Parnas Tells of Rick Perry’s Role in Ukraine: Impeachment Update

Steven T. Dennis
Parnas Tells of Rick Perry’s Role in Ukraine: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- Chief Justice John Roberts made his first appearance in the Senate chamber Thursday to swear in the senators for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which is set to begin Tuesday.

Here are the latest developments:

Parnas Makes More Accusations on Ukraine (10 p.m.)

Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, said that then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry told Ukraine’s president that he had to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and the energy company that had Biden’s son as a board member.

Perry went to Ukraine with that message last May when he attended the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Parnas said in the second part of an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that was broadcast on Thursday night.

His account widens the circle of Trump administration officials who have been accused of being involved or knew about an operaton to get the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into Biden, one of President Donald Trump’s chief political rivals.

Giuliani told Perry what to tell Zelenskiy before going to Ukraine, Parnas said on Maddow’s program, without offering specific evidence. Perry called Giuliani after the inauguration and told him that Zelenskiy “is going to do it,” according to Parnas.

But when Zelenskiy only announced something about battling corruption, Parnas said, “Giuliani blew his lid on that saying that’s not what we discussed. That it wasn’t supposed to be a corruption investigated announcement. It has to be about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and Burisma.” Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma.

Perry left office late last year. The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night. Earlier in the day, the White House tried to cast doubt on Parnas’ accusations.

“These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an emailed statement. -- Chris Strohm

Pence Seeks Democratic Profile in Courage (9:10 p.m.)

Vice President Mike Pence called for a Democratic senator to cast a defiant vote to acquit President Donald Trump, and invoked the name of a beloved Democratic president, John F. Kennedy, to bolster his argument.

In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday night, Pence said that “despite the focus on what a handful of Republican senators may do, the true profile in courage, as Kennedy understood it, would be a Senate Democrat willing to stand up and reject a partisan impeachment passed by the Democrat-controlled House.”

His column referred to Edmund Ross, one of the eight senators Kennedy lionized in “Profiles in Courage,” which was published while he was still in the Senate.

Ross, a Kansas Republican, turned against his party during the the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and voted to acquit. Johnson escaped removal from office by just one vote.

“Now, as all eyes turn to the U.S. Senate and another partisan impeachment, and the parallels between Ross’s time and our own are striking,” Pence wrote in the Journal. “But despite the focus on what a handful of Republican senators may do, the true profile in courage, as Kennedy understood it, would be a Senate Democrat willing to stand up and reject a partisan impeachment passed by the Democrat-controlled House.” -- John Harney

GOP’s Collins ‘Likely’ to Support Witnesses (6:02 p.m.)

Republican Senator Susan Collins said she is “likely” to support a proposal to call witnesses after each side presents its case and answers questions from senators.

“While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful,“ she said in a statement.

Collins of Maine said she won’t support any effort to call witnesses or seek documents before the cases are presented and senators can ask questions.

“I have not made a decision on any particular witnesses,” Collins said. “When we reach the appropriate point in the trial, I would like to hear from both sides about which witnesses, if any, they would like to call.”

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier Thursday he will try to force a vote on whether to call witnesses shortly after the trial gets underway next week. Democrats would need at least four Republicans to agree to call witnesses.

Schumer to Try to Force Witnesses at Trial (3:39 p.m.)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will try to force a vote on whether to call witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial shortly after it gets underway next week.

Democrats want to call acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Adviser John Bolton and two other White House officials, and also are seeking documents the White House has withheld, Schumer said.

“You can’t have a fair trial if you don’t get all the evidence,” he said.

Schumer said disclosures this week by Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas raised many “serious questions.” He also cited Thursday’s report by the Government Accountability Office that said the White House violated federal law by withholding military aid from Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress.

The impeachment charges themselves can’t be changed, Schumer said, but he said information related to Parnas and the GAO may be included in House Democrats’ trial briefs. -- Laura Litvan

Trump Given Deadline to Respond to Charges (2:53 p.m.)

Trump will be formally notified that the Senate has convened as an impeachment court and asked to file his response to the charges by 6 p.m. Saturday, according to a schedule adopted by the Senate at the end of Thursday’s session.

