Jan 19, 2020

Inside Trump's impeachment strategy: The national security card

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trump officials say they feel especially bullish about one key argument against calling additional impeachment witnesses: It could compromise America's national security.

The big picture: People close to the president say their most compelling argument to persuade nervous Republican senators to vote against calling new witnesses is the claim that they're protecting national security.

Why it matters: They're banking on it to speed up the trial, according to people close to the president.

What we're hearing: White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who considers himself a civil libertarian, is expected to argue that the obstruction of Congress article is dangerous and could forever undermine the power of the executive office to protect privileged information.

  • Cipollone will likely frame the Senate trial as a defining moment to set the precedent for executive privilege, especially on national security matters, per a source familiar with his thinking.
  • This approach is something Cipollone is particularly proud of, and one that he is happy to test in court, the source said.
  • The argument: Presidential claims of executive privilege are especially strong when they involve conversations about national security.
  • Weakening that privilege would make presidents less candid when they seek counsel from their advisers on national security (think John Bolton).

The bottom line: Sources close to Trump's legal team have privately expressed confidence that former national security adviser Bolton will ultimately honor Trump's assertion of executive privilege.

Go deeper: Trump's concede-nothing defense

Go deeper

Trump impeachment trial recap, day 4: Schiff closes

Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

House managers appealed directly to senators to weigh their actions against the precedent they'll set on Congress’ ability to serve as a check on the president, as they wrapped up their three-day impeachment presentation.

Why it matters: Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) used his last chance to address senators directly and expertly pursued every argument made by Republicans, undercutting what Trump has said publicly, and what he anticipates Trump’s defense team will attempt to make over the next few days.

Go deeperArrowJan 25, 2020

Trump says national security concerns preempt impeachment witnesses

President Trump said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he'd "rather go the long way" with his Senate impeachment trial and have former national security adviser John Bolton testify — but argued that national security concerns preempt it.

"If you think about it, John, he knows some of my thoughts. He knows what I think about leaders, what happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it's not very positive and then I have to deal on behalf of the country, it's going to be very hard, going to make the job very hard." 
Go deeperArrowJan 22, 2020

Trump's defense team shifts from complacency to urgency

White House counsel Pat Cipollone arrives for the Senate impeachment trial. Photo: Olivier Doulery/AFP via Getty Images

Just days ago, Republicans were optimistic President Trump’s defense team could cruise to an acquittal by the end of this week, but many believe his lawyers now face a steep climb to stop a vote to allow new witnesses and drag out the impeachment proceedings.

The bottom line: Allegations in excerpts of former national security advisor John Bolton's forthcoming book — leaked to the New York Times for a story published Sunday night — have shifted the dynamic of the impeachment trial and threaten to upend Republicans' plans.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020