12 questions to expect at Trump’s impeachment trial
“How, if at all, does the evidence support the elements of the crime of bribery either under the current statute or at the time of the signing of the Constitution?” — Gene Rossi, former federal prosecutor
Rossi, a former assistant U.S. attorney from the Eastern District of Virginia, would pose this question to Schiff.
The Democrat’s impeachment theory has been that Trump established a quid pro quo with Ukraine in an attempt to essentially cheat in 2020, an abuse of power worthy of his removal.
While posing the question to the lead House manager might force him to admit that Trump’s actions may not constitute indictable bribery, it could also give him an opening to try and counter a Trump team argument that the president can’t be impeached if there’s no crime. The Constitution’s vague impeachment standard is widely considered to include abusive actions beyond technical crimes.
The questions POLITICO reporters want to ask
“Why didn’t the White House inform Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about the contents of Bolton’s manuscript?” — Andrew Desiderio, congressional reporter
I’m not sure that this question will even come up at the trial, but the leak of Bolton’s manuscript again calls into question the White House’s strategy for dealing with the impeachment process on Capitol Hill.
McConnell’s office said the Kentucky Republican “did not have any advance notice” about the manuscript or its contents — and there was some reporting that Senate Republicans felt blindsided by it.
Indeed, the Bolton revelations have threatened to upend the trial and potentially disrupt the near-unity among Senate Republicans on the issue of subpoenaing additional witnesses. Bolton’s reported account complicates McConnell’s calculus as he tries to ensure that no more than three Republicans break ranks and vote with Democrats later this week to call witnesses.
“To the White House attorneys: Who made the decision that it wasn’t necessary to inform Congress about the hold on Ukraine military aid, and what rationale was provided at the time?” – Kyle Cheney, congressional reporter:
One of the lingering mysteries in the entire Ukraine scandal is the gap of information at the highest levels of the White House budget office. Top officials there refused to cooperate with the House inquiry on Trump’s orders and were only partially responsive to an after-the-fact government watchdog investigation.
But there’s still missing information about what happened between Trump’s initial questions about Ukraine aid in June and when the hold was formally implemented on July 25.
Typically, such holds require congressional notification, but none was provided in this case. The White House contended to government investigators late last year that they classified the decision as a “programmatic delay,” which required no notification. But the investigators didn’t buy it, accusing the president of breaking the law. So who was advising Trump on how to handle the hold? And what rationale did to provide in the initial stages of the decision-making? We still don’t know.
“House Democrats have said they aren’t ruling out additional impeachment articles against President Trump if they uncover more materials. How, and when, will you make that decision?” — Darren Samuelsohn, senior reporter
This may not be the right forum for this question, but it’ll be one that Democrats should expect to get non-stop on the other side of the impeachment trial — assuming it goes as expected with Trump’s acquittal.
While months of proceedings have put Trump’s Ukraine actions under the microscope, they also demonstrated Washington’s deep divide and the uphill climb any impeachment effort faces in actually removing a president absent significant bipartisan support.
Democrats surely will excite their own base voters by threatening additional articles of impeachment, and a slate of impeachment-adjacent court cases could give them the needed fodder. But they’ll have to weigh any further impeachment action with the political benefit Trump gets from playing the victim card as he campaigns for re-election.
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.