The House has until 5 p.m. Saturday to file its trial brief, and Trump’s lawyers must file their brief by noon Monday. If the House wants to offer a response, it has until noon Tuesday to do so.

And, in case senators didn’t get the message in letters from party leaders this week, Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger read a proclamation admonishing senators to keep silent during the trial “on pain of imprisonment.”

The Senate impeachment court will reconvene on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Senators Take Trial Oath From Chief Justice (2:11 p.m.)

Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to senators in the Senate chamber Thursday to serve as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial.

The senators promised to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” in considering the articles that accuse Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress’s investigation of his actions regarding Ukraine.

Senators then were called, in groups of four, to go to the clerk’s desk and sign an oath book.

Roberts himself was sworn in first to act as presiding officer, with the oath given by Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley. Roberts will return to the Senate on Tuesday to begin presiding over the trial sessions.

Roberts Sworn In to Preside Over Trial (2:09 p.m.)

Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in as presiding officer for Trump’s impeachment trial.

The oath was administered by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the president pro tempore.

Roberts was escorted to the chamber by four senators: Republicans Roy Blunt of Missouri and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California.

Four Senators to Escort Roberts to Chamber: (12:45 p.m.)

After House prosecutor Adam Schiff finished reading the impeachment articles to the Senate, the House managers walked back through an empty Statuary Hall to return to the House side of the Capitol.

The senators chosen to escort Roberts to the Senate chamber at 2 p.m. are Republicans Roy Blunt of Missouri and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California.

One bit of unfinished pre-trial business is the adoption of Senate Republicans’ rules for the trial. GOP Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said in an interview that Republicans haven’t been shown a draft of the rules, and that they may not see the document until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offers it on the floor Tuesday.

As Schiff read the impeachment articles, senators in the normally empty chamber sat at their desks with somber expressions. A few took notes, including Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, one of the Democratic presidential candidates who had to leave the campaign for the trial.

Others watched with arms folded, looked down or fidgeted in the quiet chamber, where senators are prohibited from having cell phones or other electronic devices and were told to stay at their desks throughout the proceedings.

Those staring intently at Schiff included McConnell as well as Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, key Republican votes on whether to call witnesses or seek new documents.

Some of the galleries usually open to the public were empty. The press gallery was full. -- Steven T. Dennis, Daniel Flatley, Laura Litvan

Schiff Reads Trump Articles to Senate (12:15 p.m.)

Lead House prosecutor Adam Schiff read the impeachment resolution and two charges against Trump in front of a somber Senate as that chamber held its first formal proceedings of the trial.

Starting with the first article, Schiff read, “Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of the presidency“ in pursuit of personal political benefit.

All senators are required to be in their seats for the trial proceedings. At 2 p.m., Chief Justice John Roberts is scheduled to arrive at the Senate to swear in the members as an impeachment court. -- Billy House

House Managers Go to Senate to Read Charges (12:04 p.m.)

The House managers headed to the Senate to formally open impeachment trial proceedings by reading the two charges against Trump.

Like on Wednesday, the seven managers walked two-by-two from the House toward the Senate side of the Capitol. All senators are supposed to be in their seats for the trial proceedings. -- Billy House

Chief Justice Gears Up for Trial Role (11:56 a.m.)

Roberts received a hand-delivered, formal request to preside over Trump’s impeachment trial Thursday morning at 9:30. He is expected to be sworn in at 2 p.m. and then administer an oath to the 100 senators.

Roberts will adopt many of the practices used by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, according to Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg. Though the court is right across the street from the Senate, Roberts will travel by car each day of the trial, escorted by a Supreme Court security team.

During the trial, Roberts will get assistance from one of his law clerks and Jeffrey Minear, who serves as the chief justice’s counselor. While at the Senate, Roberts is expected to have use of the ceremonial President’s Room, which Rehnquist used as well.The trial is likely to have little, if any, outward impact on the court’s work. The justices will hear arguments in the morning on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, hold a brief morning session the following Monday and then begin a four-week recess. In the unlikely event Roberts has to leave the bench before an argument session ends, Justice Clarence Thomas will preside, but Roberts will still take part in the court’s decision, Arberg said.One notable difference from Rehnquist: During the impeachment trial, Roberts will wear the plain black robe he uses at the Supreme Court. Rehnquist added four gold stripes to his robe, an embellishment inspired by a costume he saw in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, but Roberts never adopted that adornment. -- Greg Stohr

Schiff to Consider Seeking Parnas Testimony (11:50 a.m.)

