Impeachment trial of President Trump
In a significant change that was quietly made to Sen. Mitch McConnell's resolution, there are now three days of opening arguments over 24 hours. The initial language had just two days. McConnell's office confirms they made the change.
These changes just occurred prior to the start of the trial. There are also changes to the evidence section – evidence will be admitted unless there is a vote in opposition to it.
There were Republican senators who had issues with McConnell’s resolution, according to sources familiar. These last minute changes were meant to address those issues.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trump's impeachment legal team, said the trial rules resolution from Mitch McConnell is a "fair way to proceed."
"We support this resolution. It is a fair way to proceed with this trial," he said. "It is long past time to start this proceeding, and we are here today to do it.
The Senate clerk is now reading McConnell's resolution into the record. After that, debate will begin over the rules.
The White House responded this afternoon to the House Manager's letter accusing Pat Cipollone of being a "material witness" and casting doubt on whether it is appropriate for him to defend President Trump in the impeachment trial.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley called the idea "ludicrous."
“The Democrats are an utter joke — they have no case, and this latest political stunt proves it. The idea that the Counsel to the President has to turn over protected documents and confidential information is ludicrous, and to imply he can’t represent the President of the United States in an impeachment proceeding is completely absurd," Gidley said in a statement.
"Further, the man Democrats appointed to lead these proceedings is Adam Schiff — who has been caught lying multiple times about Russia collusion evidence that didn’t exist, made up a totally phony phone conversation about Ukraine that never happened, and lied that his staff didn’t have contact with the whistleblower. If there’s anyone who should be disqualified from leading this proceeding it’s Mr. Schiff," he continued.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to preside over the Senate impeachment trial this afternoon. But he spent two hours on the bench this morning engaged in technical below-the-radar cases.
There was no grandstanding during the session, no fist pumping, no bitter exchanges between colleagues who often disagree in their opinions. There were also no cameras in the court room to capture the proceeding and compare it to this afternoon's Senate trial.
Roberts — spectacles perched on his nose, tie peeking over his robe — asked one question during the first hour and peppered a lawyer with several questions during the second case.
At one point, one of his questions seemed to reveal his hand. “Not to suggest I have a view of the case,” he quipped to laughter.
In preparing for the impeachment proceedings, Roberts clearly has not stepped away from the technicalities of the tough cases at hand. He was in total command. He also hewed closely to the rules. When a lawyer continued arguing even though the red light was on, Roberts cut him short. “Thank you counsel,” he said with authority. The lawyer was quick to sit.
And when Justice Breyer, midway through a meandering question, referred back to a law professor he had decades ago at Harvard, Justices Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh, who all sit next to each other cracked up. Even the chief—looking down — had to chuckle.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the impeachment trial, just swore in Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the sole senator who was not sworn in last week.
The House this afternoon filed its final brief for the Senate impeachment trial, a rebuttal to the President’s filing on Monday that called the impeachment articles “flimsy” and impeachment a “charade.”
The brief charges that the President’s brief was “heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances, but entirely lacks a legitimate defense of his misconduct.”
“It is clear from his response that President Trump would rather discuss anything other than what he actually did,” the House managers wrote. “No amount of legal rhetoric can hide the fact that President Trump exemplifies why the framers included the impeachment mechanism in the Constitution: to save the American people from these kinds of threats to our republic.”
The Senate is about to take up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's resolution setting up the rules for the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.
Here's how we expect this to play out today:
- McConnell will introduce his resolution.
- The resolution will be read.
- After that, the House managers and White House defense team will each have an hour to argue their side of the resolution — managers will argue against. White House team will argue for the resolution. Either or both sides can yield back their time at any point.
- After those two hours, amendments can be offered. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, will offer an amendment.
- That amendment will be read.
- After that, the House managers and White House defense team will each have an hour to argue their side of the resolution. Either or both sides can yield back their time at any point.
- Then, the Senate will vote on the amendment.
The amendment process will repeat until Schumer is done offering amendments, at which point the chamber would move to a vote on McConnell's underlying resolution.
So how late will this go on? The length of today will be dictated by how many amendments Schumer chooses to propose. While his team has been tight-lipped about how many that will be, Schumer has said he has a "series of amendments."
Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, said he's expecting the Senate trial to be fair unlike the “rigged” House process.
“I think it's clear that as a friend of mine put it, Speaker Pelosi gets little endorphin bumps of pleasure every time she can stick it to the President whether he deserves it or not,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also addressed Democrats' concerns that Senate Mitch McConnell's resolution is a coverup. He said he doesn’t know how it can be called a coverup “when it hasn’t happened yet." Kennedy went on to call it “hypocritical."
“I'm ready to see us work some long hours... I'm fine with staying here. I'll stay here all night. I'll stay here as long as they want. That's our job," he said.