GOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid

Senate Republicans on Tuesday rejected an opening effort by Democrats to compel the Trump administration to hand over documents related to the delayed Ukraine aid.
 
Democrats offered four amendments over roughly nine hours to the rules resolution that would have required the administration to turn over documents. All four were tabled, effectively blocking the requests, in 53-47 votes.

The documents, according to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report Trump administration freezes funding for study of hurricane barriers: report MORE (D-N.Y.), would relate to conversations and documents between President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE, top administration officials and Ukraine on the delayed funding, which was eventually released in September. 
 
"The documents are of equal importance. People should understand that the documents can shed as much light on why the aid was cut off, who did it and how it evolved as the witnesses," Schumer said. "We feel very strongly that we need documents, and that's why it's our first call," Schumer said. "We feel very strongly that we need documents, and that's why it's our first call." 
 
The first amendment specifically requested documents from the White House related to the Ukraine aid from after Jan. 1, 2019, including calls between Trump and the Ukrainian government and any communications between White House staff about trying to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE and his son Hunter Biden. 

The second amendment focused on State Department documents, including communications about the decision to hold the Ukraine aid and documents related to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Former Laura Bush staffer decries Taliban's treatment of women amid peace deal Bipartisan Senate resolution would urge UN to renew Iran arms embargo, travel restrictions MORE, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, former chargé d'affaires in Ukraine William Taylor and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandHouse wants documents on McEntee's security clearances Trump says he wants officials who are 'loyal to our country' Former US ambassador Yovanovitch lands a book deal: report MORE.
 
 
The third amendment, meanwhile, required the administration to hand over communications from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including communications involving Michael Duffey, the associate director of national security at OMB. Duffey, in emails reported by Just Security earlier this month, told the acting Pentagon comptroller, "Clear direction from POTUS to hold" the Ukraine aid.
 
After a failed attempt to subpoena acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Tucker Carlson calls out Mick Mulvaney on immigration remarks: 'Dishonest and stupid' Trump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report MORE, Democrats then forced a fourth vote on witnesses focused on trying to get the Pentagon to hand over communications and records related to the delayed military aid.
 
House impeachment managers urged senators to back the request for documents, arguing that the public "deserves the full truth."

"The documents will also show us how key players inside the White House, such as the president's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, his deputy Robert Blair and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Bolton's lost leverage Azar downplays chance Trump will appoint coronavirus czar MORE helped set up the deal by executing the freeze on all military aid and withholding a promised visit to the White House," Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments MORE (D-Calif.) said.

"The documents include records of the people who may have objected to this scheme, such as Ambassador Bolton. This is an important impeachment case against the president," she added from the Senate floor.

The amendments were among the first of several that Democrats were expected to force Tuesday to try to shoehorn language into the rules resolution on the documents and subpoenaing witnesses.
 
The Senate also rejected an amendment that would require that if one side tries to get evidence into the record that was not included in the House impeachment inquiry "and that was subject to a duly authorized subpoena, that party shall also provide the opposing party all other documents responsive to that subpoena." 
 
Democrats argued the amendment would prevent the White House from only handing over documents that were "cherry picked." 
 
"The [rules] resolution would allow the president to cherry-pick documents he has refused to produce to the House and attempt to admit them into evidence here. That would enable the president to use his obstruction not only as a shield to his misconduct but also as a sword in his defense," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of the vote. 
 
Trump's legal team, however, argued Democrats were trying to force the White House to comply with any House issued subpoenas on the same subject that were issued before the House formally voted to open the inquiry. 
 
"This is a legal issue and infirmity in those subpoenas, and this amendment proposes to do away with that legal infirmity by defining all of their subpoenas as duly authorized," said Patrick Philbin, a member of Trump's legal team. 
 
Schumer declined to provide details on what votes Democrats will force or how many, telling reporters to "wait and see" but that they didn't want to be "dilatory." 
 
But Democrats face an uphill battle to get any changes into the rules resolution. They would need four Senate Republicans, and McConnell has said he has the 51 votes necessary to enact his rules. 
 
"The organizing resolution already has the support of the majority of the Senate. That's because it sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded and tracks closely with the past precedents that were established unanimously," McConnell said Tuesday ahead of the vote. 
 
Updated Jan. 22 at 12:40 a.m.