the conversations between two government organizations who were carrying out the President's orders even amid concerns by some that they could run afoul of the law.

7:51 a.m. ET, December 22, 2019

House Democrats are privately preparing for a Senate trial

Even though it’s uncertain when President Trump’s impeachment trial is expected to start, House Democrats are privately preparing for a trial to begin as soon as the week of Jan. 6. 

Staff for the key House committees, in consultation with Democratic leadership, are expected to work over the holiday recess in the event the trial starts early in the new year, per two sources with knowledge of the work.

Where things are right now: In order for a trial to take place, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs to send over the articles to the Senate.

But she says she needs to understand what the process will be like in the Senate to determine which impeachment managers to name to prosecute their case. The House needs to vote on the impeachment managers before the articles are sent over, Democrats say. The earliest House vote would be Jan. 7.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are at an impasse over the rules for a trial, with Schumer wanting a deal struck up front on witnesses and documents and McConnell saying those decisions should come later and they should agree to just the nuts-and-bolts of the trial initially.