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Trump news: Rape accuser asks for president's DNA, as impeachment judge foils attempt to reveal whistleblower on Senate floor

Senators wrap question-and-answer session before potential final vote to close proceedings

Chris Riotta,Joe Sommerlad,Alex Woodward
Thursday 30 January 2020 23:34 GMT
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Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz uses Middle East Peace Plan to explain quid pro quos during impeachment hearing

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Donald Trump has lashed out at lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff, again calling him “mentally deranged”, as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell claims to have seen off the threatened Republican rebellion on subpoenaing new witnesses and hopes to press ahead with the president’s acquittal on Friday after a final question-and-answer session in the upper chamber today.

Mr Schiff ripped into the president's defence team after the president's lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued that his client couldn't be impeached for an action he thought might get him re-elected.

"It's astonishing on the floor of this body someone would make that argument", Mr Schiff said. "It didn't begin that way in the beginning of the president's defence. What we have seen over the last couple of days is a descent into constitutional madness because that way madness lies."

Mr Schiff also was furious with Senate Republican efforts to attack and name the whistle-blower whose report of Mr Trump's 25 July phone call is at the heart of the impeachment charges. Chief Justice John Roberts, who presides over the trial, refused to ask a question submitted by Senator Rand Paul that the chief justice believed would out the whistle-blower and other national security staffers.

The Senate could vote to acquit the president on Friday, despite Democrat attempts to inject a witness deposition process, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr Trump can't be acquitted "if you don't have a trial."

E Jean Carroll, who accused Mr Trump of raping her in the 1990s, is requesting a DNA sample from the president to determine whether it matches genetic material she wore. Lawyers for the columnist — who filed a defamation suit against Mr Trump last year after he said she was lying about the allegation — sent a notice to the president's attorneys demanding a sample be returned by 2 March.

Meanwhile, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross is in hot water after saying during an interview with Fox Business, with a staggering absence of basic compassion, that China being struck by the coronavirus “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America”.

The president said all "only five" people have contracted the virus in the US and are "all in good recovery", though a sixth case was confirmed in Chicago on Thursday. He spent his afternoon in Michigan at a White House event celebrating passage of the USMCA trade deal before a campaign rally in Iowa.

In a further embarrassing development for the president, a section of his US-Mexico border wall – which he once promised would be “impenetrable” – has been blown over in El Centro, California, after being hit by strong desert winds.

Follow live coverage as it happened:

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 10:00
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Trump legal defence ridiculed over impeachment arguments

Donald Trump’s legal team has been derided for its shambolic performance in the president’s Senate impeachment trial as both sides took questions from senators, with Pam Bondi fluffing her lines and Alan Dershowitz attempting to argue that no action carried out in the course of seeking re-election is impeachable because a stable administration is in the best interests of the public.

"If the president does something that he thinks will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," said celebrity Harvard University professor Dershowitz.

The point was dismissed as "very odd" by lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff while Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said his arguments "make just no sense" and Oregon's Jeff Merkley laughed them off as "absolutely incredible" on CNN.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow and panellists were even less charitable:

And that wasn't all: over the course of the marathon Q&A session, another Tump lawyer, Patrick Philbin, argued: “the idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake.” 

“That’s non sequitur. Information that is credible that potentially shows wrongdoing by someone who happens to be running for office, if it’s credible information, is relevant information to the voters to know about.”

Responding to Philbin, Democrat Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that has tirelessly pursued the question of Russian election hacking in 2016, said Philbin’s argument “contradicts everything that our committee has said, everything the intelligence community has worked on.”

“If Mr Philbin’s argument is accepted at face value that foreign interference is okay unless it violates some non-defined definition of a campaign contribution [is] counter to everything that the intelligence community, our committee and I think others are working on.”

“I’m pretty stunned,” he added, according to The Hill.

“I have never heard anyone represent anything close to that in the intelligence community ever,” agreed New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich.

“We are encouraged to at all times report even just contact with foreign efforts at interference in our elections or of manipulation of our government activities."

Here's John T Bennett's report from Washington.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 10:15
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Adam Schiff: 'If you say you can't hold a president accountable in an election year, you are giving them carte blanche'

While Trump's defenders made fools of themselves by arguing that America is a monarchy and pushing the same tired old dismissals, denials and conspiracy theories, Schiff was on the form of his life.

As he has done throughout this embattled process, the House's chief prosecutor distinguished himself by presenting a clear, articulate and passionate case, laying out the sordid details for all to see.

