This Week in Impeachment: Let’s Make It Official, Again

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S1: Quick warning that we swear just a weeny tiny bit in this episode.

S2: Previously in impeachment.

S3: The testimony in Washington had all started to point in one direction.

S4: If someone wants something you have to get something in return. Yeah it’s like I sort of like a like a quid. What is it. Quid pro quo.

S5: We now have someone we have Taylor. We have Giuliani we have Mulvaney all saying there was a quid pro quo.

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S6: But with the evidence piling up Republicans wanted to fight about something else.

S7: If you can’t win on the facts fight about the process and it’s clearly this is just an attempt to say it’s unfair it’s unfair.

S8: And you’re like What is unfair like where’s the injustice here Dahlia Lithwick Jim Newell. Welcome back. Hi. Hey.

S4: Hey. It’s like the most muted response hello we were we’ve toggled from despair to exhaustion.

S9: Yeah. I feel like this is the week that it turned. It’s the week that something shifted and I’m not quite sure what it is. But I think emotionally. No. Jim Jim correct me if I’m wrong. Is this the week that you can no longer keep track of the names.

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S10: Well as long as we keep those like Rudy associates like Lev what’s his name and the other guy out is on his way. I go down that road like that I’m fine. If we go down there I have a surprisingly good handle on it right now which is not going to last for much longer.

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S11: That’s why we’re here every week because you know what we’re having this trouble. Our listeners are like Sarah city. What. What is happening. Okay let’s start with testimony. I want to get to the vote but let’s start with testimony because I feel like this week the person who sort of broke out and broke new ground was the National Security Council Ukraine expert Alexander Van Min. He’s actually Ukrainian. Dalia can you give me a little bit of a bio here.

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S9: I think he is a decorated war hero right. He took he took literally took a bullet for the United States. He was born in Ukraine he emigrated here with his parents as a child. He really did earn a Purple Heart in Iraq. He’s in a Ken Burns documentary. He’s in a Ken Burns documentary. He is I think if you look in the dictionary under patriot or what Americans aspire to be he would be there.

S11: And I think the thing that was so important about his testimony is that we’ve heard a lot about this July 25th call we have this sort of quote unquote transcript with a lot of dot dot dots in it. But he was on that call. He wasn’t just on that call but he is fluent in Ukrainian and also fluent in Russian and also works in the White House. So he really knew what was happening and could testify that that whole that whole criticism that the White House has rolled out that all this is all secondary knowledge and no one was really there that kind of falls apart with someone like Feynman.

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S12: I think that when when I think about the metaphor of what changes this week. It’s it’s like one of those Renaissance paintings where they paint over and paint over you know with layers and layers of paint. And the thing that I keep thinking is it’s fascinating that the White House is obsessed with the whistleblower because all the subsequent testimony has not just shored up what the whistleblower initially alleged but is actually there are people now in the room.

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S9: So if the whistleblower was one or two steps removed now you have people corroborating it. And it’s amazing how uncanny the story doesn’t change. The story is unbelievably consistent you have witness after witness just layering over what we originally heard. And I think that Vinson is the apogee of that right. If that’s how you pronounce that word he is vindication is the high water mark of this. I was actually in the room I was actually concerned everything that the whistleblower said now can go away because we now have firsthand testimony. And what’s interesting is that the White House continues to double down on the whistleblower. The argument is well that was illegitimate. So everything that comes after is illegitimate.

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S11: It’s interesting because you’ve talked a lot on the show about how the Trump administration is trying to make this into a criminal proceeding. And the argument you’re laying out here is kind of the fruit of the poison tree we met.

S9: We heard the fruit of the poisonous tree coming from Republican supporters which is a criminal argument right. I mean there is this doctrine I was thinking that this morning Mary that there is this doctrine right. If the police do an illegal search of your glove box and they find the drugs that’s called the fruit of the poisonous tree and you can now try to have that not be admitted at trial. This is not a criminal trial. It doesn’t matter. This is not a Fourth Amendment proposition. This is not. There is nothing illegal about what the whistleblower did. So the implication where they’re trying to reverse engineer this to say the whistleblower is akin to an illegal police search of my glove box I mean everything that stems from that is illegitimate. Not only is it sort of bad law and order but it’s also not true because what the whistleblower did initially was perfectly lawful. And I do think it’s a little bit of this. You know you’ve got a grab bag of legal words and so you just keep saying hearsay even though hearsay has nothing to do with this. You just keep saying Fruit of the poisonous tree even though that has nothing to do with this. And I think that the idea is to just kind of razzle dazzle the public into being confused and thinking therefore as the White House is now saying this entire impeachment is unconstitutional.

