Impeachment trial of President Trump

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2:17 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

See the hand-written changes to the resolution

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the resolution laying out the rules of President Trump's impeachment trial shortly before it began today.

The changes were hand-written into the resolution, which was first released last night.

In one part of the resolution, the number of days for opening arguments was changed from two to three for each side:

There were also changes to the section of the resolution that would not have admitted the House's evidence without a vote — now evidence will be admitted unless there is a vote in opposition to it.

2:17 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

Trump tweets from Davos: "READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!"

As House impeachment manager Adam Schiff makes his case on the Senate floor, President Trump is tweeting from Davos.

He tweeted:

 This is his first tweet since the Senate trial began in earnest.

2:43 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

There's another change to McConnell's resolution beyond the number of days

The change from two days to three days for opening arguments wasn't the only one made to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's rules resolution.

There were also changes to the section of the resolution that would not have admitted the House's evidence without a vote — now evidence will be admitted unless there is a vote in opposition to it.

Democrats erupted when McConnell's four-page organizing resolution was released last night. It divided 24 hours over two days for opening arguments and put off the question of witnesses until after the arguments are required a vote for the House evidence to be submitted.

Here's what the changes look like in the document:

2:42 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

What Americans think about the Senate impeachment trial

Senate TV
Senate TV

Rep. Adam Schiff, one of the Democratic House managers leading the case against President Trump, suggested that a majority of Americans don’t expect a fair trial because they think Senate Republicans are rigging the trial rules to help Trump.

“Let me be very blunt,” Schiff said. “Right now a great many, perhaps even most Americans, do not believe there will be a fair trial. They don't believe that the senate will be impartial. They believe that the result is precooked.”

But his assertions aren’t in completely line with a brand new CNN poll about Trump’s impeachment and the rules of the Senate trial. It looks like Schiff is leaning a bit into the numbers, which are not overwhelming in either direction. The poll, released Monday, found that 53% of Americans think it is likely that Senate Republicans will conduct a fair trial, while 46% said it wasn’t likely to be a fair trial. A majority of independents also said it would likely be a fair trial.

With his comments, Schiff was trying to ramp up the pressure on a small group of moderate Republicans who will be the pivotal swing votes in deciding whether to allow additional witnesses to testify. Most Republicans oppose the idea. Democrats would need four Republicans to break ranks to reach the 51-vote threshold needed to issue subpoenas.

According to the CNN poll, about 70% of Americans want the Senate to subpoena additional witnesses. 

“The American people want a fair trial,” Schiff said. “They want to believe their system of government is still capable of rising to the occasion. They want to believe that we can rise above party and do what's best for the country, but a great many Americans don't believe that will happen. Let's prove them wrong.”

 

2:07 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

The White House pushed for shorter time frame in initial McConnell resolution

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

It was the White House that pushed for the shorter time frame for arguments in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s initial resolution, according to a person familiar, who said officials were concerned there was a chance they may not get to make their full arguments this week if there was a lot of holdup with multiple motions. 

Officials pushed for the change to 24 hours to make arguments over a two-day period because they thought it would afford them better coverage if they could get it done during the week. 

McConnell changed the language in the end after Republicans voiced concerns. 

2:02 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

McConnell's resolution was changed after a morning of complaints

Steve Helber/AP
Steve Helber/AP

A significant change was quietly made to Sen. Mitch McConnell's rules resolution: Each side now gets three days of opening arguments over 24 hours. The initial language had just two days.

This means each day will likely run around eight hours, not 12. Since the impeachment trial is scheduled to start around 1 p.m. ET each day, arguments for the day could wrap up around 9 p.m. ET, instead of after midnight. The two sides can always yield time back, and they don't need to use all eight hours each day.

Democrats have been blasting the two day rule all morning:

Speaking on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the McConnell resolution would "result in a rushed trial with little evidence in the dark of night."

Earlier, Schumer asked, "If the President is so confident in his case, then why won't he present it in broad daylight?"

House impeachment manager Adam Schiff criticized the resolution like this: "And so, you know, I do think that by structuring the trial this way, it furthers our case that what's going on here really is a cover-up of evidence to the American people," he said.

2:03 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

Changes to resolution are "a significant improvement," GOP senator spokesperson says

Susan Walsh/AP
Susan Walsh/AP

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and other colleagues “raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in two days and the admission of the House transcript is the record,” Annie Clark, spokesperson for Collins, told CNN.

“Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible," Clark said. "She thinks these changes are a significant improvement.”

1:53 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

White House lawyer says Trump did nothing wrong. That's a higher standard than he needs to prove.

Senate TV
Senate TV

In his first remarks on the Senate floor, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said Trump’s defense team supports the proposed rules for the trial, and that the trial will prove that “the President has done absolutely nothing wrong.” 

But remember: That’s a higher standard than he actually needs to prove. Senators, who are acting as jurors, must decide whether Trump is “guilty” or “not guilty” of the conduct charged in the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Cipollone is going farther, saying that Trump is completely innocent of these charges. 

This means Cipollone is synced up with his boss’s public comments: From the start of the Ukraine scandal, Trump has said that he did nothing wrong whatsoever. Some Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about how Trump asked Ukraine to help his re-election, while also maintaining that the conduct didn’t rise to the level of impeachable conduct. 

“There is absolutely no case,” Cipollone added

Watch Cipollone's remarks:

1:49 p.m. ET, January 21, 2020

Schiff: Democratic House managers oppose McConnell's resolution

Senate TV
Senate TV

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, denounced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's resolution, saying "the resolution should allow the House managers to call their witnesses, and then the President should be allowed to do the same and any rebuttal witnesses."

"Why should this trial be different than any other trial? The short answer is it shouldn't. But leader McConnell's resolution would turn the trial process on its head," he said, speaking moments after White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

He continued: "Let me begin by summarizing why. Last week we came before you to present the articles of impeachment against the President of the United States for only the third time in our history. Those articles charge President Donald John Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress."

Watch Schiff's opening comments: