DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The articles of impeachment against President Trump are about to make their way from the House to the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expects to hold a vote to formalize that today. They will land in the Senate as Democrats are hoping to put the focus on new information that has come to light.
Among other things, there's this message handwritten on a piece of hotel stationery from Austria that says, get Zelenskiy to announce that the Biden case will be investigated. This was written by Lev Parnas, who was working with Rudy Giuliani to advance President Trump's personal political fortunes by using Ukraine.
This sets up a battle between Republicans, who say the House had its chance to discover evidence, and Democrats, who say bring all relevant evidence, as well as witnesses into a trial. This is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday.
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CHUCK SCHUMER: If you want the truth, you have to have witnesses. You have to have documents. Who has ever heard of a trial without witnesses and documents?
GREENE: I want to bring in NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell to walk us through what's expected today and in the days ahead. Good morning, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: OK, so a lot to understand about everything here, the process as well as these new documents released by the House Intelligence Committee. They come from Lev Parnas. If you don't mind, remind us who he is.
SNELL: Yeah. Lev Parnas was working for President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to dig up dirt in Ukraine. Parnas was indicted in October on campaign finance violations, and at that time, federal investigators seized documents and electronic records during their federal probe. Parnas was recently cleared by a court to provide the documents to Congress, and the new materials that we're seeing right now are a part of that.
You know, they generally track with what we kind of already knew, that Parnas and Giuliani were working to get the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate Democrats. One of the documents is that handwritten note you mentioned, the one that says to get Zelenskiy to announce that Biden - that the Biden case will be investigated. There's also a letter in there from Giuliani to Zelenskiy, trying to set up a meeting with the Ukrainian president. In that letter, Giuliani says he's acting with Trump's knowledge and consent.
GREENE: So do we know whether these new documents, records and information could actually be part of the Senate trial at this point?
SNELL: Well, these are new, and these were delivered to the House. And Senate Democrats already had a list of witnesses and evidence that they were going after, as part of their push to expand the Senate trial. So we don't really know how this will fit in because Democrats are, really, still digesting it. But they've always left the door open that they could go after any evidence as it is released.
GREENE: Let's go to the question of witnesses. I mean, it sounds like there are a few Republicans who are at least open to calling some administration officials to testify. Where does that stand?
SNELL: Yeah. So the magic number of Republicans needed for Democrats to get a witness cleared to come and testify is four Republicans, and right now there are four Republicans who say they are interested in the concept of bringing witnesses. But there's this technical disagreement that actually gets kind of important.
It's that Democrats want to start the process of calling witnesses and writing into the rules for the whole trial that witnesses will be called before the trial starts. Republicans say they don't want to do that; they want to talk about witnesses after the House and the White House present their two sides and the senators ask questions, and that could take weeks. So people should be prepared for there to be witness fights more than once in this trial.
GREENE: OK, let's talk about what - this process that we're going to see unfold today. I keep saying that the House is going to send these articles to the Senate.
GREENE: I mean, is that Speaker Pelosi, like, pushing a button on her computer? Are these actually written down somewhere? What happens?
SNELL: (Laughter) It's much more formal than that. There will be a vote in the House, and then there will be a formal ceremony later on in the day, where the resolution will be enrolled. And then the articles impeachment, as I understand it, will be placed in a box and walked from the House side all the way across the Capitol to the Senate, and they'll be handed in person to the secretary of the Senate. And then they will have to be read to the Senators before the trial process can begin.
GREENE: A lot has been made of Speaker Pelosi holding up this process, delaying this from taking place. Do you feel like Democrats gained anything from the delay?
SNELL: Well, if you ask Democrats, they say that they did. Republicans would disagree and say that it has amounted to nothing more than a lot of show. But Democrats say that they are opening up this conversation about witnesses, that they have convinced some Republicans to go along with them.
But the delay has also had some unintended political consequences. This means that the trial is almost certainly going to bump up against the State of the Union that's scheduled for the first week of February and the Iowa caucuses, where Democrats will be casting their first votes of the primary season. So both parties have a lot to gain and lose here.
GREENE: And we have a lot to cover in the coming weeks.
SNELL: That's true (laughter).
GREENE: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.
SNELL: Thank you.
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