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S2: But witnesses just keep coming forward. People like Alexander of Inman and this week you saw conservatives attacking not just the process of impeachment but the people testifying to this is I think just goes to your point Mary of things have turned even before he testifies.

S9: So this is a little different from Taylor. This is a little different from someone we have a smear campaign than right out the chute. Laura Ingraham John Yoo is calling him you know like like a treason. John you lie. Yes. Well John Yoo torture memos John Yoo is implying that he’s working for Ukraine that he’s got dual loyalties that he’s not really got American interests at heart.

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S12: I think you’re right in that sense it was a turn it was just a straight on.

S2: We are going to suggest that he is a spy working for foreign entities and his testimony was significant enough that you had Chuck Schumer suggesting maybe this guy needs a little bit of protection. Jim I’m a little curious to turn to you because I think Paul is right that the right wing media machine really got fired up this week but we did see some Republicans coming out and defending Vincent and people like Liz Cheney who is pretty conservative. What does that tell you as a political watcher of how these proceedings are going to be honest in a lot of the talk about the smearing of Vin Man.

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S10: The examples are John you on Laura Ingram’s show there Sean Duffy on CNN and Sean Duffy recently resigned from Congress and the whole building got a little bit more intelligent. And then there’s that.

S2: SEAN DUFFY Former Real World contestant. Yeah. Yeah Congressman. Yes.

S10: And there was one more I really didn’t see any beyond that in their defense a little bit. And every Republican I talked to on the Hill you know said they don’t agree with questioning his patriotism necessarily or I didn’t hear you know I didn’t survey everyone. I didn’t hear a whole lot of talk about dual loyalty. I think they got the idea that there were some on TV who are saying this and most I talked to who said no I would never question his patriotism I just think he he misheard or he’s wrong which is maybe a little patronizing in its own way. But I think they they stomp that out pretty quickly.

S2: Does that mean that there’s some hope for bipartisanship here. If we can agree that this guy is a patriot and you know his testimony seemed valid Can we agree on other things.

S13: I mean if there’s any hope for bipartisanship it’s not materializing at all right now. I mean I think this week was actually a little bit of a setback for Democrats who hope that they can convince Republicans to come over and quote unquote do the right thing just because we had a vote this week or they got zero Republican support the vote to open the impeachment inquiry.

S3: When we get back from the break. The impeachment inquiry vote and we get.

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S2: So let’s talk about that vote were you on the floor to watch it.

S13: Yeah I was in the gallery watching it.

S2: So set the scene a little bit. What was this like was it dramatic.

S10: I was trying to find drama wherever I could. I had spent the whole week sort of looking for a Republican who might be interested in voting for this. And in the end couldn’t find any. You know on the floor the stage was set a little bit and you had Nancy Pelosi actually presiding over the vote which which is rare does. Yeah. It’s all an extremely historic moments. You had the floor was pretty full for the debate ahead of time when usually there’s only like three or four people required to be there who were on the floor listening to the debate.

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S13: But you know the whole gallery was packed. It was just you know the vote didn’t really have a lot of interesting dynamics to it in terms of the way it broke down. It was just all Republicans you know voted against it two Democrats voted with the Republicans voting against it and they were two of the more conservative Democrats. And you know the work remains to be done I guess to see if there’s going to be any sort of consensus build on this.

S2: Yeah everyone really seemed to be in their corners. You had Nancy Pelosi with the American flag behind her talking about the duty to the constitution and then you had someone like Steve Scully’s talking about this is how they do things in Russia with secret procedures. Oh yeah.

S13: He had a wonderful poster he had it said thirty seven days of Soviet style impeachment inquiry and there is that you know the classic mistake of waiting to have a picture of the Kremlin but you actually have a picture of St. Basil’s Cathedral which is just outside the Kremlin and is a very lovely building. But yeah. So they’re going with this whole you know this is Stalin right here.

