The Senate last week heard opening arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial as Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen sharply pushed back against Trump’s comment from Davos that he’d be open to cutting entitlement programs like Medicare.
With the House in recess last week, all eyes were on the Senate which is in the throes of the impeachment trial.
Both Cortez Masto and Rosen sat at their desks, along with the rest of their Senate colleagues, during the impeachment proceedings. They both have been reticent about their views on the evidence presented so far.
“All 100 Senators swore an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution & law,’ Rosen wrote on Twitter Tuesday. “I’m taking my constitutional role as a juror seriously & am reviewing all the evidence with an open mind. This is a solemn time & it's crucial that we conduct a fair, impartial trial."
On Friday, House impeachment managers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff of California, wrapped up their opening arguments, which they began Wednesday.
The president’s legal team will begin making opening arguments on Saturday. The Senate will take Sunday off, but the Trump team will resume Monday. They have through Tuesday to complete their argument, but they are expected not to go past Monday.
At every turn, Democrats underscored their argument that Trump abused his office by withholding military aid to Ukraine, and a White House visit, to force the Ukranian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential political rival for the presidency.
“When President Trump used Ukraine’s leader for a political favor and withheld critical military aid to an ally in exchange for that favor, he did what our framers feared most,” Schiff said Friday. “He invited foreign interference in our elections and sold out our country for his personal benefit.”
The House managers used Friday to focus on showing that the president obstructed Congress, one of the two articles of impeachment the House approved last month, by not cooperating with their investigation.
But House managers also used the first part of Friday to pound home the theme that Trump poses a danger and must be removed from office, a line of argument that started Thursday in connection with proving the abuse of power article of impeachment.
In finishing up on Thursday evening, Schiff, who became emotional at the end of his speech, made the case for removal. Schiff cited Trump’s decision to retain his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani—who has made unsubstantiated corruption allegations about Biden and his son Hunter who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company—to establish an unofficial back channel to Ukraine. Giuliani also maintains, as does Trump, that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election, which has been discredited by the intelligence community and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“This is why he needs to be removed,” Schiff said. “Donald Trump chose Rudy Giuliani over his own intelligence agencies, he chose Rudy Giuliani over his FBI Director, he chose Rudy Giuliani over his own national security advisors when all of them were telling him that this Ukraine 2016 stuff is kooky, crazy Russian propaganda. He chose not to believe them, he chose to believe Rudy Giuliani. That makes him dangerous to us, to our country.”
“Why would anyone in their right mind believe Rudy Giuliani over Christopher Wray?” Schiff continued. “Because he wanted to and because what Rudy was offering him was something that would help him personally and what Christopher Wray was offering him was merely the truth. What Christopher Wray was offering him was merely the information he needed to protect his country and its elections. But that’s not good enough; what’s in it for him, what’s in it for Donald Trump. This is why he needs to be removed.”
Schiff sought to underscore the point by referencing a recent effort by Russia to hack Burisma and he raised the prospect of Russia leaking fake documents purportedly from Burisma incriminating Biden.
“Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will stand up to them to protect our national interest over his own personal interest?” Schiff said. “You know you can’t, which makes him dangerous to this country. You know you can’t. None of us can.”
Schiff ended his speech with an appeal to conscience.
“The framers could not protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter,” he said as he appeared to tear up a bit. “And you know what he did was not right.”
Not enough Republicans, if any, are likely to vote with Democrats to clear the two-thirds majority vote needed to oust Trump.
That seemed apparent in comments made by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina Friday who attributed the entire affair to differences regarding foreign aid, which Trump wants to cut around the world.
“What they don’t get is Trump,” Graham said. “They have foreign policy differences with this president. They don’t get where he’s coming from.”
Graham said he mostly opposes the president’s positions on foreign aid, but he respects his perspective and the need to justify the use of federal dollars to achieve policy goals abroad.
Graham also said that he supports an investigation into the Bidens’ work in Ukraine.
“I think he’s right,” Graham said of Trump, adding that Biden, a former Senate colleague, is a good friend.
“That is not good foreign policy,” Graham continued. “It is not good government.”
He added that he does not believe Trump acted improperly when he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate.
As impeachment burned in Washington, Trump was at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
At the meeting, which attracts heads of state and the business elite, Trump gave an interview with CNBC in which he was asked about the deficit and whether he would ever tackle entitlement programs, which include programs like Social Security and Medicare.
“At some point they will be,” Trump said, adding that he expected to do it at some point in the future when economic growth is strong and that it would be easy to do.
“And at the right time, we will take a look at that,” he continued.
Cortez Masto pointed out the contradiction in a release and said the cut would hurt “thousands of Nevadans.”
“As a candidate, Donald Trump promised that he would not cut programs that Nevada’s seniors, families, and disabled communities rely on to stay healthy and safe,” she said. “Now the President may be trying to walk it back, but just yesterday, he said that it would be ‘easy’ for him to slash critical programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, threatening the health and incomes of thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans. The President’s comments should concern us all.”
Rosen also pledged to oppose any cuts.
“It is unacceptable for the President to go back on his word and discuss cuts to Social Security and Medicare,” Rosen said. “Nevadans have worked hard throughout their lives to earn these benefits. We can’t allow this Administration to go back on our nation’s promise to our seniors. I remain committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare for our seniors and future generations."
Rep. Dina Titus announced Friday that she will hold a hearing on the General Services Administration (GSA) program to lease federal property to private sector clients. The hearing will also explore the potential sale of the Trump Hotel in Washington.
The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday and GSA administrator Emily Murphy is expected to testify. Titus is chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management subcommittee, which oversees GSA.
The hearing comes as Trump is reportedly exploring a sale of the hotel and Titus is interested in who would be eligible to buy it, according to her office. The hotel is located in the Old Post Office, which is owned by the federal government and leased to the Trump Organization.
As chairman of the panel, Titus has helped investigate, along with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, whether Trump violated to Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution with the lease of the property. The clauses are designed, in part to prevent prevent corruption and limit foreign influence.
With the recent discussion on reining in Trump’s warfighting powers following his decision to target and kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani earlier this month, Cortez Masto and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday asking a series of 12 detailed questions about the U.S. mission in Syria.
Among the questions they asked were whether threats to U.S. troops in Syria, both at the oil fields and at Al Tanf military base have changed since the killing of Soleimani and what steps are being taken to protect soldiers in Syria from Iranian retaliation. They want answers by Feb. 13.
Both Cortez Masto and Rosen praised the release by the Department of Justice of six months’ worth of the $16 million awarded to assist survivors of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival Massacre. The funds were provided through the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP).
“Two years ago, Las Vegas experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history,” the senators said. “Survivors and families who lost their loved ones are still dealing with the physical and emotional scars from this tragedy, and they depend on Nevada’s dedicated service providers for the resources and support they need to heal.”
The funds came after the two wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr earlier this month.
For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.
SEN. JACKY ROSEN
S. Res. 481 – A resolution commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.