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House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't

Key House Democrats pressing the Senate to hear from new witnesses in President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE’s impeachment trial are leaving the door open to another possibility: calling those witnesses themselves if Senate Republicans do not.

House Democrats impeached Trump last month on two charges related to his handling of foreign policy in Ukraine, but their investigations into the issue remain open even as the spotlight turns to the launch of the Senate trial.

Democrats in both chambers are hoping the emergence of new evidence and eyewitness offers to testify will force Senate GOP leaders to consider the unexplored information, including captivating details of Trump’s pressure campaign recently provided by Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman with close ties to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump remarks put pressure on Barr Trump demands Barr investigate Hunter Biden 50 former intelligence officials warn NY Post story sounds like Russian disinformation MORE.

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Most Senate Republicans, taking cues from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE (R-Ky.), oppose any effort to seek testimony from Parnas and other key figures who refused to cooperate in the initial House investigation — a list that includes John BoltonJohn BoltonJohn Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' Demand for Trump-related titles sparks expected record year for political books MORE, Trump's former national security adviser, who has since changed his tune and offered to testify under subpoena.

Yet even if McConnell has his way and prevents new witnesses from appearing, they may find a stage in the House, where a number of Democrats are already advocating for their testimony if they’re silenced by the Senate.

“We would be remiss in the House of Representatives not to follow this trail to its conclusion. And Parnas has emerged as an important figure in this criminal conspiracy to force or coerce a foreign government to help Trump's reelection campaign,” said Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonFive takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Lawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis Johnson presses Barr on reducing Roger Stone's recommended sentence MORE (D-Ga.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, which drafted the impeachment articles late last year.

With Democrats hoping to maximize the pressure on Senate Republicans through the trial phase, Judiciary members have not discussed that strategy in any depth, Johnson emphasized. But it’s likely to gain favor with committee leaders, he said, if Senate Republicans deny new and willing witnesses a voice.  

“They have their eye on it,” Johnson said.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelIs Trump a better choice for Jewish voters than Biden? Overnight Defense: Trump says he's leaving Walter Reed, 'feeling really good' after COVID-19 treatment | White House coronavirus outbreak grows | Dems expand probe into Pompeo speeches House Democrats push forward on probe of Pompeo's political speeches MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which had some jurisdiction over Trump's impeachment, stopped just short of saying Democrats would summon relevant witnesses if the Senate does not. But he left the door wide open to doing so, vowing that Democrats will charge ahead with their Ukrainian investigation “if we're feeling that we're being played and that they're not being forthcoming with the truth.”

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“We're not going to just say, ‘OK, we've disposed of it and now the ball’s in their court and there’s nothing left for us to do.’ I think quite the contrary,” Engel said. “The more we hear, and the more things come out, the more resolute we are to make sure that we're dealing with the truth, and that it’s not being swept under the rug.”

The comments came the same day that House Democrats, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGreenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (D-Calif.), presented the two impeachment articles to the Senate, where John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, swore in the 100 senators to do “impartial justice” in weighing whether Trump's conduct merits his removal. The trial begins formally on Tuesday.

The Democrats' impeachment case rests on the argument that Trump violated his office in withholding almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine last summer to pressure the country's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to open investigations into the 2016 elections and the son of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE. Both probes might have helped Trump politically, and Democrats charged the president on two fronts: abusing his power in seeking foreign help in an election; and obstructing Congress as the House sought to investigate the affair.

“The president necessitated this by his abuse of power and his obstruction of Congress and his actions which undermined our national security, violated his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and jeopardized the integrity of our elections,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

Throughout the months-long House investigation, lawmakers heard from a host of diplomats and national security officials — both current and former — with insights into Trump's campaign to win the investigations he sought from Ukrainian leaders. Many sounded warnings that the shadow foreign policy in Kyiv — led by Giuliani — prioritized Trump’s political interests even as it threatened U.S.-Ukraine relations and efforts to contain Russian aggression in the region.

This week, Parnas offered vivid new details of that campaign, providing Democrats with a trove of documents, phone records, emails and text-messages related to his communications with Giuliani, a disreputable Ukrainian prosecutor, an unstable Republican landscaper and others who participated in the effort to oust Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchGrand jury adds additional counts against Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and and Igor Fruman Strzok: Trump behaving like an authoritarian Powell backs Biden at convention as Democrats rip Trump on security MORE, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine whom Trump recalled in April.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas told MSNBC's Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowLast hurrah for the establishment media Biden seeks contrast with Trump after aide tests positive for COVID-19 NYT columnist: Pressure mounting on NBC to make town hall a 'nightmare for Trump' MORE last week. “He was aware of all my movements.”

Trump, for his part, has denied any connection to Parnas.

“I don’t know who this man is,” Trump said Thursday.

Parnas and another Soviet-born businessman, Igor Fruman, were both arrested in October and charged in New York on unrelated campaign finance charges. Given those legal troubles, many Republicans have dismissed Parnas as a potential witness, saying he simply lacks the credibility to be of any value in the case.

“I wouldn't trust him as far as I can throw him,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic Senate campaign arm outraises GOP counterpart in September Hug or heresy? The left's attack on Dianne Feinstein is a sad sign of our times Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (R-S.C.) said last week.

Democrats have a different view, noting that much of the information Parnas provided came in the form of concrete communications records and physical documents.

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Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDisney to lay off 28,000 employees Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response MORE (D-Fla.), the former police chief of Orlando and now one of the seven Democratic impeachment managers, acknowledged that Parnas is ”someone who's had his issues.”

“But as a former law enforcement officer,” she quickly added, “I also know that we've been able to put some pretty strong cases together for people who ... have started on the wrong side, but decided to try to right their wrongs by cooperating with our state attorney. And that could be the situation here.”

Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyPelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Hillicon Valley: Facebook to label posts if candidates prematurely declare victory | Supreme Court hears landmark B Google, Oracle copyright fight | House Dem accuses Ratcliffe of politicizing election security intel MORE (D-Ill.) agreed.

“They may find him credible, may not, but it also may lead to other information," she said, urging the Senate to call him in.

Included in the records Parnas relinquished was a previously unknown May 10 letter from Giuliani to Zelensky asking for a 30-minute meeting — a request Giuliani said was made “with [Trump's] knowledge and consent.”

Trump last week denied any knowledge of the Giuliani letter. “But if he wrote a letter,” the president added, “it wouldn't have been a big deal.”

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Aside from Parnas and Bolton, Democrats are also clamoring to hear testimony from a number of other administration officials, many of whom had declined to appear before the lower chamber last year after the White House blocked their participation.

Schakowsky said she wants to summon Giuliani to testify, while Johnson suggested Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE, Trump's acting chief of staff, and Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWar in the Caucasus: What happens without US leadership — but a chance to get it right Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats Taking aim at online anti-Semitism MORE, the secretary of State, should also appear.

“Just the whole list that has been ... talked about earlier — but add Lev Parnas to the list,” Johnson said.

Jordain Carney contributed.