Here's three things to look out for as the trial gears up for a pivotal moment.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 10:35
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President ramps up attack on John Bolton over leaked memoir

The president himself and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani have continued to attack ex-national security adviser John Bolton, labelled “an atomic bomb” by the latter over the damaging Ukraine revelations contained in his leaked memoir.

Trump last night tweeted a video of Bolton being interviewed on Fox News last August in which he speaks positively about the administration's "warm and cordial" relations with Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine - as though that proved the claims in his forthcoming new book The Room Where It Happened were false.

He also turned his anger on House speaker on Nancy Pelosi. The order to "Stand with your Commander in Chiefs!" manages to be both sinister and deeply idiotic at the same time, which is quite a feat.

The rest of his Twitter output last night was more upbeat, blustering about his signing of the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement at the White House yesterday, huffing on about his economic achievements and seeking to allay fears about the spread of the coronavirus, which the administration is setting up a task force to address led by health secretary Alex Azar and national security adviser Robert O'Brien (Bolton's replacement), according to press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

"The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed," Grisham said.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 10:55
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Section of 'impenetrable' US-Mexico border wall blown over

In a further embarrassing development for the president, a section of his US-Mexico border wall – which he once promised would be “impenetrable” – has been blown over in El Centro, California, after being hit by strong desert winds.

Andy Gregory has more on this.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 11:15
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Mitch McConnell working to shore up Republican unity ahead of witness vote

Today at the impeachment trial we'll see another long Q&A session with senators, after which the two sides will have two hours each to present concluding arguments. That could commence today but is more likely to take place tomorrow, after which the big vote will finally be held on whether to call new witnesses like Bolton to testify.

If the majority say no (and the mythic four Republican defections do not happen), Senate leader Mitch McConnell can move to wrap things up and secure the quick acquittal of Trump his administration and the conservative news echo chamber has been so loudly demanding at any cost.

Yesterday, two swing state GOP senators - Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona - confirmed their intentions to say no. “I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” quoth Gardner, while McSally wrote on Twitter:

McConnell has meanwhile reportedly been moving to shore up party unity behind the scenes, meeting with one possible rebel - Lisa Murkowski of Alaska - to hear her concerns/bully her into submission and ensuring that another, Susan Collins of Maine, had her question about Hunter Biden read aloud first in the chamber by chief justice John Roberts yesterday.

To counter his Machiavellian machinations, pressure group Republicans for the Rule of Law have put out an advert calling on GOP senators to do the right thing.

But things are certainly starting to look good for Grim Reaper McConnell, with even red state Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama refusing to rule out aquitting Trump - although the former is signalling he could still vote for witnesses on the basis that Hunter Biden might just be worth hearing from.

John T Bennett has more on this.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 11:35
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Lev Parnas makes surprise appearance on Capitol Hill

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas unexpectedly rocked up at the impeachment trial on Wednesday, where he demanded to meet with senators to tell his side of the Ukraine scandal.

Parnas was spotted by reporters as he arrived and asked what he would tell the members if he were able to get an audience with them.

"Call the witnesses," Parnas responded. "The president knew everything."

Clark Mindock has more.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 11:55
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Trump legal team made donations to supposedly impartial impeachment jurors

With the president's counsel already under fire over their wacky performance in the Senate, a new report has found that Ken Starr and Robert Ray - both of whom investigated Bill Clinton in 1998 - have made significant campaign donations to Republican senators supposedly acting as impartial jurors in the process, including Leader McConnell and Lindsey Graham.

Jay Sekulow has meanwhile slipped cheques to John Thune, Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell. 

Graig Graziosi has this one.

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 12:15
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'Behind the scenes, Republicans are worried the Senate impeachment trial might be falling apart'

Andrew Feinberg offers this insider's glimpse of the anxiety GOP members are sharing in private about how the case against Trump is really playing out. 

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 12:35
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Evangelical pastor labels John Bolton 'slime ball of the highest order'

Trump-affiliated conservative pastor Rodney Howard-Browne - who was among the pastors to join hands and pray over the president in the Oval Office in 2017 - has taken to Twitter to give his two cents on the ex-national security adviser.

It's quite something.

In addition to calling Bolton "a slime ball of the highest order" and "a Benedict Arnold", the good reverend goes on to denounce him as "a globalist sellout" and "a 'clown' walrus". 

Joe Sommerlad30 January 2020 12:55

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