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Trump impeachment news: Democrats taunt president with his own words as historic Senate trial begins

Follow the latest updates

Alex Woodward,Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 21 January 2020 20:00 GMT
Trump attacks climate change 'prophets of doom'

Donald Trump has again labelled his Senate impeachment trial a “witch hunt” and a “hoax” from the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, before addressing the business summit with a blustering, hyperbolic speech laying out his supposed economic and environmental achievements.

Proceedings in the upper chamber of Congress will began in earnest on Tuesday after the president was charged with abuse of power and obstruction by the House of Representatives last month. The prosecution team from the House faced the president's legal counsel, making their first appearance in the impeachment proceedings, and debated trial rules proposed by Mitch McConnell, whose gauntlet called for a brief trial without testimony or evidence and would likely end up in the president's acquittal.

House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, leading the prosecution team, argued against the Senate Majority Leader's attempts to table efforts to subpoena White House documents.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley called Democrats "an utter joke" after attempts to draw out White House counsel Pat Cipollone as a fact witness.

A new poll from CNN has meanwhile found that 51 per cent of Americans now support Mr Trump’s removal from office and 69 per cent want to hear testimony from new witnesses like ex-national security adviser John Bolton, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, top aide Rob Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.

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

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 09:30

Senate impeachment trial to begin with heated debate over rules

Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial will begin in earnest on Tuesday after he was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress by the House, with today’s session set to see heated debate over majority leader Mitch McConnell’s proposals for a compressed format, already branded “a national disgrace” by his Democratic counterpart.

As the Senate reconvenes with chief justice John Roberts presiding over a rare impeachment court comprised of senators sworn to "impartial justice," the legacy of Trump's presidency and the system of checks and balances are at stake before a politically divided nation.

A first test will come at midday today when the session gavels open to vote on McConnell's proposed rules for debate. On the eve of the trial, the Republican leader offered a tight calendar for opening statements, just two days for each side, as Trump's lawyers argued for swift rejection of the "flimsy" charges against the president and acquittal.

"All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn," the president's lawyers wrote in their first full filing on Monday. "The articles should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted."

Democrats - as the House prosecutors practiced opening arguments well into the night on the Senate floor - vowed to object to a speedy trial as they pressed for fresh witnesses and documents.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned of a "cover-up" with McConnell's plan that could lead to back-to-back 12-hour days.

"It's clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through," Schumer said. He called the proposed rules a "national disgrace."

The first several days of the trial are now almost certain to be tangled in procedural motions playing out on the Senate floor or, more likely, behind closed doors, since senators must refrain from speaking during the trial proceedings.

Here's Andrew Buncombe on what we can expect to take place.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 09:45

Majority of Americans say Senate should remove Trump from office, finds CNN poll

A new poll from CNN conducted by SSRS has meanwhile found that 51 per cent of Americans now support the president’s removal from office, with 45 per cent of respondents saying the Senate should vote against conviction.

The survey also found a whopping 69 per cent want to hear testimony from new witnesses like ex-national security adviser John Bolton, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, top aide Rob Blair and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 10:00

President in Davos for World Economic Forum and risks Greta Thunberg encounter

Trump himself has arrived in Switzerland where he will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, an event at which he risks running into teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, whom he has regularly derided on social media.

"Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill" the president memorably told the teenager on Twitter after she beat him to be named Time magazine's "person of the year" in December, prompting her to alter her profile page accordingly to incorporate the patronising quote.

The pair had previously crossed paths at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, when an image of Thunberg glowering at Trump went viral.

He is due to make a speech at the event imminently ahead of a long day of receptions and bilateral meetings.

As Thunberg's presence indicates, climate change will be a primary theme of this year's gathering - not exactly a pet subject of Donald Trump, who has called the planet-threatening phenomenon "a hoax", moved to the pull the US out of the 2015 Paris accord and carried out innumerable rollbacks of environmental legislation at home.

He will, no doubt, get sidetracked by the impeachment furore back him in any event.

My colleague Emma Snaith is liveblogging the forum and you can follow it live below:

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 10:20

Martin Luther King's daughter hits out at Kellyanne Conway

Yesterday, Trump and his vice president Mike Pence visited the Dr Martin Luther King Jr monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to pay their respects to the civil rights icon's memory on a public holiday named in his honour.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

For the president, the more significant event was the three-year anniversary of his inauguration ceremony, prompting him to reflect on that rather than pay tribute to the late Dr King, while simulatenously taking credit for low black unemployment.

