Article II - With the Gavel Comes the Power - Wednesday, October 30th

Today on Article II, Steve Kornacki talks to Kelly O’Donnell, White House correspondent for NBC News, about the political calculations being made around the House resolution on impeachment.

The two discuss:

  • Key takeaways from the resolution
  • Why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is choosing to hold a vote on the process now
  • Whether the vote will test Democratic unity on impeachment
  • Republican criticism of the resolution
  • What tomorrow’s vote means for next steps in the impeachment process

The episode also acknowledges testimony underway on Capitol Hill today and looks ahead to the rest of the week.

Listen to the episode here.

Trump let GOP Senators read first Zelenskiy call during White House lunch Thursday

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said Thursday that Trump let a group of just over half a dozen Republican senators read the transcript of his first call with Zelenskiy during a lunch at the White House today during a conversation that discussed everything from foreign policy, trade, as well as who could be called as a witness during a Senate impeachment trial.

"He didn't take out copies, it was sort of into the conversation a little bit when he said yeah, I've got the other transcript that we’ll release at the appropriate time, or something like that, in fact, it’s right here if anybody wanted to read it, and then we just kept talking," Cramer said.

Cramer said the conversation veered to the economy, Turkish President Erdogan’s visit on Wednesday, trade and the USMCA, as well as "impeachment stuff." Then, Republican senators passed the transcript around.

"He didn't make copies, we had one copy, a couple guys read it and handed it back to him then he said, 'here you guys want to see it too?' And he throws it over to me and Montana Sen. Steve Daines and I read it together," Cramer said.

"It's very short," Cramer said, "I would say there's one meaty page. You know the first page is kind of loose, if you will, like, you know, Mister President, congratulations on the victory, thank you, just sort of niceties, and then, you know, and just, you guys, there was nothing— it was pretty benign I should just say, it's pretty benign."

"I mean, Zelenskiy invited him to the inauguration and he said, well, let me check on that and see if I can make it, it was just that kind of niceties," Cramer said.

Trump did not say he when he was going to release it publicly, Cramer said.

'Evidence of bribery': Pelosi comments on impeachment hearing

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented by two career U.S. diplomats at the first House impeachment hearing a day earlier had presented evidence of bribery committed by President Donald Trump.

"The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival," Pelosi told reporters.

Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump's actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers had called the president's moves a "quid pro quo," but have recently appeared to shift to a focus on more widely used terms that Democrats believe may resonate more deeply with voters.

Read the full story here.

Timeline: The curious release of military aid to Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Military aid promised by the U.S. to Ukraine — and the strange circumstances under which it was held up and eventually released — is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

For Republicans, the key fact is that Ukraine received the money, regardless of any request from Trump for an investigation of Joe Biden or the 2016 U.S. elections. For Democrats, withholding the aid for investigations is an abuse of power, regardless of what happened in the end.

Here's a look at key dates involving the nearly $400 million in military assistance that had been approved for release in the early months of 2019. 

Read the full story here.

Graham on the impeachment inquiry: 'Nothing happened here'

ANALYSIS: Hearsay might be barred in court. A congressional hearing is entirely different.

One of the Republican themes during the impeachment hearing Wednesday was that the witnesses — top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and senior State Department official George Kent — were not credible because they were relaying, in some instances, second-, third- or even fourth-hand information.

In court, such testimony might be barred as “hearsay” — defined as an out-of-court statement that a party offers as evidence to prove the truth of the matter being asserted. Hearsay is generally inadmissible. But hearsay is a rule of evidence, applying only to court proceedings, and even then with so many exceptions that it's often admissible anyway.

First, hearsay is admissible in many government settings, including administrative proceedings, parole hearings, and preliminary hearings in a criminal case; a congressional hearing is not even a court, so it’s not governed by the rule of evidence that makes hearsay inadmissible.

Even within the context of court proceedings, the hearsay rule is riddled with exceptions, with well over 30 situations where a statement might resemble or be hearsay but is considered reliable enough to be allowed into evidence anyway.

Read the full analysis here

Article II: Inside Impeachment — Public hearings kick off

On the latest episode, Article II looks at the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. Host Steve Kornacki talks to Geoff Bennett, NBC News White House correspondent, about the testimony of top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and State Department senior official George Kent and delve into the Democrats' and Republicans' strategies.

Download the episode here.

White House looks both to be in the impeachment fray — and appear above it

WASHINGTON — White House aides and advisers said they believed that the first day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday weren't enough to change the minds of the public — or that of any Republicans in the Senate — as President Donald Trump tried to portray himself as someone mostly, at least for the moment, above the fray.

One White House aide called the day a "nothing-burger.” Others close to the White House said they doubted the testimony would alter anyone's opinion — even as they acknowledged that acting Ukrainian Ambassador Bill Taylor came across as a credible witness.

“Not one Senate vote was changed today,” said one person close to the White House.

Trump largely stuck to his scheduled counter-programming schedule of White House events, as the first public impeachment hearings unfolded on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. In between morning and afternoon tweetstorms quoting his favorite defenders, the president claimed he was “too busy” to watch the proceedings, spending much of the day in meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, followed by a brief news conference.

Read the full story here.