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Tipsheet

Dem Impeachment Manager Lofgren Upends Her Own Case in Opening Statement

Senate Television via AP

Washington, D.C. - Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), one of the Democratic impeachment managers, tried to establish her party's case on Tuesday for why they need to hear more witness testimony and read more documentation before the Senate proceeds in the trial against President Trump. Her remarks came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented his resolution on the trial rules.

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The White House documents that Democrats have asked for are "directly relevant to the case," Lofgren said Tuesday in support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's amendments to the resolution. Because, she argued, those documents reveal the extent to which the White House agents and President Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into helping his re-election.

The time to see the documents is now, Lofgren insisted. Not after opening statements. Moderate Republican senators like Mitt Romney said he'd only consider voting for more witnesses if it took place after the opening arguments.

There's no time for that, according to Lofgren. Among the individuals the Democrats want to hear from and see documentation from is former national security advisor John Bolton. He is the perfect witness, Lofgren suggested, because he is a "voracious" note taker. He must have written something down about EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland's supposed attempt to coerce Ukrainian officials by dangling a White House meeting above them if they do Trump's bidding.

Both sides have accused one another of dismissing the precedent set in the impeachment trial against President Bill Clinton. Republicans point out that there were no additional witnesses for his Senate trial. But Lofgren said that's because the president already provided over 90,000 documents. The senator recalls "walking over to the Ford building" to pore over them. Even President Richard Nixon produced at least 30 documents for his impeachment, she added. President Trump, on the other hand, has been "desperate" to hide his White House documents.

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Waiting for this evidence, Lofgren urged, would "undercut" the process. She said they must move now.

Toward the end of her remarks, Lofgren said something that appeared to upend the narrative she had just tried to paint.

The House of Representatives, she said, "did its job."

Okay, the White House defense team shot back, then why the need for more evidence? 

"It's remarkable that the first thing the Democrats do at the outset of the Senate trial is to say, 'we need more evidence,'" observed deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin. It's a "stunning admission" that their case is inept, he added. Even Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) admitted as much.

Although the House Democrats had 17 witnesses and more supposed evidence, they're "afraid" to present what they have, Philbin charged. The Democrats, he added, were admitting that "there is no there there" and they were "just trying to ram this through" before Christmas.

Philbin made a comparison. If he showed up to a court of law as a litigant and told the judge that they needed "more discovery," the case would be thrown out and the lawyers "would probably be sanctioned."

Schiff took the podium back and said that they are ready. But Philbin had a point.

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Unsurprisingly, Lofgren and Schiff's presentations did not move McConnell. As soon as their time was up, the Senate Majority Leader called for a vote to table Schumer's amendments, and the Senate promptly voted to do just that.

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