Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants documents pertaining to the Trump administration’s hold on congressionally approved aid to Ukraine, arguing the documentary evidence is an “important aspect of the trial.”
Schumer said in a letter sent to the 99 other senators on Dec. 23 that his request for documents has received far less attention than his call for four witnesses to be called in the trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has dismissed early calls for witnesses, preferring to follow the votes that took place during the impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton.
In the 1999 trial, senators approved initial guidelines 100–0 and later voted on whether to include any witnesses.
Congress approved nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine this year. The Trump administration put a hold on the aid as it reviewed corruption in Ukraine. Members of both parties have said Ukraine has been rife with malfeasance in recent years.
Though Ukrainian and U.S. officials have testified that Ukraine’s leadership wasn’t aware of the hold on aid at the time of the July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Democrats have tried to link the hold on aid with Trump’s requests for Zelensky to “look into” allegations of corruption surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter Biden, and a server connected to Democratic National Committee contractor Crowdstrike.
“In my December 15th letter, I proposed that the Senate subpoena both a short list of four witnesses and a limited set of relevant documents from the Administration,” Schumer wrote to his fellow senators in the letter on Dec. 23 (pdf).
“These documents fall into three evidentiary categories: (1) the effort to induce and pressure Ukraine to announce certain political investigations; (2) the withholding of a White House meeting desperately sought by the newly-elected President of Ukraine; and (3) the order to hold, and later release, $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine.”
Schumer said the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives “amassed a tremendous amount of evidence” to support the two articles of impeachment the body approved on Dec. 18, but that it was unable to obtain “additional relevant evidence” because of Trump’s guidance to administration officials not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
Comparing the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of Trump to that of then-President Bill Clinton, Schumer said the Senate had access to “thousands of pages of documents” from independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s probe in Clinton’s case, adding, “There simply is no good reason why evidence that is directly relevant to the conduct at issue in the Articles of Impeachment should be withheld from the Senate and the American people.”
Despite Republicans holding a 53–47 majority in the Senate and how Republicans were marginalized during the House impeachment inquiry, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have been angling to get things they want approved for the trial.
In his letter, Schumer said he wants documents from the State Department, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), noting documents released over the weekend by the OMB in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Schumer said the documents support Democrats’ theory that the hold on aid was linked to the requested investigations.
In a statement sent to media outlets on Dec. 22, an OMB spokeswoman said it was “reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call,” as the Democrats have tried to do.
“As has been established and publicly reported, the hold was announced in an interagency meeting on July 18,” she said. “To pull a line out of one email and fail to address the context is misleading and inaccurate.”