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Impeachment will sideline some 2020 candidates at exactly the wrong time

Updated 1:07 AM ET, Tue January 14, 2020

(CNN) - Other: A version of this story first appeared in CNN's Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to hold the articles of impeachment may or may not affect the format of the Senate impeachment trial, but it is already having an impact on the 2020 presidential race.

We still don't know exactly when the trial will start in the Senate. But we do know the Iowa caucuses are coming like a freight train. February 3. Mark your calendar.

Impeachment cited in Booker's withdrawal from race

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey cited the impending trial as one reason (not a big reason, but a reason nonetheless) for ending his campaign Monday. Booker was having trouble fundraising and hadn't qualified for the CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic debate taking place in Iowa on Tuesday, either.

Still.

Republican alleges Pelosi is trying to help Biden with delay

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California pointed out Sunday that Bernie Sanders, who is in the top tier among Democrats in Iowa, won't be able to campaign in the final weeks before the caucuses because he'll be serving as a juror in the Senate. McCarthy suggested Pelosi had gamed the calendar to help former Vice President Joe Biden, who won't have to be in Washington for the trial -- an allegation for which there's no evidence.

"The Iowa caucus is on February 3rd," McCarthy said Sunday on Fox News. "Bernie Sanders is in first place, and what this does is benefit Joe Biden. This harms Sen. Sanders, who is in first place and could become their nominee, because he will be stuck in a chair because Nancy Pelosi held the papers."

Warren, Sanders and Klobuchar will be off the trail

McCarthy didn't mention that in addition to Sanders, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would be summoned to impeachment jury duty. (Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is still in the race, but he won't be on the debate stage Tuesday.)

Sanders complained about it during a rally in Davenport, Iowa, on Saturday.

"Between you and me I'd rather be here in Iowa, but I have a constitutional responsibility, which I accept as a United States senator, to be a juror in Trump's impeachment trial. So I'll be there."

Warren struck a similar tone during an event in Rochester, New Hampshire, according to WBUR.

"There are some things that are more important than politics, and if we have an impeachment proceeding going on, I will be there," she said.

Klobuchar has talked about getting creative, floating the idea of Skype and tele-town halls, and flying in for late-night rallies after Senate proceedings.

Biden and a Senate subpoena

McCarthy's dig also served as yet another reminder that the case against Trump rests on the President's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden. In case you had forgotten. Biden, late last year, clarified remarks that at first seemed to suggest he would ignore a subpoena to testify in the impeachment trial. He has since said he would follow the law if summoned with a subpoena, although that seems very unlikely.

For more on how the impeachment trial is affecting the 2020 race, listen to Monday's podcast.

Trump has changed his mind about impeachment

He used to claim he wanted to defend himself in the Senate, calling witnesses and putting on a show. Today Trump admitted on Twitter that he just wants impeachment to end. A trial, he said, gives the whole thing legitimacy.

The President's tweet: "Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, "no pressure" Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!"

Pelosi answered on Twitter that a dismissal without a trial in the Senate is the same as a cover-up.

More 2020: Bloomberg wants some credit for impeachment

The trial will be a headache for the senators taken off the campaign trail, but other candidates are treating it differently.

Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and Republican turned independent turned Democrat, didn't actually endorse the idea of impeachment until mid-December, right around the time the House voted for it, which was also just about the time he was jumping into the Democratic primary.

Now, however, his campaign manager, Kevin Sheekey, wants Bloomberg to get some credit for impeachment. Appearing on CNN, Sheekey mentioned the idea floated by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that because Bloomberg, during the midterm election campaign in 2018, supported Democrats running in districts won by Trump in 2016, and those new lawmakers supported impeaching Trump, that he's responsible.

Sheekey said on CNN that Bloomberg will similarly make waves in the Democratic primary on Super Tuesday, when some large states -- including California -- hold primaries. "Steve Bannon's view was you got to watch out for Mike Bloomberg and the atomic bomb -- his words, not mine -- about to go off on March 3rd. That's a warning shot for the President."

When Democrats found their way to impeachment

Steyer was first -- Of the candidates who will be on the debate stage Tuesday, billionaire Tom Steyer was pushing impeachment and spending millions of dollars of his own money on an ad campaign to sell it beginning in 2017, less than a year after Trump's election and before the Ukraine scandal -- or the Mueller report.

Warren was second -- Elizabeth Warren backed impeachment last April, calling for impeachment proceedings as elements of the Mueller report came to light.

At that time, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and others were opposed. Sanders talked in April about how it could be a distraction from other, more important issues to Democrats. He inched toward support for impeachment.

Biden supported impeachment after the Ukraine scandal broke in September.

Andrew Yang said in December that impeachment was an obsession for Democrats and a distraction from them addressing the problems that had gotten Trump elected in the first place.

Other news

Questions about Iran strike continue -- Much of the focus in Washington continues to rest on the strike against Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and the lack of direct evidence presented that there were imminent threats to US embassies. CNN's Jake Tapper broke down the discrepancies on his broadcast.

Giuliani associate hands over documents to impeachment investigators -- The attorney for Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani associate charged with campaign finance violations, handed over an iPhone full of material to House impeachment investigators. He's trying to get Parnas face time with lawmakers, according to CNN's Kara Scannell.

New documents coming -- In a joint filing in DC District Court on Monday, the US Department of Energy and the watchdog group American Oversight have agreed that the department will begin producing documents related to Ukraine by January 28. Will the Senate trial still be going on?

Who will be on Trump's team? -- Stephen Castor, the House GOP attorney featured during House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings, and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio met with the President's lawyers about the upcoming impeachment trial, an official told CNN.

It's not clear who Trump will have represent him at impeachment hearings.

Senators like John Cornyn of Texas have argued that his team should not include House Republicans.

"I think the President is entitled to a defense counsel of his choosing. My advice to him would be: Let's not infect the Senate trial with the circuslike atmosphere of the House. And I think there would be an increased risk of doing that if you start inviting House members to come over to the Senate and try the case," Cornyn said.

Schumer hopes to use impeachment votes in 2020 races -- This Politico story about the efforts by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, to get Republicans to vote in favor of witnesses at the impeachment trial is interesting: "Democrats argue the half-dozen at-risk GOP senators will need some daylight between them and Trump to get reelected. And if they vote against Schumer's motions to hear new evidence and witness testimony, they'll be seen as Trump sycophants -- undermining their bids and boosting Schumer's odds of becoming majority leader."

Mike Pompeo will skip Iran testimony -- Members of Congress would also have some questions for the secretary of state on Ukraine, but Pompeo, who is in California, won't appear at a House Foreign Affairs hearing Tuesday.

What are we doing here?

The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats impeached him for it. A Senate trial is next. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what's acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.

Keep track of action with CNN's Impeachment Tracker. See a timeline of events here. And get your full refresher on who's who in this drama here.


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