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Republicans livid after Schiff cites supposed threat to GOP senators


“Not only have I never heard the ‘head on the pike’ line but also I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration,” Collins said.

Schiff’s comment in the Senate chamber was clearly a key moment in the trial, and it came at the end of another long day in which the California Democrat otherwise effectively prosecuted the case that Trump abused his power in requesting investigations into his political opponents and withheld aid to Ukraine.

But as the night came to a close, Schiff, the House Intelligence chairman, was talking about the complicated politics of the impeachment trial and how different his own safe district might be from battleground states where GOP senators will soon face voters. Then as he wrapped up his case and read the quote from a CBS story: That a Trump ally said “GOP senators were warned … ‘vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.'”

The mood in the room shifted entirely. Several Republican senator murmured “not true” as soon as Schiff said it. Collins shook her head and said “not true” several times. Schiff quickly tried to recover.

“I don’t know if that’s true. But when I read that, I was struck by the irony,” Schiff said. “I hope it’s not true. I hope it’s not true.”

There is simply no arguing that Trump demands loyalty of his party and has resorted to veiled threats against Republicans who don’t give him what he wants. As former Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) criticized efforts to repeal Obamacare, Trump mused about whether Heller “wants to remain a senator” while sitting beside him. He trashed House Republicans that lost in 2018 after distancing themselves to him. And during critical moments, he publicly urges the party to stick together on his Twitter feed.

But after a long day of arguments, Schiff’s closing comments became the only moment Republicans will remember. And the GOP outrage swelled, some manufactured and some legitimate.

“No Republican senator has been told that,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who has mocked the impeachment trial. “What he has proven to all of us is he is capable of falsehoods and will tell it to the country. And would tell it to us when we are sitting in the Senate chamber. When every one of us knows it is not true.”

Democrats suggested many in the GOP were simply waiting for a moment to latch onto, just as they did earlier in the week when House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the Republicans were abetting a “cover-up” and were taking votes that are “treacherous.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) acknowledged it was “the first time the GOP audibly grumbles during the entire trial. But c’mon — like it’s totally implausible that one of Trump’s sycophants would say that?” And Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said it was clear Republicans “reacted sort of viscerally and immediately to that particular line” but scoffed at the idea that would be a reason to vote against witnesses.

“If that’s your reason? That he mis-cited some press article? Come on,” said Coons. Schiff “turned to a conversation about political retribution that struck a discordant note. But our job is to sit here and weigh the evidence. And a misstep for three sentences in a closing, doesn’t affect the evidence at all.”

Most Republicans were never going to be swayed by Schiff, so his misstep is unlikely to determine Trump’s fate. But annoying the likes of Murkowski, Collins and retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) just days before the Senate will vote on whether or not to consider witnesses clearly didn’t help win any votes either.

“It was a really dumb moment on his part,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who was another senator who verbally raised objections to Schiff in the chamber. “Susan, her and Lamar are like the conscience of the institution, they really are … one thing about Adam Schiff is if he would stop an hour earlier every day he’d be better off. Last night too is when he landed flat. He just sort of blew it. But tonight was really dumb.”

“I don’t know why he would do that. That could have been left out, that’s for sure,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who wants witnesses and could in theory be swayed to acquit the president. Manchin said Schiff was “very articulate” and “very compelling” but Manchin acknowledged the misstep: “A lot of my colleagues, it was upsetting to them.”

Marianne LeVine and James Arkin contributed to this report.



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Rattling Republicans, U.S. House committee delays impeachment vote to Friday


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats delayed an impeachment vote by a U.S. House Committee just before midnight, incensing Republicans and setting up a Friday showdown over President Donald Trump’s future.

The committee had been expected to approve two articles of impeachment late on Thursday, setting up a vote by the Democratic-controlled House next week that is expected to make Trump the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Instead, as the clock ticked toward midnight, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent lawmakers home for the night and said members would return to vote Friday at 10 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

Asked why the votes did not occur late Thursday, House Judiciary Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon said “the American people deserve to see the vote.”

