The Senate impeachment trial has officially started

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 9:27 PM ET, Sun January 19, 2020
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1:38 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

GOP senators dismiss accountability group's report saying Trump administration broke the law

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Sen. Richard Shelby speaks to reporters in the Senate basement before a weekly policy luncheon in April 2019.
Sen. Richard Shelby speaks to reporters in the Senate basement before a weekly policy luncheon in April 2019. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Republican senators are casting doubt on the recently released non-partisan Government Accountability Office report which said that the Trump administration's withholding of Ukraine assistance was illegal.

Sen. Richard Shelby, the chairman of the appropriations committee, said the “timing” of the GAO report looked suspicious.

“Timing looked a little suspect to everybody I think,” Shelby said. “I’ve never known GAO to get involved in partisan politics and stuff like that. It’s probably not good for the GAO.”

Sen. Ron Johnson told CNN he had a brief discussion about the report with his staff and said it sounds like a legalistic “dispute” between GAO and the Office of Management and Budget.

1:08 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

How Trump became the third president in history to be impeached

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate impeachment trial against President Trump has officially started.

Moments ago, House managers read the articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — on the Senate floor.

So, how did we get here today? It all started after a two-and-a-half month investigation into Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate his 2020 political rival Joe Biden as well as conspiracy theories about foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The House Intelligence Committee held several hearings that featured testimony from numerous career diplomats backing up this idea, which was also central to an anonymous whistleblower complaint that launched the inquiry in the first place.

Trump denies the claim, although his acting chief of staff all but admitted it. And obtaining the investigations was a clear aim of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. (Read more on his role here.)

The investigation culminated in an impeachment vote against Trump.

On Dec. 18, the House voted 230-197 to charge Trump with abuse of power and 229-198 to charge him with obstruction of Congress. 

With that vote, Trump became the third president in history to be impeached.

1:14 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

These four senators will escort Chief Justice John Roberts into the Senate chamber

Getty Images
Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators has been appointed to escort Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts into the Senate chamber to be sworn in to preside over the impeachment trial.

The group includes two Democrats and two Republicans. They were recommended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

These are the senators who will escort Roberts:

  • Roy Blunt, Republican from Missouri
  • Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina
  • Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California
  • Patrick Leahy, Democrat from Vermont


12:46 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

This is what it was like in the Senate chamber during the reading of the articles

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Senate TV
Senate TV

The senators sat silently as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff read aloud the articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Members had been instructed that no electronic devices would be permitted in the chamber during the impeachment proceedings and while Republican Sen. Jerry Moran dropped his cell phone at the very beginning just before the House managers walked in, no cell phones were spotted once the presentation of the articles began.

Instead, most senators watched with hands folded in their laps. A few could be seen taking notes including Sens. Bill Cassidy, Bernie Sanders, Tina Smith, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, Rob Portman and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Remember: This is the first moment senators got to see what it will be like to sit without additional reading materials or electronics and the first time they’ve all been forced to sit at their desks without talking for this impeachment proceeding.

Meanwhile, the other House managers stood in the well of the Senate attentively as Schiff read the articles.

12:35 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Top House Republican: Parnas "lacks all credibility"

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, in a press conference today, said Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas “lacks all credibility.”

“This is the same pattern I've seen before with Cohen, with Avenatti. The media tries to build something into it,” said McCarthy. “This is the same man that said Devin Nunes was in Vienna when he was not. So he doesn't have any credibility.”

McCarthy also said he did not know Parnas — despite photos showing the two next to each other.

“I do not know the man,” said McCarthy. “He came to a fundraiser and he provided me money. I learned from the media that he provided money to a fund. On learning of that information, we gave that to charity.”

Some context: Parnas' attorney turned over photos, dozens of text messages and thousands of pages of documents to House impeachment investigators this week in an effort to win his client an audience with lawmakers.

The Soviet-born businessman whose work in Ukraine with President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani stands at the center of the impeachment inquiry — implicated the President yesterday in an interview with CNN.

Parnas, who was indicted on campaign finance charges last year, said that their efforts were "all about 2020" and not about working in the interest of the United States. 

12:51 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

The Senate is in recess until 2 p.m. ET

Senate TV
Senate TV

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff just read the articles of impeachment in the Senate.

After the reading was done, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained the next steps before dismissing the room for recess. Here's what he said:

"The Chief Justice of the United States will preside over the trial as required in Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution. Also under the previous order, the presiding officer has been authorized to appoint a committee of four senators, two upon the recommendation of the majority leader and two upon the recommendation of the Democratic leader to escort the chief justice into the senate chamber."

The Senate will return at 2 p.m. ET where all 100 senators will be sworn in for the trial.

Note: Although the senators will be sworn in, the trial won't start in earnest until next week.

12:24 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

What the White House spokesperson tweeted as impeachment articles were read on the Senate floor

During the reading of the articles, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the articles a "sham" that have been "manufactured" against President Trump.

12:42 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

House managers just read the articles of impeachment. Here's what we know about them.

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Senate TV
Senate TV

The process for dealing with a President or other federal elected official who abuses their office is spelled out broadly in the Constitution.

In Article I of the Constitution, it says the House shall have the sole power of impeachment and the Senate shall have the sole power to try impeachments.

But the process has evolved over the years. The Constitution does not include the term "articles of impeachment," but a November 2019 Congressional Research Service analysis of the impeachment process explains what they are.

"The House impeaches an individual when a majority agrees to a House resolution containing explanations of the charges," according to the report. "The explanations in the resolution are referred to as 'articles of impeachment.'"

Once articles of impeachment are approved in the House, the Senate takes those allegations and conducts a trial considering whether to remove a President from office. The Constitution mandates that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides.

A President may be impeached and removed for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," according to Article II of the Constitution. There's no hard and fast definition of those, so Congress has the ultimate say.

Democrats prepared two articles of impeachment against Trump, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Read about those articles here.


12:19 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

House managers brought their own copies of the articles to today's hearing

From CNN's Phil Mattingly


Along with the official two articles of impeachment brought over from the House, each of the managers carried a blue folder with their own copies of the two articles onto the floor with them, per an aide.

That’s what they had in their hands during the procession.