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 TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally 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 GiulianiSunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Moussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden Democrats launch probe into Trump's firing of State Department watchdog, Pompeo MORE.

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Most Senate Republicans, taking cues from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBossie, Lewandowski warned Trump he was in trouble in 2020: report FISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter 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 BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report 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. JohnsonProgressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union 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 EngelHouse chairman slams Pompeo for suggesting US could 'disconnect' from Australia over China deal Open Skies withdrawal throws nuclear treaty into question The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic 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 SchiffMcCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill Key Senate Democrat withdraws support from House measure on web browsing data Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers 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 BidenProsecutor investigating whether Tara Reade gave false testimony as expert witness Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally George Floyd's sister says Minneapolis officers should be charged with murder 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 PelosiMcCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response 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 YovanovitchJim Jordan requests documents from Pompeo regarding Hunter Biden, Burisma  Trump taps new ambassador to Ukraine America's diplomats deserve our respect 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 MaddowJudge dismisses One America News defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow Whitmer: 'Disappointing' to see Trump not wear mask during Ford visit Schumer: Fauci may testify before Senate next week 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 unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy 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 DemingsPress: Susan Rice would be ready to step in as POTUS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening Demings 'concerned' over theme park openings in Florida 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 SchakowskyHillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns Action on driverless cars hits speed bump as Congress focuses on pandemic Merger moratorium takes center stage in antitrust debate 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 Mulvaney12 things to know today about coronavirus Mulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic MORE, Trump's acting chief of staff, and Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGrassley: White House 'failed to address' if there was a 'good reason' for IG firings Overnight Defense: Pentagon watchdog sidelined by Trump resigns | Plan would reportedly bring troops in Afghanistan back by Election Day | Third service member dies from COVID-19 Ex-Pompeo staffers asked to sign letter against 'smear campaign' 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.