House leaders march Trump impeachment articles to the Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Democratic leaders have carried the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump across the U.S. Capitol in a formal procession to the Senate.

Trump will now face trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, with arguments expected to start next Tuesday and all 100 senators as the jurors. Chief Justice John Roberts will preside. It’s only the third such trial in American history.

Trump is complaining anew that it is all a “hoax,” even as fresh details emerge about his efforts in Ukraine. He is accused of pressuring the Ukrainians to investigate Democrat Joe Biden, while withholding military aid as leverage.

In a televised interview Wednesday, Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, says Trump he delivered an ultimatum in May to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior U.S. officials would attend his inauguration and all American aid to the war-torn country would be withheld if an investigation into Biden wasn’t announced.

Parnas says, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on." He also says Attorney General William Barr knew about his efforts in Ukraine.

A Justice Department spokeswoman called such claims “false.”

A nearly party-line vote moved Trump’s impeachment from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate.

Trump expects acquittal in the Senate, but new information about the president’s Ukraine efforts intensified pressure for more witnesses at the trial.

Pelosi named House prosecutors for Trump’s impeachment trial ahead of the votes.

The seven-member prosecution team will be led by the chairmen of the House impeachment proceedings, Reps. Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee and Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee.

Pelosi said Schiff, D-Calif., the intelligence chair, would serve as lead manager.

Along with Schiff and Nadler, D-N.Y., Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia Garcia of Texas will serve on the team.

The House impeached Trump last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, is shown in this file photo.
Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, is shown in this file photo. (Source: CNN)

A House committee chairman says his panel will investigate what he says are “profoundly alarming” text messages that have raised questions about the possible surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted by the Trump administration last spring.

The messages show that a Trump donor named Robert F. Hyde disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and cellphone use.

Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says the panel will investigate. Hyde dismissed the claims as “laughable” on Twitter.

Ahead of the vote, House Democrats released a trove of documents Tuesday they obtained as part of the impeachment investigation, including a handwritten note that mentions asking Ukraine’s president to investigate “the Biden case.”

The documents add new context to Democrats’ charges that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats as Trump withheld military aid.

At Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Biden said House Democrats had “no choice” but to impeach Trump for that alleged pressure. The president’s claims about Biden and his son, Hunter, have been debunked. But Biden said he expects Trump and Republicans to continue to allege that the Bidens are corrupt.

The former vice president says the outcome of the impeachment trial won’t affect his arguments against the Republican president in the 2020 campaign.

Arguments in the trial are expected to begin next Tuesday. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over senators, who serve as jurors, to swear an oath to deliver "impartial justice.''

Three of the Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 will have to contend with the trial as the push to the Iowa caucuses enters its final days. They are Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Klobuchar said at Tuesday’s night debate that the upcoming trial “is a decency check on our government.” She criticized her Senate Republican colleagues over reluctance to allow certain witnesses, saying, “We’ve asked for only four people.”

“And if our Republican colleagues won’t allow those witnesses, they may as well give the president a crown and a scepter. They may as well make him king," Klobuchar said.

Other candidates like Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be able to continue campaigning freely as the Senate trial gets underway.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone will lead Trump’s defense. He has little trial experience but high regard in conservative Washington legal circles. He has spent most of his career in commercial litigation.

Trump has described him as the “strong, silent type.”

In correspondence with House Democrats during the impeachment saga, Cipollone has shown a knack for channeling the president’s provocative rhetoric.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. Gray Media Group, Inc. contributed to the report. All rights reserved.