S2: One detail that stood out to me was when I open up the newspaper this morning someone had written about similar votes that happened with the Clinton impeachment process and Thirty one Democrats voted with the Republicans back then and it just says something that I could not imagine that happening today. I thought we were pretty divided back then but reading that I was like wow we have come a long way baby.

S10: Yeah. And I mean if you look at the similar around the Nixon impeachment I think it got over 400 votes. That’s like everyone. Yeah that’s it’s more or less everyone. And I guess you know there was just a little more trust even even during the Clinton portrait there was like a little bit more trust between the two parties that you could almost work together on this to get to the bottom of this a little bit more. And it’s not that way at all now. I mean Democrats in this resolution for this impeachment you know they have opportunities for Republicans to call witnesses or subpoena. But it’s all subject to committee votes and there’s pretty much the opportunity for Democrats to stamp out any sort of bad faith directions Republicans wanted there. And Republicans are taking that as saying look we have no real actual power here but that’s just because what are Democrats going to do. They know that if you give Jim Jordan unlimited ability to call witnesses you know he’s going to call Peter Strock or Lisa Paige or whatever and taken this whole different direction. So it’s just sort of it almost seems unbridgeable. The idea of finding a consensus way to get to the bottom of this allegations because one really does not want to get to the bottom of these allegations.

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S2: Yeah I mean last week we talked about how the Republicans were complaining so much about process that had that sort of sit in in the capital where they’d protested that they weren’t able to listen to the testimony and what was interesting was that with this vote it was an attempt to create process and yet still the Republicans seemed unsatisfied and they were still upset that they have to in their words go kind of crawling to Adam Schiff to be involved.

S10: Well Adam Schiff is the investigator you know I mean it’s his committee that has jurisdiction if once they’re done with these depositions and some public hearings it will go to the Judiciary Committee which has original jurisdiction over this. But I mean obviously whoever is in charge of the investigating is going to have a lot of power to investigate and since they don’t want the investigation to be accepted by the public of course they’re going to go after Adam Schiff and say he has too much power or as the RNC called him after the vote they congratulate him on his coronation as the witch hunt King. So we just don’t send Twitter that’s very metal you know. That’s a pretty cool name. You should go around saying that.

S14: One other thing that I just noticed that our friends at at Jet security posted last night Neil Eggleston who was White House counsel over Obama noticed in the resolution that the House adopted this really clever provision that essentially did you see that Jim it’s great that somebody stuck this in and I think nobody but Neil Eggleston noticed it.

S12: But the provision says should the president you unlawfully refuse to make witnesses available for testimony to or produced documents requested by the committees in furtherance of the investigation. The chair has the discretion to impose appropriate remedies including by denying requests by the president or his counsel to call or question witnesses. So they say that this kind of poison pill in saying if you are going to not provide documents not provide witnesses then the president doesn’t get to then sworn in and participate in the proceedings.

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S2: So all the complaints about Adam Schiff isn’t letting the President participate in this process. He can now go back and say well the rules say yes since you are obstructing me you don’t get to participate.

S14: You can’t come in and question witnesses you cannot come in and make demands on your terms. If you have not allowed us not made witnesses and documents available to us so it was a pretty smart. And I want to call it. I shouldn’t call it a poison pill but it was a pretty smart deaf little move to say the president can’t both suck and blow he can’t you know make claims about it nobody nobody to be provided nobody to cooperate and also but I want to come in there and question your witnesses.

S2: So what are the other things that came out of this vote was that the intelligence committee has assigned itself some homework they’re gonna write a report on everything they’ve heard sort of like a congressional version of the Starr report maybe you know Dahlia if there’s one thing that the Mueller report sort of taught us it’s that these reports don’t necessarily break through to the public even though that’s what they’re meant to do. They’re meant to be a presentation of facts and you know here’s here’s what we found and please read this. I looked at this the idea of a report coming out I was like wow I really hope you’ve hired like John Grisham to write it or something. Do you have any. Having watched a few of these play out I wonder how you think about how the intelligence committee could approach this that would get more people invested in what they’re doing.