The scheduling appeared to have nothing to do with the substance of the impeachment fight nor was it a sign that Democrats lacked the needed votes. But it outraged Republican leaders, who said afterward many had been planning travel home on Friday and would now have to reset their schedules.

Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, appeared shocked by the announcement and immediately reacted with anger, saying the rescheduling was done so Democrats could hold their vote when more voters would be watching on television.

“This was the most bush league thing I have seen, forever,” Collins told reporters. “This committee is more concerned about getting on TV in the morning than it was finishing its job tonight and letting the members go home. Words cannot describe how inappropriate this was.”

Democrats had expected to wrap up the hearing early in the evening, but Republicans, led by Collins, proposed a series of amendments that had no hope of passage.

Republicans offered hours of remarks on their amendments, frequently repeating the same prepared commentary and often veering into other topics that ranged from natural gas drilling to the state of the economy.

The committee’s debate began Wednesday evening.

Much of the impeachment focus has been on a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. That is the basis for a charge by Democrats that Trump abused power.

Trump has also instructed current and former members of his administration not to testify or produce documents, leading senior officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to defy House subpoenas. Democrats say that behavior constitutes obstruction of Congress, forming the basis of the other impeachment charge.

Trump denies any wrongdoing and has condemned the impeachment inquiry as unfair. His Republican allies in Congress argue that there is no direct evidence of misconduct and that Democrats have conducted an improper process that did not give the president an opportunity to mount his own defense.

Slideshow (4 Images)

If the House impeaches Trump, who is charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, he would then go on trial in the Senate. The Republican-led chamber is unlikely to vote to find the president guilty and remove him from office.

Republicans on the committee said that there were no crimes alleged in the impeachment articles and that “abuse of power” had become a catch-all for Democratic complaints about Trump.

“This notion of abuse of power is the lowest of low-energy impeachment theories,” said Republican Representative Matt Gaetz.

Reporting by David Morgan and Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Republicans Confirm Lifetime Federal Judge Opposed To Fertility Treatments



WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans voted Wednesday to confirm Sarah Pitlyk to a lifetime seat on a federal court, despite her extreme views on fertility treatments having “grave effects on society” and her unanimous “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

Every Republican present but one, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), voted to put Pitlyk, 42, onto the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Every Democrat present opposed her. The final tally was 49-44.

You can see how every senator voted here.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of two pro-choice Republicans in the Senate, along with Collins. She did not vote. Her spokeswoman Karina Borger said the senator was not there because she is attending the first meeting of the International Energy Agency’s Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency, of which she is an honorary member.

“She would have voted no” if she were present, Borger said.

Pitlyk, who is special counsel to the Thomas More Society, a conservative, anti-abortion law firm based in Chicago, argued in a 2017 amicus brief that in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and surrogacy lead to “diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond; exploitation of women; commodification of gestation and of children themselves; and weakening of appropriate social mores against eugenic abortion.”

In a related 2017 interview with the National Catholic Register, she said that “surrogacy is harmful to mothers and children, so it’s a practice society should not be enforcing.”

Nearly one in six U.S. couples face infertility, according to a 2014 National Institutes of Health study. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is among them. She had been urging her colleagues to oppose Pitlyk over her “deeply insulting” views on fertility treatment.

“As a mother who struggled with infertility for years and required IVF to start my family, I would be one of the many Americans who could never enter Ms. Pitlyk’s courtroom with any reasonable expectation that my case would be adjudicated in a fair and impartial manner,” Duckwork wrote in a letter to her 99 Senate colleagues.

Pitlyk fits the mold of many of President Donald Trump’s court picks: young, white and a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers’ group that has served as a pipeline for judges for this White House. Most Federalist Society-backed nominees also tend to have records of opposing abortion, LGBTQ rights and voting rights.

