Impeachment trial of President Trump
Sen. Lindsey Graham has spent considerably more time absent from the Senate chamber tonight than sitting in his seat. After leaving the floor for about 30 minutes, he returned for about 10 minutes and promptly left again — this time to the Republican cloak room.
He’s not alone, but he is far more absent tonight than other GOP senators.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Sen. Dianne Feinstein hasn’t been in her seat for at least a half hour. Cory Booker, too, has been in the Democratic cloakroom for a long stretch, visible through the window with an iPhone or some such device in hand.
At one point, 15 GOP seats were empty and 12 Democratic seats were empty — but several senators on each side were milling around and stretching their legs.
Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have been sitting in their seats for the entire evening session. So, too, have Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar on the Democratic side.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrats' lead impeachment manager, just told senators there were about 20 minutes left in tonight's presentation.
He's now going through what he described were President Trump's "efforts to hide this corrupt scheme, even as it continued well into the fall of last year."
Senators have largely been in their seats during the first hour after the dinner break, with a few exceptions.
Sen. Lindsey Graham left the floor around 8 p.m. ET and returned about 8:30 p.m. ET — his was the only prolonged absence.
A few other Republican senators were briefly in and out — either walking into the GOP lounge or outside the chamber — but they returned quickly. Sen. Mitt Romney stood behind his chair for a stretch of time, focused and listening intently.
Nearly all Democratic senators were in their seats, with Sens. Michael Bennet and Kamala Harris standing behind their chairs and Patrick Leahy going into the Senate lounge.
Some Democratic senators, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, smirked and smiled as Adam Schiff repeatedly ticked through a list of documents, repeatedly asking senators if they would like to read a certain document.
“If you would like to know what John Bolton had in mind, you can find out — just for the asking in a document called subpoena,” Schiff said with a flourish in his voice.
Tonight, senators are watching in different ways: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leans back in his chair, not taking notes or looking at documents. Schumer occasionally flips through handouts.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren appears to be the only senator with a post-dinner glass of milk. (Milk and water are the only beverages allowed on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial.) She takes occasional sips from her glass, along with water, as she clasps a hand warmer packet in her palms and rubs it across her fingers.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski's spokesperson said the Alaska lawmaker was “offended” by House Impeachment manager Rep. Jerry Nadler’s comments at the trial that if senators didn’t support the need for witnesses in the impeachment trial, they were "voting for a cover-up."
“I took it as very offensive. As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended,” Murkowski said Wednesday, according to her aide Karina Borger.
Murkowski is a key swing GOP vote.
More on this: Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, called for decorum in the early hours of Wednesday, saying, "It is appropriate for me to admonish both the House managers and the President's counsel in equal terms," after listening to the managers and the defense team tear into each other.
In heated rhetoric, Nadler had said, "I see a lot of senators voting for a cover-up," while White House counsel Pat Cipollone fired back, "The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you."
Here's a bit more on the protester who briefly interrupted the ongoing impeachment hearing inside the Senate gallery. Plus, a sketch by Bill Hennessy.
The protester could be heard yelling “Jesus Christ” — but the rest of the brief outburst could not be picked up as US Capitol Police carried him out of the Senate chamber.
The interruption prompted the senators to turn their heads.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts brought the trial back to order.
"The Senate will be in order. The Sergeant at Arms will restore order in the gallery,” he told senators.
US Capitol Police confirm that a man was arrested and charged with unlawful conduct.
This post was updated.
President Trump's defense team has not yet determined how much of their allotted 24 hours they would take, said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's attorneys.
"When you're in a proceeding like this, you have to be flexible, you have to be fluid. We're doing that," he said.
As for whether Trump would attend any part of the impeachment trial in the Senate, as he suggested this morning during his Davos news conference, Sekulow said he would advise against it.
"His counsel might recommend against that. That's not the way it works," he said, adding, "Presidents don't do that."
Watch CNN's Jake Tapper fact-check Sekulow:
House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff returned to the podium this afternoon to resume the Democrats' opening arguments.
Schiff, who is one of seven impeachment managers, opened the arguments this morning.
The arguments will likely last two and a half-hours, he said.
"As an encouraging voice told me, keep it up, but don't keep it up too long," he said. "So we will do our best not to keep it up too long."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking to reporters today, called on Hunter Biden to testify in the impeachment trial.
Asked if he would force a vote to try to subpoena Biden, the Texas lawmaker said “the decision on calling witnesses is a decision in the first instance for the party’s and for the party’s counsels. So the question on calling Hunter Biden is going to be a decision for the President’s lawyers to make initially.”
Cruz continued: "I don’t think the Senate should force the parties to call witnesses that their lawyers don’t make the decision to call.”
The role of Chief Justice John Roberts in the impeachment trial of President Trump was described as "ceremonial" this afternoon by John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel, who appeared on Anderson Cooper Full Circle to discuss how the trial compares to Clinton's in 1999.
Roberts' role in the trial has become a popular topic among readers who submitted questions on what he can and cannot do.
The Constitution requires Roberts' presence in the trial. It says: "The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments" and that "When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside."
As it happened with Chief Justice William Rehnquist who oversaw former President Bill Clinton's impeachment case in 1999, Roberts will have office quarters in the Capitol's ceremonial President's Room.
Dean addressed the case against Clinton and how it compares to Trump:
"It's our most recent historical example. There aren't a lot of these impeachments," Dean said. "We just don't have this with presidents, thanks goodness. It is the best we have to look at. We know what worked and didn't work. Unfortunately, we're not following the model. It's a modified version of the model that's not favorable to the American people."
The public is unlikely to see Roberts cast any votes in this trial. So far, he has recited procedural rules, kept the clock, read aloud vote tallies and scolded the Democratic House managers and the President's defense team early Wednesday morning after a contentious exchange on the Senate floor.
This impeachment trial is a more scripted affair for Roberts — he will work closely with the Senate parliamentarian — yet one controlled by the predilections of others.