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Trump impeachment trial could get witnesses after all

Then-national security adviser John Bolton in 2018.

Then-national security adviser John Bolton in 2018. Credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Scared witnessless? Not all GOPers

Removal from office remains the remotest of possibilities, but as President Donald Trump agitates for the Senate Republican majority to dismiss the articles of impeachment after opening arguments, he could be setting himself up to lose a big round.

The White House is now expecting some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, CBS News reported.

Officials there believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will want to hear from witnesses, the report said. That would be enough for Democratic senators to get witness testimony.

In addition to Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a "wild card" and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an "institutionalist" who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it to CBS.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who turned back House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's demand for assurances on witnesses, has said the question would be decided by the full Senate after the trial gets underway. He's telling his members that he expects the trial to start Jan. 21 and last as much as three to five weeks.

Former national security adviser John Bolton likely would be at the top of the Democrats' witness wish list. Bolton had a close-up view of a scheme to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations of Trump opponents. Romney said on Monday, “I presume I’ll be voting in favor of hearing from John Bolton.”

A new Quinnipiac poll found 66% of voters want Bolton to testify. Trump said recently he'd likely invoke executive privilege to try to block Bolton from appearing if he is subpoenaed.

Telling tales is preexisting condition

Trump tweeted on Monday: "I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare." He couldn't be more wrong.

The claim came in a tweet denouncing as "false advertising" a Michael Bloomberg ad that focused on Trump's efforts to undo Obamacare.

The reality is that Trump backed failed efforts by Republicans in Congress in 2017 that could have jacked up health insurance premiums for people with preexisting conditions. Obamacare established the protections against that.

The Trump administration currently is pushing a lawsuit that would overturn Obamacare, including those protections. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Janison: Phonying up the cash

A sizable number of Trump assertions that turn out to be dodgy, inaccurate or blatantly false are about money, the one thing he was supposed to be good at, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Last Friday, Trump said unchallenged on Fox News: "Saudi Arabia is paying us for [our troops]" and "they’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank." Good luck in trying to follow that money. Details have not been forthcoming.

When dollar signs are involved, Trump has his own special brand of truthlessness. He's been known to inflate or minimize his own holdings, depending on whether he's boasting of success or having to pay taxes.

Other claims that couldn't be banked on: Mexico will pay for the border wall. Mammoth corporate tax cuts will pay for themselves. China, not U.S. consumers, will pay for tariffs.

Progressives in distress

Sniping broke out again Monday between the camps of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

CNN reported that after the pair met in December 2018 to discuss their prospective campaigns, Warren related to people that Sanders warned her a woman couldn't win.

An angry statement from Sanders called the account "ludicrous," adding, "It's sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren't in the room are lying about what happened." According to Sanders, "What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could."

But Warren put out a statement Monday night calling the account true, while adding that "Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry."

A grassroots activist group, Democracy for America, begged Sanders and Warren to stop fighting. "You both are progressive champs & our movement needs to see you working together to defeat your corporate Dem opponents — not attack each other," it tweeted.

Iowa turbulence

On the eve of Tuesday night's Iowa debate, a new poll shows the race in that state remains tight and volatile.

Joe Biden, who ranked fourth in a survey late last week, placed first in a Monmouth University poll with 24%. Trailing, but not by much, are Sanders at 18%, Pete Buttigieg at 17% and Warren at 15%.

The debate airs on CNN at 9 p.m. The podium order, from left to right, will be Tom Steyer, Warren, Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

Bernie on birthdays: Humbug

The closest thing to a surprise in a New York Times editorial board interview with Sanders may be this: He doesn't care to wish people "happy birthday," no matter how much they might appreciate it.

"I’m not good at backslapping. I’m not good at pleasantries. If you have your birthday, I’m not going to call you up to congratulate you, so you’ll love me and you’ll write nice things about me," Sanders said.

There's more: "I have been amazed at how many people respond to, 'Happy Birthday!' 'Oh Bernie, thanks so much for calling.' It works. It’s just not my style."

Sanders turns 79 on Sept. 8. 

What else is happening:

  • Russian military hackers have dug out material from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that employed Biden's son Hunter on its board, which Trump wanted investigated, The New York Times reported. The effort is stoking suspicions that Russia may be prepared to try to help Trump like it did in 2016.
  • A Bethpage man detained by Egyptian authorities since 2013 died in Cairo while in custody after Vice President Mike Pence's efforts to intervene on his behalf failed, Newsday's Zach Dowdy reports.
  • If Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani posed an imminent threat to four U.S. embassies before he was killed, as Trump claimed, you'd expect those outposts would have been specifically warned by the State Department, right? That didn't happen, CNN reported.
  • Trump tweeted Monday that "it doesn’t really matter" whether Soleimani posed an imminent threat "because of his horrible past.” It matters because it was a justification for not informing congressional leaders beforehand.
  • Cory Booker ended his presidential campaign Monday, lagging in polls and fundraising after his message of unity and love failed to catch on. With the New Jersey senator's exit, only one black candidate — former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — remains in the race, and just barely.
  • Trump retweeted faked images showing Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in Muslim attire with the caption: "The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah's rescue." Muslim groups, the Anti-Defamation League and others condemned the tweet as Islamophobic.
  • Trump will host a Keep America Great rally in Des Moines on Jan. 30, four days before the Iowa caucuses. Democrats figure it will spur turnout on their side.

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