Mixed reactions from Senate Republicans to the nonpartisan GAO report which found the White House broke the law by withholding military aid:
Matt Wolking, a deputy director of communications for the Trump 2020 campaign, responded by highlighting how many times the GAO found Barack Obama’s administration violated the law: four.
(one, two, three, four)
A complicating factor for Wolking’s argument is that these charged Obama’s agencies with breaking the law, not the White House directly, as today’s GAO report does. And incident two violated the law because the president was not involved.
More from Pelosi on impeachment.
She said the trial “is not without risk” and said the revelations in the Lev Parnas documents, and what he has been saying in interviews, would normally warrant a special prosecutor.
But not in this White House. “Does anybody think the rogue attorney general is going to appoint a special prosecutor?” Pelosi said. “No, because he’s implicated in all of this.”
When asked again about US attorney general, William Barr, Pelosi said: “I don’t know who is the puppet – Trump or the Attorney General.”
Asked about the credibility of Lev Parnas, Pelosi said the documents were important. “He would be a credible witness if what he is testifying to is about the issue at hand, the president’s behavior.”
This morning, Pelosi’s office said she raised a record-breaking $87m for Democratic candidates in 2019.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi is speaking to reporters and said the impeachment trial is needed because “every day new, incriminating information comes forward.”
She responded to the independent government watchdog report released this morning which found the White House violated the law by withholding military aid to Ukraine, a central part of the impeachment inquiry. “This reinforces, again, the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi then spoke about a poster in her grade school classroom which said: “What a tangle web we weave when we first practice to deceive,” and said with this White House, you see that happen “more and more.”
She also spoke about the House’s other matters, specifically the need for disaster aid in Puerto Rico. The White House has delayed distributing aid to the island allocated by Congress after Hurricane Maria in Sep 2017 and it is under increased pressure to make those funds available after a string of earthquakes hit the island in the past month.
An eight-page report by the independent government watchdog GAO said the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “withheld funds for a policy reasons” in the Ukraine affair, which violated the law.
The GAO’s central argument is the White House can’t unilaterally decide to withhold foreign aid that has been appropriated by Congress. An OMB spokesperson said the office disagreed with the watchdog’s findings.
“The president not only undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain – he also broke the law,” Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted in response to the findings. “He must be held accountable or he will continue breaking the law and putting the country at risk.”
Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said on the Senate floor that the GAO’s findings should get a “full hearing” in the impeachment trial.
Government investigators says White House broke the law by freezing Ukraine aid
An independent government watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said the White House budget office violated the law when it froze US military aid to Ukraine.
“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the report said.
The GAO said the White House violated the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, which says funds appropriated by Congress cannot be withheld by the White House.
A spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Rachel Semmel, told the New York Times: “We disagree with GAO’s opinion. OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”
Thursday’s impeachment trial schedule
Yesterday, the House voted to send articles of impeachment to the Senate, setting in motion the third impeachment Senate trial in US history.
Here’s how that looks today:
- 12pm ET (5pm GMT): Prosecutors from the House of Representatives, known as “managers”, are expected to arrive to the Senate to formally exhibit the articles of impeachment.
- 2pm (7pm): US supreme court chief justice John Roberts is scheduled to join the proceedings and be sworn in for his presiding role at the trial.
- Then: Roberts will swear in 100 senators – 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents – as jurors.
(and click here to learn how we got here)
The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, just spoke with Fox & Friends about Lev Parnas and said the Trump administration was “not too concerned” about his allegations. She also questioned Parnas’s trustworthiness and his motives.
Lev Parnas said while he did not speak directly with Donald Trump about efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating the former vice-president Joe Biden, a political rival, he had met with the president several times. Parnas also said Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, told Parnas he was updating Trump in an interview with the New York Times.
Parnas is facing criminal charges in federal court, so he is not the most reliable witness, but a trove of his documents released to House investigators provided fresh evidence of the close relationship between Parnas and Giuliani ahead of the Senate trial. Trump has denied misconduct.
“My biggest regret is trusting so much,” Parnas said. “I thought I was being a patriot and helping the president,” he said, adding that he “thought by listening to the president and his attorney that I couldn’t possibly get in trouble or do anything wrong”.
Parnas’s statements to the Times echo a similar interview he gave to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday and Anderson Cooper on CNN.
Giuliani and Trump’s efforts were “all about 2020”, Parnas told CNN.
“That was the most important thing,” Parnas said, “for him to stay on for four years and keep the fight going. I mean, there was no other reason for doing it.”
Hello and good morning
A key player at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Lev Parnas, has told reporters Donald Trump was fully aware of his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the president’s political rivals, just as the Senate prepares to be sworn-in for the trial.
Parnas, a businessman and GOP donor, told MSNBC Trump “knew exactly what was going on”. He told the New York Times: “I am betting my whole life that Trump knew exactly everything that was going on that Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine.”
Trump has denied misconduct, and it’s unclear how much this new material will be absorbed into the Senate impeachment trial.
House prosecutors are expected to arrive at the Senate midday to complete a set of procedural rituals that will formally open the third impeachment trial in the Senate in US history.
Trump, meanwhile, has a quiet schedule for the day besides an announcement about prayer in schools in the afternoon.
We’ll have live updates from the Capitol as well as from the presidential campaign trail.