New York: Opposition Democrats have seized on newly released emails relating to the central allegation in the impeachment charges against US President Donald Trump, saying the latest evidence is a "devastating blow" to the Republican effort to conduct a Senate trial without witnesses and documents.
Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives on December 19, becoming only the third American President to be formally charged under the Constitution's remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors. A Senate trial is up next.
"Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold," is an explosive new one-liner that strikes at the heart of Trump's impeachment charges, from a trove of unredacted emails viewed by 'Just Security' which is based at the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law.
According to the site, Michael Duffey, associate director of national security at the Office of Management and Budget told the acting Pentagon comptroller that there was "clear direction from POTUS to hold".
'Just Security' published on Thursday exclusive details of unredacted emails between the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon about the decision to delay aid to Ukraine which is at the core of the impeachment charges against Trump.
Trump's impeachment on charges of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress pivots around his policy towards Ukraine, a vulnerable ally engaged in a shooting war with Russia. According to witness testimony, Trump wanted Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son in return for releasing $391 million of taxpayer-funded and Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine.
After bottling up impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to submit articles of impeachment to the Senate to gain leverage over the framing of the trial rules. She is asking Senate Republicans what a trial might look like.
A former federal prosecutor told a radio show that there is no stipulation that the articles of impeachment must be "transmitted" to the Senate or at least the Constitution does not say anything specific on it in the context of impeachment. The prosecutor made the case that Republicans could hold a trial without the articles.
Decision time is nearing for the partisan stare-down as Washington politicos come back to Washington D.C. after the holidays. The Senate is set to return on Friday from a two-week recess. As the political risks of a prolonged standoff rise for both sides, haggling is set to move into top gear next week when most lawmakers return to Washington after the winter holidays.
The spotlight is now firmly on about 10 Senators across both sides of the aisle who could possibly break ranks and decide how the rules of the Senate trial ultimately look.
The Republican Senate leadership has made it quite clear that the impeachment endgame will be acquittal - which is priced into political calculations in Washington D.C.
Yet, with incremental information coming in, fence sitting Republicans can mess with a boiler-plate storyboard.
For setting the rules governing the impeachment trial, Democrats need four Republican senators on their side to call a witness or request documents, and three senators to block a Republican motion.
Republicans control the Senate 53-47. Even if all Democratic Senators vote to remove Trump, at least 20 Republicans will have to flip for Trump to be convicted and removed from office. A two thirds vote in the Senate is required to remove an impeached US president.