The impeachment is officially moving from the House of Representatives to the Senate, and next week is set to be a big one. But first, let’s catch up on what happened in the here and now.
To catch you up:
Nearly six months ago, President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate 2016 election interference based on a conspiracy theory and to dig up dirt on his potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. Two months later, a whistleblower complaint about the call became public, leading to private and public hearings from everyone from Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, to Fiona Hill, Trump’s top Russia advisor. Fast forward through a series of wild weeks filled with dogs, drag queens, Kim Kardashian, A$AP Rocky, weird turkey pardons, deadline promises made and not kept, and a House Judiciary Committee vote: In late December, Trump was officially impeached by the House of Representatives. But instead of immediately sending the articles of impeachment over to the Senate, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi held on for nearly a month, citing that she wanted more evidence to be revealed and proof that the Senate trial would be fair.
So what happened this week?
Monday, January 13
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) dropped out of the race for president, citing the impeachment trial as part of the reason why. As jurors, senators are expected to attend the trial every day, meaning that several presidential candidates will have to stay in the Washington, D.C., area up to six days per week for the foreseeable future.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but I got in this race to win, and I’ve always said I wouldn’t continue if there was no longer a path to victory,” he told supporters, according to NBC News. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.”
Other presidential candidates said they’d be dealing with impeachment instead of campaigning, too. According to the New York Times, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said he’d “rather be here in Iowa, but I have a constitutional responsibility, which I accept as a United States senator, to be a juror in Trump’s impeachment trial. So I’ll be there.”
According to WBUR, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said that “there are some things that are more important than politics, and if we have an impeachment proceeding going on, I will be there.”
Also on Monday, the New York Times reported that Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden worked for, has been hacked by the Russian military. Who knows why or what the hackers found, but we love layers.
Tuesday, January 14
We’re heating up! The House of Representatives announced it would finally vote on Wednesday (January 15) to send the impeachment articles to the Senate. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said he’d still be considering the terms right up until the formal trial starts, according to New York Times reporter Nicholas Fandos.
If Pelosi was waiting for new evidence to arrive before she sent the articles, it seems her wait was worth it when the House released troves upon troves of previously-sealed documents, including pages of records from Lev Parnas. You might remember Parnas as the indicted associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, or as one of the guys who tried to flee the country but was arrested at the airport.
The files are a bizarre combination of notes, text messages, and letters, including messages that make it appear Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was being surveilled. There was a letter suggesting that some of Giuliani’s work was done with President Donald Trump’s “knowledge and consent.” And one note scribbled on a notepad from the Ritz Carlton hotel features these instructions for Parnas: “Put together a package,” and “go to DC with package.” Then it instructs Parnas to do his “magic” and “cut deal.” In another note, next to an asterisk, Parnas writes “Get Zalenksy [sic] to Annouce [sic] that the Biden case will be Investigated.” As Stephen Colbert said on The Late Show per The Washington Post, “You don’t have to write the crime down, you dummy.” He later joked, “It didn’t help that the next note was ‘Leave paper trail of impeachable offenses’ and ‘Steal Ritz-Carlton stationery.’”
Truly, writing down a list of the crimes you needed to commit in a starred list on a notecard would almost be endearing if the stakes* weren’t so high.
*democracy as we know it
Also on Tuesday, Politico reported that there’s a chance we can see and hear Trump even if he refuses to show up to the trial: via video. McConnell will have to agree, so it’s still up in the air.
Do you remember the drama from last week with John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser? As a reminder, Bolton released a statement on January 6 saying that “if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.” This comes after his previous indications that he would not testify if subpoenaed by the House of Representatives. And Bolton’s lawyers said in November that he had information about “many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far,” per the New York Times. This week, a few senior White House officials told CBS News at least four GOP senators would vote to allow witnesses, including Bolton, to testify.
Wednesday, January 15
It’s happening! The House of Representatives voted 228 to 193 to send both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, the New York Times reported. Pelosi also announced the seven Democrats who will be impeachment managers: Democratic Representatives Adam Schiff of California, Jerry Nadler of New York, Zoe Lofgren of California, Val Demings of Florida, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Jason Crow of Colorado. That same day, the seven representatives walked the articles to the Senate in a leather case and gave the articles to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). It was all very traditional.
The managers serve as prosecutors and will present each case for impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate, who serve as jurors. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over it all.
Thursday, January 16
Thursday was largely ceremonial and started off with Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, reading the articles aloud, which signifies the opening of the trial, according to the New York Times. “President Trump warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States,” Schiff said, per the Times. Justice Roberts was sworn in; he in turn swore in the senators.
And Trump seems to be on his way to understand what is happening, given that he tweeted, “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!”
Friday, January 17
We found out more about Trump’s defense team on Friday. We already knew that the defense would be spearheaded by his own lawyers, including Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, Pat Philbin, and Mike Purpura, NPR reported. On Friday, NBC News reported that the team will be adding criminal defense lawyer Jane Raskin, as well as Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr. Both Dershowitz and Starr worked with infamous billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, per the Daily Beast. In addition to also working with Epstein (whom Trump was friends with), Starr is perhaps most famous for his role as the special counsel investigating the Clintons’ real estate holdings, which evolved into an investigation regarding Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Starr’s reporting, which was helped by one of his law clerks and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, recommended Clinton’s impeachment. Also on Trump’s team is Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr as Clinton’s special counsel, per NBC News.
Up next, we could be in for a long ride. House managers and Trump’s defense team will make their arguments, then the senators ask questions (through writing, and through Roberts — senators aren’t allowed to speak at the trial). And then maybe we’ll hear from new witnesses and new evidence? We’ll find out more at 1 p.m. EST on Tuesday (January 21) when the Senate starts opening arguments. Let the trial begin.