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S12: I think the lesson of Watergate is this is going to rise and fall not on huge 500 page published reports. It is going to rise and fall on public testimony and we’re already hearing Adam Schiff say they’re going to start to release transcripts of testimony they’ve taken. They’re going to have to call Bill Taylor back.

S15: They’re going to have to call Simon and find men. Is that where they’re gonna have to call. See I can’t do it. They’re going to have to cordon someone Gordon Sunland and they’re going to have to call Vin men and they’re gonna have to do this again and then they’re gonna have to hope that America watches.

S12: And I think one of the reasons this is so complicated in addition to the fact you know you make the good point the goalposts have moved. All summer Republicans are saying say you’re doing an impeachment inquiry. Then Nancy Pelosi said that then they said take a vote and then we did a vote. Then they have a procedure now they’re saying the procedure is unconstitutional so it’s back to the fruit of the poisonous tree right. Like you’re never going to get the Republicans in the House or the Senate or the White House to sign off and say Now this process is fair. So now what you’re going to have to do I think is some kind of public theater that is an educated move the needle enterprise with the understanding that in Watergate everybody watched everybody’s not going to watch this. And in fact Laura Ingram is going to be on her show every night saying all these people are traitors and they’re not patriots and nothing to see here and so the question isn’t whether there’s a report that’s going to be a game changer in my view I’m not sure there’s going to be explosive public testimony that’s going to be a game changer because we are not going to have America sitting around watching ABC. You know all day long to get Watergate style information from which you can draw your own inferences and I think I think that we live in two realities now. And the idea that we’re going to knit together our realities either you know by way of a joint report or agreed upon rules of process or an agreed upon narrative about what would be the line that the president crossed that is too far I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.

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S2: Well Jim how are the Democrats thinking about how they structure these hearings to have the best shot at reaching the most people. Because as Dahlia said you know different people are going to believe different things and be told different things. So how are they strategizing here.

S13: I don’t think they’ve even come to any decisions or they don’t even know how many hearings they’re going to have. I mean there’s only one that’s required within the actual bill that they just passed. So I imagine they’re going to try to structured around the most damning stuff then I imagine Republicans in response will find something that they think mitigates all of that damage and then they’ll try to call that witness or something like that. And then I’m sure we’ll have to decide whether to allow them to do that or not which you know they’re going to be some decisions here about whether you throw Republicans a few crumbs to make sure that it’s an involved process where you could have some sort of bipartisan buy in even if you worry that if you allow them to bring someone else in it could become a bit of a show trial and sort of ruin any chance for consensus. But you know I think one question here is has the stuff that’s most capable of shifting public opinion come out already or is it still going to happen. I mean has what we’ve learned from say the Vin Man testimony the Taylor testimony sort of corroborating the story at the core of this that there was a hold on security assistance in response for Trump wanting Ukraine to investigate charisma or to search for whatever server he’s imagining in his mind. Is that out there and is that sort of baked into polling already or is there some sort of way that it could be presented in the trial that really I don’t know helps people see the light in a way. And I could really see it being argued either way.

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S3: So this is why it’s essential that whatever happens next with John Bolton happened quickly John Bolton left the White House just a few weeks ago. He was the national security adviser and as you may or may not remember over the last several weeks many people who’ve testified in front of Congress have begun to link him to the Ukrainian episode. Witnesses have said Bolton was concerned about the president’s intentions tried to distance himself from it all. So the intelligence committee has asked him to comment on that. They’ve scheduled Bolton to testify next week. He says he’s only going to show up if he’s subpoenaed. If he does make an appearance Bolton could be the kind of witness that snaps the public back into focus maybe even makes this case turn for people who right now are unconvinced.

S9: I think what he does and says will be absolutely essential because I think nobody is clinical him part of the Never Trump movement. Nobody’s going to say this is a deep state actor who somehow was completely in thrall to Donald Trump for years and years while plotting his overthrow. So I think it’s fair to say Bolton will be a game changer and also I think we’re super focused on what’s happening in the capital. But let’s remember courthouses in D.C. this week trying to figure out what to do with Charles Cooperman who’s this aide to John Bolton who has asked a White House official has asked the courts to decide whether he has to testify basically coming to them. I’ve got a constitutional crisis. Could you help me out saying you figure out you know whether these claims of immunity these claims of unbelievable absolute immunity is the what the White House is saying for everybody. Right. He’s in the courts in D.C. saying you’ll figure it out.

