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Trump impeachment news: President accused of turning 'America first' into 'Donald Trump first' as Senate trial resumes

Clark Mindock,Joe Sommerlad,Alex Woodward
Thursday 23 January 2020 19:47 GMT
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Adam Schiff asks if Donald Trump 'was fighting corruption, why would he hide it from us?'

Donald Trump has reacted angrily after House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff laid out the case against him in the first opening statement of the impeachment trial on Wednesday, accusing the president of orchestrating a “corrupt scheme” to extort a domestic political favour from Ukraine.

While Mr Schiff’s speech was praised by Democrats, Republicans in the chamber made a point of looking visibly bored by his extensive presentation of the evidence, prompting CNN anchor Chris Cuomo to remind them they should be “doing their damn job” and focusing on principle, not party, and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes invited them to resign.

After sending out a record-breaking 142 tweets yesterday, President Trump has continued to fight the messaging war on Thursday and revived his attack on 2020 Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg, branding him a “clown” and saying his campaign is a “hopeless” waste of money.

Mr Bloomberg's response: "Obsessed much? It shouldn't be this easy to distract the President of the United States."

During Thursday's proceedings in the president's impeachment trial, now on its fourth day, Texas Senator Ted Cruz made a sort of impeachment drinking game — with milk. Mr Cruz said that every time the prosecution says "drug deal" or "get over it", "drink a shot of milk!"

The normal milk drinking followed Mr Schiff's derisive opening comments about Senate Republicans who appeared to have difficulty being silent for hours.

House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler made the case that the president abused the power of the executive office with a "Donald Trump first" agenda that placed "his own personal political interests first."

Meanwhile, the White House is imposing new rules on pregnant women travelling to the country as the administration rails against "birth tourism", or giving birth in the US so that the child can obtain US citizenship.

The State Department did not make it clear how one would know a person is pregnant. The rules would deny visa applications when the traveller's "primary purpose" is to obtain American citizenship for their child by giving birth in the country.

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 Sommerlad23 January 2020 09:55
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Adam Schiff lays out impeachment evidence in 'tour de force' speech

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff laid out the case against Donald Trump in the first opening statement of the impeachment trial on Wednesday, accusing the president of orchestrating a “corrupt scheme” to extort a domestic political favour from Ukraine.

The California Democrat led off for the seven House managers who have up to 24 hours, spread over three days, to convince 67 senators that the president deserves to be removed from office. In the latest marathon session from the "hallowed chamber" he was joined by his peers Jerry Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Val Demings, Jason Crow, Sylvia Garcia and Hakeem Jeffries in pressing an urgent case. 

Over the course of his bravura address, Schiff invoked the Founding Fathers, saying they "feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain. And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: impeachment."

He also quoted Benjamin Franklin and his remark, often cited by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, America is "a republic, if you can keep it."

Perhaps most importantly, he made the argument that the president's actions should not be treated in isolation because they represent not just a pattern of corrupt behaviour but an ongoing threat to the integrity of American elections: "If this conduct is not impeachable, then nothing is. The president was the key player in the scheme. Everyone was in the loop."

Afterwards, the prosecutor was hailed by Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who remarked: "Adam Schiff’s speech was one of the most compelling I have ever heard. It was a tour de force... I thought it was an amazing two and a half hours."

John T Bennett has this report.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 10:10
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Republican senators told to 'do their damn job' after expressing boredom

While Schumer was emphatic in his praise of Schiff afterwards and was joined by many others (even Lindsey Graham)...

...Republicans in the chamber made a point of looking visibly bored by his extensive presentation of the evidence, which featured dozens of video clips of the testimony given to his inquiry back in November by the likes of Fiona Hill, Gordon Sondland, Bill Taylor and David Holmes.

“So far we haven’t heard anything new from what he heard yesterday,” Texas senator John Cornyn moaned afterwards to The New York Times.

“There’s about one hour of presentation that we’ve heard about 10 times yesterday and about six times today," Roy Blunt of Missouri likewise insisted. “It’s not a very deep case.”

“I think the fact that they are using visual aids and thinking that you can just take the same information and if you throw it out there enough, it’ll change anyone’s point of view, I don’t think that’s going to work,” Indiana's Mike Braun in turn told The Huffington Post, all three men keeping strictly to their party's script.

This was particularly idiotic from Josh Hawley:

While the Democratic impeachment managers were speaking, some members of the Senate were seen whispering to one another despite the rules of engagement ordering them to keep silent "on pain of imprisonment", others clearly pined for the return of their mobile phones while reports of at least 15 empty seats came in at one point.

The NYT even claimed to have spotted Rand Paul doing a crossword (!).

All of which prompted CNN anchor Chris Cuomo to remind the GOP senators later that they should be “doing their damn job” and focusing on principle, not party.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes felt similarly:

John T Bennett has these three key takeaways from the first two days of the impeachment trial.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 10:30
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Protester removed from Senate gallery as Rand Paul invites Trump to attend

Other hijinks from the Senate included a protester having to be removed from the gallery by the serjeant-at-arms after shouting "Dismiss the charges!" and remarks about abortion and Jesus during Hakeem Jeffries' speech...