In private practice and in her work at the Thomas More Society, Pitlyk built a clear record of attacking reproductive rights. She defended anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who broke federal and state laws by secretly recording and deceptively editing videos that falsely claimed to expose Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of fetal tissue. She defended Iowa’s six-week abortion ban that was later struck down as unconstitutional. In another case, Pitlyk argued that it is “scientific fact” that “human life begins at the moment when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg.” (It is not scientific fact.) 

After losing that case, Pitlyk lamented that “the trial court’s judgment treated the embryonic children as inanimate objects, not human beings with the same interests as other unborn children.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Pitlyk also filed multiple legal briefs with misinformation about fertility treatments, including the claim that children conceived by IVF have “higher rates of birth defects, genetic disorders and other anomalies.”

“I think it is disqualifying for any judicial nominee to make unfounded and unsupported claims, especially in a court of law,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Beyond the controversy over her views on fertility treatments, Pitlyk earned a rare and embarrassing “not qualified” rating by the ABA given her lack of courtroom experience: She has never tried a case in civil or criminal court. She has never examined a witness. She has never taken a deposition or argued any motion in a state or federal trial court. The ABA’s rating was unanimous.

Pitlyk previously clerked for Brett Kavanaugh, also a Federalist Society member, when he was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. When Kavanaugh was credibly accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Pitlyk came to his defense, writing in a Fox News opinion piece that his critics were “trying to tarnish the character of a man we and so many other people admire and respect” on the basis of “a single, unsubstantiated, anonymous allegation about an alleged incident in high school – some 35 years ago.”

Pitlyk also publicly dismissed Ford’s story, saying in a CNN interview that it was “hard to take it seriously … in light of the transparently, politically motivated manner in which it has come to light,” and that “it defies credibility to believe that it is just a coincidence.”

You may be wondering, why on earth would Republicans confirm a lifetime federal judge with such extreme views who was rated unqualified by a panel of senior lawyers?

By all appearances, and in keeping with the agenda of this White House, it is because she is a young Federalist Society member who publicly defended Kavanaugh when Republicans needed it the most. A lifetime seat on a federal court is a pretty sweet thank you present.

It isn’t the first time Republicans have confirmed an unqualified judicial nominee after they went to bat for Kavanaugh.





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Chuck Todd claims Republicans are doing Russia’s ‘intelligence’ work for them


Congressional Republicans are doing Russia’s dirty work by shifting the blame for the 2016 election interference onto Ukraine, NBC News’ Chuck Todd said during a Sunday interview with Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana.

“U.S. Senators were briefed… that actually this entire effort to frame Ukraine for the Russian meddling of 2016, of which you just made this case that they’ve done it — that actually this is an effort of Russia propaganda,” Todd said.

“This is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine. Are you at all concerned you’re doing Russian intelligence work here?” he asked.

Kennedy claimed he was never briefed on the subject, but said Ukrainians were caught meddling in American elections back in December 2018. Todd accused Kennedy of falling for the bait and said he’s playing into Russia’s hands.

“You realize, the only other person selling this argument outside the United States is this man, Vladimir Putin,” Todd shot back.

SEN. KENNEDY CLAIMS FORMER UKRAINE LEADER ‘ACTIVELY’ WORKED WITH HILLARY CLINTON IN 2016

“This is what he said on November 20: ‘Thank God nobody is accusing us any more of interfering in U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine’ …You just accused a former president of Ukraine. You’ve done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do. Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” he pressed.

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Kennedy claimed Todd failed to do his research and said it’s perfectly reasonable to allow President Trump to introduce evidence during the impeachment process, which may point to potential Ukranian corruption.

“Well, let me put it this way, Chuck, let’s suppose — and I don’t believe it — but you’re right and I’m wrong. Then what harm would it do to allow the president of the United States, who has a demonstrated record fighting foreign corruption, to introduce evidence?” he asked.

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“Rounds one and two by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman [Adam] Schiff are as rigged as a carnival ring toss and we both know that,” Kennedy added.



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