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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2:27 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Senators are signing an oath book to serve as impeachment jurors

Senate TV
Senate TV

The 100 US senators just took the oath to serve as jurors during the impeachment trial.

Now, the senators are proceeding in groups of four to sign the oath book at the clerk's desk.

SEE IT HERE:

2:20 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Senators took an oath to "do impartial justice"

Senate TV
Senate TV

According to Article 1 of the Constitution, senators shall "be on oath or affirmation" when they try impeachments.

The oath, which senators must take before trying an impeachment case, is spelled out in Rule XXV and specifically mentions impartiality:

"I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of (the person on trial), now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws; So help me God."

But some senators have already said they won't be impartial.

At least two Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said they aren't impartial jurors in this process. McConnell was also coordinating with the White House about a trial strategy and Graham has also given input.

3:14 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

Senators sworn in for impeachment trial

Senate TV
Senate TV

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is swearing in senators for the impeachment trial against President Trump.

The senators will serve as jurors at the trial.

2:23 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

NOW: Senators escort Chief Justice Roberts to chamber

Senate TV
Senate TV

Four senators are escorting Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to the Senate, where he will be sworn in.

Roberts will preside over the entire impeachment trial against President Trump.

In a few moments, Roberts will also swear in senators.

WATCH HERE:

2:06 p.m. ET, January 16, 2020

How an impeachment trial works

Senate TV
Senate TV

Senators will soon be sworn in to as jurors in the impeachment trial against President Trump.

Here's what we know the impeachment trial:

  • House Democrats serve as prosecutors: A select group of lawmakers will serve as impeachment managers during the Senate trial. They will have a chance to argue their case before the full Senate with the senators acting like jurors, and after that, the President's lawyers will have an opportunity to present the defense.
  • Senators take an oath to "do impartial justice": According to Article 1 of the Constitution, there shall "be on oath or affirmation" when they try impeachments. At least two Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have said they aren't impartial jurors in this process. McConnell was coordinating with the White House about a trial strategy and Graham has also given input.
  • Any of the rules can be changed: That phrase "unless otherwise ordered by the Senate" appears eight different times in the rules. It basically means that these rules exist until a simple majority of senators vote to change them. Say they don't want to meet at 1 p.m. the day after the formal notification — they just agree not to. That's why McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer engaged in negotiations about how a trial will proceed.
  • What is needed for a conviction: Conviction would require 20 Republicans to side with Democrats, and at the moment, there's no sign that any Republican senators are ready to vote to remove Trump from office.

Watch to learn more:

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

SEE IT HERE:

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.