His top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway also attempted to leverage King's memory to criticise the impeachment trial, provoking the anger of the slain activist's youngest daughter.

"When you see the articles of impeachment that came out, I don't think it was within Dr King's vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the President is not going to be removed from office, is not being charged with bribery, extortion, high crimes or misdemeanours," Conway said. "And I think that anybody who cares about 'and justice for all' - today or any day of the year - will appreciate the fact that the President now will have a full throttle defense on the facts. And everybody should have that."

Here's Alex Woodward on the president's bloated self-regard.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 10:40

Trump addresses World Economic Forum in Davos

The president is on stage in Switzerland and is already well into self-parody mode as he blusters about his "historic" economic achievements.

In apparent preview of his upcoming State of the Union address next month, the president says "America is thriving, flourishing, and winning like never before", citing his latest trade deals with China and with Canada and Mexico and claiming to have created "the most inclusive economy ever".

We've had his trademark attack on the US Federal Reserve but no mention of the huge increase to the national debt under his watch.

"He's for China, I'm for the US, but other than that we love each other," he says of Xi Jinping.

Before entering the venue, Trump again told reporters the impeachment trial is a "witch hunt" and a "hoax".

His warm-up act was also quite something, by all accounts.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 11:00

Trump inflates environmental record but pledges US to reforestation initiative at Davos

As discussed, this president's environmental record is wretched but that didn't stop him touting his contribution to clean energy as he addressed the World Economic Forum.

He did at least announce that the US would be signing up for the One Trillion Trees replanting initiative.

The president concluded his 30-minute speech by reflecting on Notre Dam and the glories of Europe's Renaissance cathedrals (I don't think he wrote this baby himself, do you?).

As he leaves the podium, it's hard to disagree with this assessment of his performance:

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 11:25

Trump: 'I will NEVER allow our great Second Amendment to go unprotected, not even a little bit!'

Yesterday saw thousands of right-wing activists swarming the streets of Richmond, Virginia, dressed in full militia gear to protest Democratic measures to tighten gun control legislation in the state.

With the likes of Alex Jones, the Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracy theorists among the throng, Trump was keen to let it be known he was on their side.

Here's Chris Riotta on scenes alarmingly reminiscent of Charlottesville.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 11:40

President's House Republican cronies to join Senate impeachment team

In addition to sending out its 110-page briefing attacking the Democrats impeachment case late on Monday, the president's legal representatives also named eight House Republicans - some of his wildest cheerleaders - to a special team tasked with rallying support beyond the Senate chamber in the court of public opinion.

Those GOP members of Congress are:

- Doug Collins (Georgia)

- Mike Johnson (Louisiana)

- Jim Jordan (Ohio)

- Debbie Lesko (Arizona)

- Mark Meadows (North Carolina)

- John Ratcliffe (Texas)

- Elise Stefanik (New York)

- Lee Zeldin (New York)

What, no Matt Gaetz? Their role in the proceedings will be "largely ceremonial", according to CNN.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 12:00

Lev Parnas lawyer asks Trump's attorney general William Barr to recuse himself from client's investigation

Joseph Bondy, the lawyer representing Rudy Giuliani's former associate Lev Parnas - now a key figure in the Ukraine scandal and a possible impeachment trial witness - has sent a letter to attorney general William Barr asking him to recuse himself from the investigation into his client.

Parnas and business partner Igor Fruman were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport in October, accused of campaign finance violations in support of Trump, but Bondy argues Barr's Justice Department must appoint a special prosecutor from outside as the Trump-appointed AG himself has a "conflict of interest" in the case.

"Given the totality of the circumstances, we believe it is appropriate for you to recuse yourself from the ongoing investigation and pending prosecution of Mr Parnas," wrote Bondy, having also filed a motion on the matter with a federal court in New York. 

The lawyer argues Barr was mentioned several times by President Trump in his notorious 25 July call with Volodymyr Zelenksy of Ukraine, in which he asked the Ukraine president to "do me a favour" by launching a corruption investigation into his domestic political rival Joe Biden in exchange for the release of $391m (£302m) in congressionally-approved military aid.

Joe Sommerlad21 January 2020 12:20

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