Republicans confident they can block new Trump trial witnesses, but uncertainty remains

Reporters reach out with their cell phones and audio recorders trying to get a statement from Sen. Lamar Alexander as he passes by during a recess in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on January 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 31 January 2020

Republicans confident they can block new Trump trial witnesses, but uncertainty remains

WASHINGTON: Democratic prosecutors and Republican defenders at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Thursday barreled toward a confrontation over new witnesses, something that would deny Trump the swift conclusion of the matter that he seeks.
As US senators spent a second day firing questions at both legal teams, Republicans, who control the chamber, said they were confident they could hold a final vote and acquit Trump as early as the weekend.
But some holdouts were suggesting they may side with Democrats and demand testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton and perhaps others regarding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, argued in a submitted question that additional witnesses could be necessary.
“The dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” Murkowski said. “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?“
Senator Lamar Alexander, a key Republican vote from Tennessee, told CNN he would detail his position on witnesses after Thursday’s session.
Possible testimony from Bolton is of particular interest after a report — which he has not denied — that he planned to say in an upcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to freeze $391 million in US military aid for Ukraine until it investigated Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was vice president.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump in December, formally accusing him of abusing his power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The House also charged Trump with obstruction of Congress.
Republicans hold a slim majority in the 100-member Senate, and the defection of more than three on the question of witnesses would prolong Trump’s trial and stymie his allies who hope to hold a final vote soon and minimize the political damage to the president.
Two-thirds of the Senate is required to remove Trump from office. He is unlikely to be convicted.
Earlier in the day, John Barrasso, the Senate’s third-ranking Republican, told reporters that Republicans were likely to beat back the Democratic effort for witnesses.
Trump’s acquittal would allow him to claim vindication just as the Democratic Party holds its first nominating contest for the Nov. 3 election in Iowa on Monday.
Trump held a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday night and slammed the trial, calling it an effort by Democrats to overthrow his 2016 election victory.
“They want to nullify your ballots, poison our democracy and overthrow the entire system of government,” Trump said.

TRYING TO UNMASK WHISTLEBLOWER
The two sides also sparred over the unnamed government official whose whistleblower complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine spurred the drive to remove him from office.
Trump and some other Republicans have pressed for months to unmask the intelligence official who filed the report and have tried to paint that person as a partisan figure working with Democrats to destroy Trump’s presidency.
The government has provided security to the whistleblower in response to security threats, according to the person’s lawyers.
On Thursday, the issue boiled to the surface again when US Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, refused to read a question from Republican Senator Rand Paul that included the name of a person that right-wing media have accused of being the whistleblower. Paul is one of several Republicans, including Trump, who have posted social-media links to some of those news articles.
“The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” Roberts said. He had rejected a similar question the day before.
Paul said his question, which asked whether that person worked with a member of Democratic Representative Adam Schiff’s staff to impeach Trump, was not meant to unmask the whistleblower.
“My question’s not about the whistleblower. My question’s about two people who are friends,” he told reporters.
Democrats disagreed.
“This question was really framed and intended to expose the identity of the whistleblower and subject that whistleblower to retaliation,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters.
Bradley P. Moss, a lawyer whose firm represents the whistleblower, called the Republican effort “a stain on the legacy of this constitutional republic.”

CLOSING ARGUMENTS, AND CLIMACTIC VOTE
On Friday, each side is expected to present closing arguments before the Senate moves to the question of whether to call witnesses, which could inflict political damage on the president as he seeks re-election.
If the vote on whether to allow witnesses is 50-50, Roberts could step in to break the tie. But there is so little precedent for impeachment trials — this is only the third of a president in US history — that Senate aides said there was no way to know exactly what would occur.
If Roberts declines to break a tie, the vote deadlock would mean a defeat for Democrats.
Schiff, the lead Democratic prosecutor in the trial, proposed that both sides conduct closed-door witness depositions for a week while the Senate returns to normal business.
But there was no sign his plea was being considered by Republicans.


Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

Updated 24 sec ago

Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

  • Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Dan Lipinski
  • The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic

CHICAGO: Most Arab-Americans in an Illinois congressional district race chose to support an American candidate who supported Arab and Palestinian rights over a Palestinian Arab-American candidate they said could not win the election, the spokesman for the winner said on Wednesday.

