He is Trump, hear him raw
It's now a sure thing, according to vote counters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post, that the 45th president, Donald Trump, will enter the history books as the third to be impeached. Trump evidently decided a mere tweetstorm wouldn't do justice for what he denounces as so grave an injustice.
So Trump sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — six single-spaced pages that read like a rambling daisy chain of his angriest tweets strung together, liberally sprinkled with insults and false and misleading claims, including the conspiracy theories about Democratic foes he wanted Ukraine to investigate.
"This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history," Trump said. (Right or wrong, it's a constitutional process.) But Trump, reprising his "witch hunt" cry, complains that "more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials."
Getting personal, Trump excoriated Pelosi for "your spiteful actions" and accused her of "offending Americans of faith by continually saying 'I pray for the President,' when you know this statement is not true." More: "You have developed a full-fledged case of what many in the media call Trump Derangement Syndrome and sadly, you will never get over it!"
But Trump has a more expansive list of tormentors to denounce as well. "After three years of unfair and unwarranted investigations, 45 million dollars spent, 18 angry Democrat prosecutors, the entire force of the FBI, headed by leadership now proven to be totally incompetent and corrupt, you have found NOTHING!" the letter said.
Trump called for a halt to the impeachment proceedings, even as he noted he had "no expectation" such a suspension would occur. With an eye to history, Trump said he wrote the letter to "put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record" so that "one hundred years from now, when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn from it, so that it can never happen to another President again." (Read the letter.)
Asked by reporters on Capitol Hill for her reaction, Pelosi called the letter "ridiculous." She added that while she hadn't read it in full, “I’ve seen the essence of it though, and it’s really sick." See her comment in a video clip. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Impeachment is at hand
The full House is set to debate and vote on two articles of impeachment on Wednesday, writes Newsday's Tom Brune. Democrats assert that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election by probing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for his own benefit, and blocking attempts by the House to investigate his misdeeds.
While the outcome is certain, the shape of the Senate's trial next month remains to be hashed out. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday rejected calls from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to allow witnesses, asserting "it suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House’s rushed process has been.”
Schumer countered that the witnesses he seeks refused to participate in the House investigation, and "senators who oppose this plan will have to explain why less evidence is better than more evidence." He pointed to a new Washington Post/ABC poll that showed 71% of Americans, including 64% of Republicans, want witnesses at a trial.
Newsday's Figueroa has more on the unfolding process.
Who's Rudy building a case for?
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff rated Rudy Giuliani "perhaps the worst lawyer that anyone could have” as Giuliani gave a series of interviews declaring he pushed to oust U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch because he believed she was standing in the way of his “investigations.”
Giuliani “continues to make the case” for impeachment, Schiff said on NBC's “Late Night with Seth Meyers” on Monday night.
Giuliani told The New Yorker that "I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way." Following up with The New York Times, Giuliani said he shared his frustrations with his client, Trump, including "gossip" that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was against him, and the president told him to take it up with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
After telling the Times that he didn't specifically recommend her ouster, Giuliani went on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show and boasted: "I forced her out because she’s corrupt.” Other high-ranking State Department officials testified before Schiff's committee that Yovanovitch was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by Giuliani.
A social media analysis firm has traced the origin of some of the fake stories about Yovanovitch to a Russian disinformation campaign, The Washington Post reported.
Janison: On Russia, no exclusion
The "Republicans-dallied-with-Russia" scenario seems to be winning against the "Ukranians-colluded-with-Democrats" chimera, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
On Monday, a judge shot down ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn's claim that the "deep state" had framed him into a guilty plea for lying about Russia contacts.
On Tuesday, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan revealed that a family bank account of Giuliani's indicted business associate Lev Parnas received $1 million from Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who is fighting extradition to the U.S. for bribery and racketeering.
Firtash has links to Russian organized crime, alleges the Justice Department, and his lawyers have been a source of the allegations that Giuliani has thrown against the Bidens and former special counsel Robert Mueller, Time magazine reported in October.
Jail for another Trump campaign vet
Former 2016 Trump campaign official Rick Gates, a business cohort of onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was sentenced on Tuesday to 45 days in jail for financial crimes uncovered during Mueller's Russia investigation.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson commended Gates for "extraordinary” cooperation with Mueller’s probe and other Justice Department investigations, but she said his crimes continued even after he had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate. It was “hard to overstate the number of lies” and the amount of fraud involved in the case, the judge said.
Gates could have been sentenced to more than 5 years. The judge said he could serve his sentence on weekends while on probation for 3 years.
Gates is now the fourth Trump associate to receive at least some time behind bars. Manafort, who would not cooperate, is serving a 7½-year sentence. On Tuesday, he was in a Pennsylvania hospital, where he was brought after suffering what was described as a cardiac event last week.
In rare business as usual …
The Democratic-controlled House voted Tuesday to pass a $1.4 trillion government-wide spending package, giving Trump steady funding for his U.S.-Mexico border barrier while giving Democrats spending increases across a swath of domestic programs.
The legislation would forestall a government shutdown this weekend. The White House said Tuesday that Trump will sign the measure.
What else is happening:
- The chief judge of the rarely heard-from Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court slammed the FBI for mistakes it made surveillance warrants for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. She ordered the agency to detail how it will fix the problems that were found by the Justice Department inspector general.
- A Manhattan federal judge turned down a request by prosecutors to revoke Parnas' bail. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office contended Parnas posed an "extraordinary risk of flight" due to association with a "foreign benefactor," identified in court as Firtash.
- A doctor's report released by Biden's campaign declared the 77-year-old Democratic candidate healthy enough to serve as president. Biden, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 1988, has no symptoms of similar problems, nor is he affected by an irregular heartbeat, said Dr. Kevin O’Connor.
- Schiff is voicing suspicion that Vice President Mike Pence knew more than he has let on about Trump's push on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for investigations, The Washington Post reported. In a letter to Pence, Schiff said the vice president has refused to declassify testimony that is “directly relevant” to the impeachment debate.
- A small group of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, including George Conway, husband of Kellyanne Conway, is launching a super PAC designed to fight Trump’s reelection and defeat congressional Republicans who are his “enablers,” The Associated Press reported.
- Michael Bloomberg has more time to count his money if he needs it. He won’t have to file a mandatory financial disclosure until after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest, under an extension granted by the Federal Election Commission this week.