Lead House manager Adam Schiff said he’s considering seeking testimony from Lev Parnas, who says he helped Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, try to get dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine.

”We are continuing to review his interviews and the materials he has provided to evaluate his potential testimony in the Senate trial,” Schiff said. -- Billy House

Senate Leaders Spar Hours Before Swearing-In (10:54 a.m.)

Hours before senators will be sworn in as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate leaders sparred over the Democratic-led House’s charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of his office.

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mocked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for holding a public ceremony Wednesday to sign the two articles of impeachment that included passing out “souvenir pens emblazoned with her own signature that literally came on silver platters.”

McConnell insisted Trump is being denied due process because the House didn’t issue subpoenas for testimony from witnesses that the president refuses to allow to testify without a court fight.

“Now they want the Senate to redo their homework and rerun the investigation,” he said.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the evidence against the president is growing worse with each passing week. He referred to “stunning revelations” in Wednesday night’s MSNBC interview with Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Parnas said Trump was lying when he said he didn’t know the two were trying to coerce Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son.

“God forbid we rush through this trial and only afterwards the truth comes out,” Schumer said, noting that senators will take an oath that includes a vow of impartiality. -- Laura Litvan

White House Broke Law in Aid Delay, GAO Says (10:03 a.m.)

The White House budget office violated federal law when it withheld about $214 million appropriated by Congress to the Defense Department for security aid to Ukraine, the Government Accountability Office said.

“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 government watchdog agency said. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

The GAO said the withholding of funds “was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that OMB violated the ICA.” In addition, it said the law “does not permit deferrals for policy decisions.”

The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan congressional watchdog agency.

The report rejected the White House Office of Management and Budget’s assertion that because the government reviews appropriations for compliance with congressional mandates, “so too should be reviews undertaken to ensure compliance with presidential policy prerogatives.“

“OMB’s assertions have no basis in law,” the GAO said.

OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel said, “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.”

“The aid got out with no detriment to our national security,” Defense Department spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.

The GAO said it also questions actions regarding other funds appropriated to the State Department for security aid to Ukraine.

“How many times have we heard Republicans say ‘there’s no crime here, no law broken.’ Now the Government Accountability Office has said otherwise,” second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin said in an interview.

Durbin and other Democrats said the GAO report adds to their push to bring in Mick Mulvaney, OMB officials and documents discussing the holdup in Ukraine aid at the heart of the impeachment battle.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said, “The GAO’s independent findings reinforce the need for the Senate to obtain all relevant documents and hear from key fact witnesses in order to have a fair trial.” -- Daniel Flatley, Jack Fitzpatrick

Senators to Be Sworn in By Chief Justice (6 a.m.)

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the seven impeachment managers, will read the charges against Trump aloud on the Senate floor at noon Thursday -- the first time all senators will gather to prepare for the trial.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that at 2 p.m., a committee of senators will escort Roberts to the Senate chamber. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the president pro tempore, will swear in Roberts, and then the chief justice will swear in the 100 senators to serve as an impeachment court.

The Senate will notify the White House of the pending trial, McConnell said, and summon the president to respond to the impeachment articles and send his lawyers.

“So the trial will commence in earnest on Tuesday,” McConnell said. “I’m confident this body can rise above short-termism and factional fever and serve the long-term best interests of our nation. We can do this, and we must.”

The senators already have been told they must stay in their seats during the trial, confine all reading to material related to the proceeding, and “refrain from speaking to neighboring senators while the case is being presented.” They’ll be required to leave their phones and other electronic devices outside the chamber.

The Democratic lawmakers who will prosecute the House’s case have already begun meeting to plan their strategy to present the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. One of them, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, said they probably will work through the weekend to prepare for the trial. -- Billy House

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

Trump Impeachment Defense Remains Work in Progress Near Trial

Key Events

The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.

--With assistance from John Harney, Erik Wasson, Josh Wingrove, Steven T. Dennis, Jack Fitzpatrick, Glen Carey, Billy House, Greg Stohr, Laura Litvan, Daniel Flatley and Ari Natter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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