House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held on to the articles of impeachment for almost a month before delivering them to the Senate — a decision that Republicans blasted as inconsistent with her claim it was urgent to remove President Donald Trump to protect the integrity of the 2020 election.
While critics argue she undercut the House case with that delay, both Pelosi and House impeachment managers point to the significance of the evidence that’s surfaced since the House passed the articles of impeachment Dec. 18.
“Time has been our friend in all this,” Pelosi has said, calling the new evidence “incriminating.”
Democrats have talked extensively about some of the newly emerged evidence in making their arguments at the Senate trial, but it hasn’t yet been formally admitted as they demanded. On a party-line vote, the GOP-led Senate voted to consider whether it should be allowed only later in the trial, after all arguments are made and senators ask written questions. Democrats called that exactly backwards.
91 minutes between Ukraine phone call and withholding of aid
On Dec. 22, documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity revealed White House officials requested almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine be held 91 minutes after Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
According to a record of the call released by the White House, the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy took place between 9: 03 a.m. and 9: 33 a.m.
At 11: 04 a.m., Mike Duffey, an official with the White House’s budget office, sent an email to Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, the chief of staff to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Pentagon’s chief financial officer. In that email, he instructed them to put a hold on the aid.
A spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget responded to the revelation by saying, “to pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the new evidence “explosive,” pushing his case for Duffey and other key players to be called as witnesses at the Senate trial.
“A top administration official, one that we’ve requested, is saying ‘stop the aid’ 91 minutes after Trump called Zelenskiy, and said ‘keep it hush-hush,” Schumer said. “What more do you need to request a witness?”
Unredacted email says aid freeze was at ‘clear direction of POTUS’
On Jan. 2, an unredacted version of an email disclosed Duffey ordered the Pentagon to keep the freeze in U.S. assistance to Ukraine at the “clear direction from the POTUS.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House prosecutor in the Senate impeachment trial, said these emails undermined the White House’s argument that the aid was held for a legitimate reason. U.S. law provides exemptions for the executive branch to withhold spending if the administration informs Congress of such decisions on a timely basis, which was not the case with the Ukranian aid.
“The documents show a compelling desire to prevent Congress from finding out,” Schiff said in a statement. “If there was a legitimate reason to place the hold and there was no concern about violating the law, they would have told Congress. But of course they did not, since the whole point of the aide freeze was to coerce Ukraine into interfering in our election to help the president.”
Despite Democrats’ call for witnesses, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed for a swift trial without them. The Senate ultimately rejected Schumer’s proposed amendment to the Senate trial rules, which would have subpoenaed testimony from Duffey. The amendment failed along party lines.
In a tweet, Pelosi said the emails showed an “unprecedented, total obstruction of Congress” by the president.
Bolton willing to testify if subpoenaed
Bolton was one of the four individuals Schumer demanded the Senate call as witnesses, noting his attorney previously told House lawyers Bolton was “personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far,” putting more pressure on Republicans to call new witnesses.
Schumer called Bolton’s statement “momentum for uncovering the truth.”
“Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up,” he said.
Pelosi echoed Schumer on Twitter.
“The President & Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses. They must allow key witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves,” she said.
Parnas says ‘Trump knew exactly what was going on’ with Ukraine
In an interview on MSNBC’s ““The Rachel Maddow Show”,” Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, claimed President Trump was fully aware of Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.
In an interview on CNN the following evening, Parnas said both his and Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine were “all about 2020, to make sure [Trump] had another four years.”
Parnas participated in the first of these interviews on Jan. 15, the same day Pelosi officially began the process to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Shortly after delivering the articles, the House Intelligence Committee published new records gathered from Parnas as part of a subpoena request from September. The records included voicemails, photographs, videos and messages further linking Giuliani to his involvement in Ukraine — a key part being the efforts to dismiss former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
In one text exchange from March 2019, a Connecticut man and a Trump donor named Robert F. Hyde texted Parnas: “Wow. Can’t believe Trump hasn’t fired that bitch. I’ll get right in that.”
The texts came one month before Yovanovitch was fired from her post, but Parnas and Hyde dismissed the exchange as not serious.
The president adamantly denied ever knowing much about Parnas and what he was up to with Giuliani, to which Parnas responded he was “lying.”