Shadin Maali, whose family originates from Beitunia, Palestine near Ramallah, said she agreed to become the spokesperson for Marie Newman over the candidacy of Palestinian American videographer Rashad “Rush” Darwish because Darwish could not win and Newman could.

Maali, who serves as Newman’s campaign chairwoman and spokesperson, said Newman sought Arab-American support, embracing many of the community’s political concerns. Newman, she said, listened to the community and included them in her campaign. That support, she said, helped to unseat Congressman Dan Lipinski, an entrenched eight-term conservative Democrat who had marginalized Arab-American issues and supported many anti-Palestinian congressional bills.

“A representative, if they are going to represent our district, he needs to align with our values. If he wants our support, he needs to align with our values, which are not radical values,” Maali said during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Show” on Detroit’s WNZK AM 690 and US Arab Radio network, which is sponsored by Arab News newspaper every Wednesday morning.

“We support human rights. To support civil rights. To support justice. The fact that he (Lipinski) didn’t care and denied and declined meeting with us was a slap in the face.”

Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Lipinski, losing in March 2018. But with Arab-American support, she easily defeated Lipinski in the March 2020 Democratic Primary by more than 2,816 votes.

Newman won with 52,384 votes while Lipinski lost with 49,568. The Palestinian-Arab candidate who tried to appeal to Arab-American candidates, Rush Darwish, spent nearly $800,000 on the election but only won 6,351 votes, or 5.7 percent of the 110,852 votes cast.

Maali said that she unsuccessfully appealed to Darwish to exit the race and support Newman, who backs many of the issues that Arabs and Palestinian Americans support.

Newman “had the strongest path to victory,” Maali said, while Rush Darwish, a first-time candidate with little experience, did not. She called it a “tough choice,” but added that in the end the best interests of the district’s constituents, including Arab Americans, was the priority.

“So, when she asked me to be her campaign chairwoman, it was a hard decision for me to make because we did have an Arab-American, a Palestinian-American running,” she said.

“That was the reason why I supported her because she represented us on our issues. She gave us a platform . . . and she could win.”

The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic. It was ranked as having the eighth largest Arab-American population of 50 American congressional districts by The New York Times. It also has the largest concentration of Palestinian-American voters, Maali said.

Maali said that to be successful in winning support for Palestine, Arab-American voters also needed to support the mainstream American population on issues that were important to them.

“Palestine is not the only issue,” she said.

“We care about health care. We care about education. We care about incentives for small businesses. We care about the refugees and immigration reform. We care about all of those issues. We are here as Americans. We care about making sure human rights are not violated anywhere in the world.”

Maali said that Newman supported the right of Arab-Americans to express their opposition to the policies of foreign countries such as Israel, noting that boycotts were an expression of free speech.

Acknowledging that Americans boycotting the racism of the government of South Africa helped to force the end of apartheid there, Maali said Americans also supported boycotting Israel’s government policies, which discriminated against civilians.

“We wanted to make sure we would always be able to practice our right to boycott because it is a fundamental civil right,” Maali said.

Lipinski, she said, supported the passage of legislation that punished Americans who supported boycotting Israeli government policies in the Occupied West Bank.

During the second segment of the radio show, conservative political consultant, Jeff Davis, of Victory Media, said that the public should not rely on news media polling that showed former Vice President Joe Biden as having a significant edge over President Donald Trump.

Davis said that voters should concentrate on several key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan.

An analysis of the Arab-American population shows that four battleground states — Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have significant Arab-American voters who could help to drive the election results.

But Davis said that with the new system of mail-in ballots, some state elections might not be fully tabulated for as long as 10 days after the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

“The question really is, how soon will we know? The difference is vote-by-mail applications because of COVID-19 are through the roof. What that means is you are going to have a certain amount of percentage that is going to be outstanding on election day,” Davis said.

 “We might not know for nine days (after the election),” Davis said.

 
“The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. EST in Detroit and simulcast on the Arab News newspaper Facebook page. For more information, visit Arab News online at www.arabnews.com/us2020election.