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S14: So unless those people can be rolled into this and forced to sit and answer questions then I think you’re right it becomes. Well that was an interesting little Ukraine scandal we enjoyed that in September. We’ve moved on. Sorry but all that damning testimony but no quid pro quo. And we move on. So I think that that’s the tipping point.

S10: Well you mentioned that it might be starving mischaracterizing but there might be a little bit difficult for someone to question you know John Bolton’s conservative loyalties or anything like that. I think John Bolton would be smeared instantly. I mean even when he got fired by Trump a couple weeks ago there’s a long Tucker Carlson monologue that’s where it explicitly said that John Bolton was a man of the left. And he had to be gotten rid of. And I wonder if you look at John Bolton he’s someone who has been part and parcel of the conservative movement and conservative Republican official Washington you know for his entire career. So if he comes and he testifies he’s an enemy of that. I mean that’s how he’ll be remembered. He’s he’s the one who play a large part in taking down the Republican president even if it’s a Republican president that a lot of official Washington you know has never been quite easy with. But I think for someone who is so the conservative movement is him he is the conservative movement. I bet he has a lot of angst about what would happen to his legacy and also maybe his career a little bit if he became this sort of fatal witness in the impeachment of Donald Trump although on the other hand I think he was quite mad about how things turned out with his with his tenure at National at the National Security Council and supposedly you know people know all that well says he’s going to want to tell his story. So he’s just going to have to choose. I don’t think he’s been subpoenaed yet. He’s been asked the comment that they would try to do the little you know subpoena the morning off track but again you know both he and copper mine have the same lawyer who’s arguing this case that they have constitutional immunity which is not a legal term dollars.

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S12: It’s very much like fruit of the poisonous tree. You know I think they open Black’s Law Dictionary and pick a page and then they just start asserting things from you know oh page 427 has I mean it sounds very powerful when you put the words together constitution and I think I wish I had. I know they’re saying some kind of blanket privilege it’s very weird. But I will connect one thing that Jim saying to something that I think is interesting which is this fear of Donald Trump the fear of the wrath of the base and the wrath of Donald Trump and the wrath of Tucker Carlson which is just a hilarious mental construct like the wrath of Tucker. I don’t know how you’re fearing a loud guy in a bow tie but you know what he’s shaking his fist. But I think that that part and parcel of that is the fact that Donald Trump is promising to give campaign money to Republicans in the Senate. Right. Who’s side with him. I mean this is just a straight up Richard Painter who was the White House ethics czar in the George W. Bush administration just wrote this piece to saying this is felony bribery right. The president cannot condition like I’m going to have my fundraising machinery support or kill your re-election campaign in the Senate condition. You’re supporting me in an impeachment trial. But I do think it’s not just you know what Jim’s describing which is fear reputational interests fear of future employment fear of going down on the wrong side of Donald Trump.

S14: But it’s also I think there’s actual money huge operational money that’s being thrown around that is terrifying I imagine to a Republican who needs that machinery that kind of of election cash in order to get re-elected and I think in some ways he missed so much of this goes back to the cardinal sins of money and politics. But some of the fear here at least on the part of Republican senators who absolutely live or die by Trump supporting their financially supporting their re-election campaigns is also a massive part of this.

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S16: Jim. Dalia I am forever grateful for your patience and.

S4: Deep knowledge. Thank you. I’ve forgotten Jim’s name. I can no longer count.

S3: I don’t know who. Who is this Jim. Who we speak. Jim Newell is Slate’s man on the Hill. Dahlia Lithwick covers the courts.

S16: And that is our show. If you are loving these impeachment episodes let us know you can reach me on Twitter. I’m at Mary’s desk. The show is produced by Jason De Leon. Mary Wilson Morris Silvers and Danielle Hewitt. I’m Mary Harris and we will be back in your earbuds next week all right.

S17: Mary’s blowing your nose Jim do you have any mucus you’d like to contribute.

S10: No I will not just now but yeah.