Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday. Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

While Dems rehearse spin for loss

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham has advice for President Donald Trump on how to survive a Senate impeachment trial: Don't try too hard.

“I’d tell the president, if somebody is ready to acquit you, I’d sort of get out of the way,” said Graham, who, like other Republican senators, has been urging Trump to give up on pressing for a trial with witnesses. "If you start calling the witnesses the president wants and they're going to start calling Mike Pence, you know, the Secretary of State Pompeo, I don't think that's good for the country," Graham said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Graham already has decided on an innocent verdict for the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges in the articles against impeachment against Trump over his Ukraine dealings. “I clearly made up my mind. I’m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process. So I don’t need any witnesses.” 

Democrats, who on Monday made criminal bribery part of the formal conversation, want witnesses. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told ABC's “This Week” that if Republicans “don’t think there’s sufficient evidence … they should demand” testimony during the Senate trial from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former White House national security adviser John Bolton and other Trump aides who refused to testify for the House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also called for testimony from Mulvaney and Bolton.

Even with the Senate poised to acquit, House Democratic leaders professed to have no regrets about pushing forward with impeachment, after once depicting it as pointless without bipartisan support. An acquittal for Trump “isn’t a failure,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday. “At least it’s not a failure in the sense of our constitutional duty in the House.”

Less certain is the impact of a result in Trump’s favor on the November 2020 election. Trump is touting a potential boost, but chances are the trial will be over before the end of January, and old news gets older faster in the Trump era.

Polling remains inconclusive. A Fox News poll released Sunday found 50% of voters want Trump impeached and removed, 4% say impeach but don't remove and 41% oppose impeachment altogether. But a Quinnipiac poll last week found a 51% to 45% majority against removal. On Monday a Marist poll reported 48 percent oppose impeachment and 47 percent support it, unchanged from last month. For more in the impeachment fight, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Over the parties

New Jersey Democratic leaders are saying good riddance to Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who opposes impeachment and is expected to switch to the Republican Party this week.

While a pro-impeachment vote could have cost Van Drew in a South Jersey district that went for Trump in 2016, opposing it made him more vulnerable to a Democratic primary challenger. He was already unpopular with progressives for votes against gay marriage, increasing the minimum wage and numerous gun control measures.

Meanwhile, a movement is brewing among Democratic freshmen to recruit ex-Republican-turned-independent Rep. Justin Amash as a manager for the Senate trial. A libertarian conservative, Amash quit the GOP in July in a rupture with fellow Republicans over Trump — and favors impeachment.

It will be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's call on who should prosecute the Democrats' case after the full House votes on impeachment Wednesday. Trump, meanwhile, reached a new level of silliness with some nasty drivel about her teeth falling out.  

Janison: Thumbs on justice scales

Republicans accused Democrats of contriving allegations against Trump in the House. Democrats are protesting what they see as the GOP rigging the upcoming Senate trial in his favor. But no one was expecting the kind of unbiased approach that the system demands in a criminal court case, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Congress is the arm of the government whose members are expected to be the most parochial and party-driven. It is impractical to suggest they would act free of the biases on which they were elected. They seek to persuade rather than mediate or arbitrate.

McConnell said there was "zero chance" the president would be removed and vowed "total coordination" with the White House and the president's lawyers.

The unavoidable Mike Bloomberg

Billionaire and late-starting Democratic 2020 hopeful Mike Bloomberg is carpet-bombing the internet with ads. They are showing up at the top of Instagram feeds, front and center on Facebook timelines, in Google search results and in the middle of YouTube videos, writes Newsday's Figueroa.

The $10 million for Google and YouTube ads is part of more than $100 million in TV and web advertising. The social media outlays are fast approaching those of Trump, whose campaign has dropped almost $17 million for Facebook ads this year.

It remains to be seen whether the Bloomberg blitz will pay off and push his polling numbers above 5% or turn off voters as overkill.

Other reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post describe how Bloomberg has parlayed billions in philanthropy and hundreds of millions in political donations for other Democratic candidates and projects to build goodwill that could pay dividends for his ambitions. He's picking up endorsements from mayors who attended a mayoral training program he sponsors at Harvard.

Meanwhile Suffolk's Steve Bellone on Monday became the first county executive in New York to endorse Bloomberg for the Democratic nomination, as Newsday's John Valenti reports. 

Horowitz not Trump's hero

Trump sounded quite pleased last week with the report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that found FBI abuses in obtaining surveillance warrants for the Russia investigation. Initially, he glossed over Horowitz not finding that anti-Trump bias drove the launch of the investigation.

But no more, now that he's had a few days to stew about the report and how it was reported. A Trump tweet Sunday veered toward calling Horowitz an Obama stooge with little credibility:

"As bad as the I.G. Report is for the FBI and others, and it is really bad, remember that I.G. Horowitz was appointed by Obama. There was tremendous bias and guilt exposed, so obvious, but Horowitz couldn’t get himself to say it. Big credibility loss. Obama knew everything!"

Trump also blasted "Fox News Sunday" in advance for booking "sleazebag" former FBI Director James Comey on the show. But under tough questioning by host Chris Wallace, Comey acknowledged he was "wrong" in past defenses of the bureau’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 

Trump took note of that after the show and tweeted: "So what are the consequences for his unlawful conduct. Could it be years in jail?

Bernie and the Old-Timers

With Bernie Sanders lagging among voters over 50, his campaign is coaching young supporters on how to appeal to their parents and grandparents during the holidays, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Sanders' newest cause is minor league baseball, The Associated Press reports. He is aggressively opposing a Major League Baseball plan to cut 42 minor league teams after 2020. Among those endangered are the Class A Vermont Lake Monsters in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. Also, several teams in Iowa.

What else is happening:

  • The seven Democrats who made the cut for Thursday's debate signed a letter from Cory Booker, who did not, urging the Democratic National Committee to ease up on qualifications for the January and February debates. They argued that meeting either a polling or fundraising standard should be enough. DNC chairman Tom Perez has been cool to changing the criteria.
  • As Democrats in overwhelmingly white Iowa look beyond their state's caucuses to the general election against Trump, they are factoring in which candidate could have the strongest appeal to nonwhite voters, The New York Times reported.
  • The Trump administration is preparing to soon announce a drawdown of about 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, but the timing is still in flux, a senior administration official told CNN.
  • Graham is inviting Rudy Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee — but not a Senate trial — about his recent trip to Ukraine collecting allegations against the Bidens and Democrats. “Rudy, if you want to come and tell us what you found, I'll be glad to talk to you,” Graham said.
  • Giuliani fired off a series of tweets about his theories and witnesses, many familiar but also including this about Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor fired at the urging of Joe Biden and European allies: "Shokin’s med records show he was poisoned, died twice, and was revived."
  • Tensions between the Trump administration and North Korea are expected to intensify in coming weeks as Pyongyang appears to be preparing an end to a moratorium on nuclear testing and as Kim Jong Un's self-imposed year-end deadline for diplomacy approaches, CBS News reported.