The group of House impeachment managers who will be leading the Democratic charge against President Trump this week are making some new demands. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who will be the president's lead counsel this week, they insist, is a "fact witness" and therefore must provide his "first-hand knowledge" about Trump's phone call with Ukraine immediately. They informed Cipollone of these demands in a new letter on Tuesday, just hours before the trial is set to begin.
JUST IN: The House says Trump's top impeachment lawyer, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, is a "material fact witness" and must disclose evidence before the start of the trial. pic.twitter.com/fRJOhweK9A— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 21, 2020
"Evidence indicates that, at a minimum, you have detailed knowledge of the facts regarding the first Article and played an instrumental role in the conduct charged in the second Article," the seven Democratic managers write. "The ethical rules generally preclude a lawyer from acting as an advocate at a trial in which he is also likely a necessary witness."
The first Article of impeachment accuses Trump of abuse of power. The Democrats believe that Trump coerced a foreign power for his own political benefit during his phone call with Ukraine and that multiple witnesses raised their concerns with John Eisenberg, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs. Eisenberg reports directly to Cipollone. The Democrats add that they have evidence to suggest that Cipollone was also involved in the decision to shield the whistleblower complaint against Trump from Congress and the public.
Even if Cipollone does not take the witness stand, his status as an unsworn witness "risk seriously damaging the fairness of the trial," they reason, concluding that his dual roles as an advocate and a witness is grounds for disqualification.
The Democrats also voiced their complaints about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's trial timeline.
"A White House-driven and rigged process, with a truncated schedule designed to go late into the night and further conceal the President’s misconduct, is not what the American people expect or deserve," they said.
Republicans push back and say the Democrats are the ones with the suspicious timeline, considering they were talking about impeaching the president practically since his inauguration.
"Democrats are simply trying to cover up for the fact that they can’t beat President Trump in an election," GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's office charged Tuesday morning.