Lawmakers on both sides decry attacks on Lt. Col. Vindman as 'shameful,' 'despicable'

Prominent Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday in defending Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman against attacks from right-wing pundits who questioned his loyalty to the country ahead of his testimony in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

The reaction came after Fox News host Laura Ingraham and others suggested Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who fled the Soviet Union as child, could be demonstrating disloyalty — and even potentially traitorous behavior — to the United States because, according to a report in The New York Times, Ukrainian officials asked him for advice in dealing with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani's efforts regarding their country.

“I think that we need to show that we are better than that as a nation," Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the third-ranking House Republican, said at a GOP leadership news conference Tuesday. "Their patriotism, their love of country — we’re talking about decorated veterans who have served their country, who have put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism and their love of this nation.”

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Trump's legal team asserts president did 'absolutely nothing wrong,' urges Senate to acquit

President Donald Trump did "absolutely nothing wrong," is the victim of a partisan plot to take him down and should be swiftly acquitted in a Senate trial, his legal team argued in a brief Monday.

The 110-page trial memo, prepared for submission to the Senate a day before the president's impeachment trial begins in earnest, counters House Democrats' argument that Trump abused the power of his office for personal gain by working to pressure Ukraine to announce politically advantageous investigations and then, once caught, sought to obstruct Congress' investigation.

Read the full story here. And read the full brief below: 

Some Senate trial details emerge

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's organizing resolution — the measure laying out how President Donald Trump's impeachment trial will be conducted — will afford both sides of the case 24 hours each for opening statements, but that time must be packed into two working days, two Republican sources familiar with the proposal said Monday.

The number of hours per side would be the same as what was allotted for President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999. Arguments for both sides ended up spanning three days each, and even then, neither the House impeachment managers nor Clinton's defense team used up their full 24 hours.

With the start of Trump's trial just a day away, Senate Democrats have protested about being kept in the dark about procedural details. A draft of McConnell's rules for the trial has not yet been made public, though several GOP senators have offered clues.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that after House impeachment and the president's defense team present, there would be "16 hours of questions submitted by the members in writing" to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told "Meet the Press" that “there hasn't been the most basic negotiation or exchange of information” between Democratic and Republican leadership teams.

Trump forced to take a back seat in his impeachment defense with Senate set to begin

In what will be one of the most crucial moments of his presidency, Donald Trump will find himself in an uncomfortable position, taking a back seat as someone else mounts his public defense.

Just days before opening arguments begin in his Senate impeachment trial, the president was still his own most visible and vocal defender.

But as the trial begins in earnest on Tuesday, Trump will be handing over the reins for one of the most crucial moments of his presidency to a team of his staunchest cable TV legal defenders, including former independent counsel Ken Starr, the famed defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

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White House's top Russia official put on leave pending investigation

The top White House official responsible for Russia and Europe has been put on administrative leave indefinitely amid a security-related investigation, two U.S. officials and a former U.S. official tell NBC News.

Andrew Peek, who took over the Russia portfolio at the White House National Security Council in November, had been scheduled to join President Donald Trump at the Davos Forum this week before he was abruptly put on leave, one of the officials said. The officials declined to specify the nature of the investigation.

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Dershowitz: Trump shouldn't be removed from office even if he is guilty of House charges

Famed defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who recently signed on to assist President Donald Trump's impeachment legal team, said Sunday that Trump should not be removed from office even if he is guilty of everything the House has accused him of in the articles of impeachment.

"Congress was wrong in impeaching for these two articles," he told ABC's "This Week." "They are not articles of impeachment. The articles of impeachment are two non-criminal actions."

Host George Stephanopoulos then asked, "Is it your position that President Trump should not be impeached even if all the evidence and arguments laid out by the House are accepted as fact?"

Dershowitz responded, "When you have somebody who, for example, is indicted for a crime — let's assume you have a lot of evidence — but the grand jury simply indicts for something that's not a crime, and that's what happened here, you have a lot of evidence, disputed evidence, that could go both ways, but the vote was to impeach on abuse of power, which is not within the constitutional criteria for impeachment, and obstruction of Congress."

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Dem senator says he's 'fine' with Hunter Biden testifying in impeachment trial

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Sunday that he's "fine" with Republicans calling former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden as a witness in President Donald Trump's upcoming impeachment trial.

"We take the position that we want to hear from witnesses," Brown told CNN's "State of the Union." "I don't know what Hunter Biden has to do with the phone call the president made."

"I think many Republicans think that's a distraction," he added. "That's what Republican senators tell me quietly."

Democrats and Republicans have been battling for weeks over just how much more information will be presented at the trial, which is set to begin Tuesday.

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GOP senator on Trump asking Ukraine, China for political help: 'Things happen'

During an interview with ABC's "This Week", host George Stephanopoulos asked Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, "Setting aside whether it's an impeachable offense, do you think it was proper for the president to solicit foreign interference in our election?"

"Well, I don't know that has been actually proven," Shelby said.

Stephanopoulos then pointed to Trump's public calls to have Ukraine and China probe the Bidens over the younger Biden's business dealings in the two countries.

Shelby said those calls were just political statements.

"I didn't say it was OK," Shelby said, adding, "people do things. Things happen."

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Schiff says intelligence community withholding documents on Ukraine

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday that the National Security Agency is withholding "potentially relevant documents" from Congress regarding Ukraine just as President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial is set to start.

"The intelligence community is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine," Schiff told ABC's "This Week." "They appear to be succumbing to pressure from the administration. The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial."

"That is deeply concerning," Schiff continued. "And there are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course. We are counting on the intelligence community not only to speak truth to power but to resist pressure from the administration to withhold information from Congress because the administration fears that they incriminate them."

More here.