...and Kentucky senator Rand Paul personally inviting Trump to turn up and witness the "partisan charade" for himself.

The president said at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday that he would "love" to but his own counsel, Jay Sekulow, does not think that's a good idea. 

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 10:50
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President breaks daily tweet record en route from Davos

Trump meanwhile broke his daily Twitter record yesterday as he flew back from Davos, attempting to win the messaging war by posting a staggering 142 partisan tweets making the case for his defence.

The majority came from House and Senate Republicans, Team Trump and official GOP accounts or his immediate family, but there were multiple endorsements for Fox's Mark Levin and the president's own social media director Dan Scavino - almost all of which were shooting down the impeachment trial or otherwise blowing smoke.

In amongst it, where several big claims about his time in Switzerland.

By this president's standards, none of this was particularly scandalous but the frantic nature of his tweeting suggested a man not entirely at ease with how things are playing out in DC.

Peter Stubley was keeping score.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 11:10
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Trump to be first president to attend anti-abortion rally

That said, there was this announcement that he intends to become the first president to attend a March for Life rally in Washington on Friday, choosing the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic Roe vs Wade ruling on which to make this odious declaration.

“Since day one, the Trump-Pence administration has sought to undermine our access to healthcare, including safe, legal abortion," responded Planned Parenthood Action.

Kate Ng has the full story.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 11:30
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Democrats rule out Hunter Biden-John Bolton witness deal

Back to the Senate, where the man of the hour said after his opening statement yesterday that his side has no interest in agreeing a "swap deal" with Republicans over witnesses: calling ex-national security adviser John Bolton in exchange for allowing GOP conspiracy-mongers to call Hunter Biden.

"This isn't like some fantasy football trade," Schiff remarked.

“That trade is not on the table,” echoed Chuck Schumer.

Earlier this week, the Senate voted down Democratic proposals that new witnesses and documents be summoned before the trial commenced - but they can have another vote on the matter when the opening statements by both sides have been concluded.

The Democrats still have two more days to present their case, before the president's defenders get their quota of three days to offer a rebuttal. After that, we'll have at least two days of written questions from senators, followed by the Trump team being given a chance to dispute key bits of evidence.

Even with the Senate sitting on Saturdays, that still takes us to early February before the next vote on witnesses can be heard - all of which sees the process butting up against the president's (potentially humiliating) State of the Union address on 4 February.

Interesting times.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 11:50
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Tucker Carlson says Adam Schiff 'had not a single friend in high school'

As we've seen, the lead Democratic impeachment manager's performance in the Senate was warmly received by his own side and by left-leaning commentators like Jeffrey Toobin on CNN, who called it "dazzling".

Wolf Blitzer, Mueller lawyer Andrew Weissman and George Conway all likewise agreed that Schiff had done an exceptional job.

But one man who found the praise repellant was Fox's Tucker Carlson, who described their reaction as "pornographic".

“They were too deep in bliss," the host moaned. "To the mouthbreathers on cable television, an Adam Schiff speech is like a brainstem massage, surging waves of ecstasy flood the central nervous system. Linear thought ceases. All that’s left are satisfied grunts of pleasure.”

Carlson also complained the trial was as boring as a foreign language film and even claimed that sources had told him the California congressman had no friends at high school.

It was an unbelievably petty display, even for this buffoon.

Here's a much more clear-headed account of Schiff's meticulous arguments.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 12:10
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White House criticised for giving press credentials to antisemitic media outlet 

Regarding Davos, the White House is under fire for giving press credentials to TruNews, a far-right outlet whose founder, pastor Rick Wiles, has previously been accused of antisemitism after he refered to the impeachment inquiry into Trump as a "Jew coup".

“That’s the way the Jews work, they are deceivers, they plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda,” Wiles said in November, according to Mediaite.

“This ‘impeach Trump’ effort is a Jew coup and the American people better wake up to it really fast because this thing is moving now toward a vote in the House and then a trial in the Senate. We could have a trial before Christmas. This country could be in civil war at Christmastime. Members of the US military are going to have to take a stand just like they did in the 1860s with the Civil War. They are going to have to decide: are you fighting for the North or the South?”

Amazingly, that wasn't even the dumbest occurrence at the World Economic Forum.

Check out this scene from the president's interview with CNBC's Squawk Box:

As The Huffington Post points out, the invention of the wheel can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia and is not attributable to Thomas Edison, as this moron appears to think.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 12:30
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President resumes hectic anti-impeachment tweeting schedule

Trump is watching Fox and Friends in bed and back on Twitter, quoting Rush Limbaugh (the conservative talk radio blowhard he said yesterday he believes deserves a Pulitzer Prize) to gaslight a nation on Adam Schiff.

Every one of these is total garbage.

Joe Sommerlad23 January 2020 12:50

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