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 Schumer (D-N.Y.), would relate to conversations and documents between President Trump, 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 Biden 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 Pompeo, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, former chargé d’affaires in Ukraine William Taylor and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Democrats, as part of the second request, also wanted copies of communications with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who has been trying to investigate the Bidens.
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 Mulvaney, 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 Bolton helped set up the deal by executing the freeze on all military aid and withholding a promised visit to the White House,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (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 Schiff (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.
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