Impeachment trial of President Trump
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer projected an air of confidence tonight as he walked through the Capitol after the trial concluded for the day, saying he believes the push for witnesses and documents “gains every day.”
“The fact that gives me some real hope here is that the public now is strongly on our side for a fair trial,” Schumer said, adding that he believes that would include hearing from witnesses like John Bolton and others.
Schumer praised Schiff’s argument as “one of the 10 best speeches I've heard.”
“I watched the Republicans. And most of the time they're sitting there to their credit. They don't want to hear it. So they're looking the other way their heads are down,” Schumer said. “But for the last half hour, they were glued to him.”
At the end of tonight’s proceedings in the Senate impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts said a “a single one paged classified document identified by the House managers for filing with the Secretary of the Senate” will be made available for senators to review in a classified setting.
The document pertains to supplemental testimony from Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence who testified before the House impeachment inquiry in November.
“On November 26, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee received supplemental testimony from Jennifer Williams, assistant to Vice President Mike Pence. On
December 11, 2019, after consultation with the ranking minority member, Chairman Schiff transmitted that supplemental testimony to the House Judiciary Committee to be made part of the record in consideration of articles of impeachment," a Democratic official working on the impeachment trial said in a written statement.
The official added: “Although there appears to be no basis for keeping it classified, the Office of the Vice President has ignored two requests to declassify this document. This supplemental testimony will allow the Senate to see further corroborative evidence as it considers articles of impeachment, and, if declassified, it would provide the public further understanding of the events in question.”
More on Williams' testimony from November: Williams described President Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in her deposition as "inappropriate." Trump's July 25 call is at the center of the impeachment trial, in which a whistleblower complaint alleges Trump asked for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine.
The Democratic House managers played dozens of video clips today to make their case that President Trump should be removed from office.
Many of the clips came from the House impeachment inquiry or are trying to use Trump’s words against him.
After about eight hours of arguments today, the House managers relied heavily on footage from US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and the top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor. These witnesses gave damning testimony during the House phase of the inquiry — implicating Trump in a quid pro quo scheme with Ukraine.
The Democrats also showed several clips of Trump’s public comments about the Ukraine scandal. This included an October gaggle where he explicitly called on the Ukrainian and Chinese governments to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Democrats also featured clips from former White House adviser Fiona Hill and US diplomat David Holmes. Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead House manager, said these witnesses were "courageous people who risked their entire careers” by testifying.
These videos could be illuminating for the senators, who are jurors in the case. Republican Sen. John Kennedy said he believes most senators hadn't read the deposition transcripts of watched the House's public hearings.
The daylong presentation today featured more than 50 video clips.
Jay Sekulow, one of President Trump's attorneys, called the impeachment trial "ridiculous" this evening while speaking with reporters following the end of the first day of opening arguments.
"I think this whole fact that we're here is ridiculous. I mean, think about why we're here. I said at the beginning when we spoke yesterday, which seems like about two weeks ago. But the truth of the matter is why are we here? Are we having an impeachment over a phone call? Or has this been a three-year attempt to take down a president that was duly elected by the American people? And we're doing this with 10 months to go in general election. Pretty dangerous for our republic in my view," Sekulow said.
When asked why he won't call for a motion to dismiss, Sekulow said, "Because I want to let them try their case and we want to try our case. Because we believe, without question, the President will be acquitted. There is not a doubt."
The House impeachment managers have concluded their first day of opening remarks in the impeachment trial of President Trump for the day.
The trial will continue Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.
Here's what happened today:
- GOP senators resist calls for witnesses and documents: There were more signs today that GOP senators were not budging on allowing subpoenas for witnesses and documents. After listening to House managers now, Sen. David Perdue, a close ally of Trump, made clear he won't get behind witnesses sought by the House. He said there's a "bright line" between former President Bill Clinton's impeachment case and the Trump case since the three witnesses who were deposed in the 1999 Senate trial had previously spoken to investigators. "There had been three witnesses in the Clinton trial had already been deposed … It was not new material. That was a bright line in my view," Perdue said.
- Schiff urges senators to act impartially: House impeachment manager Adam Schiff said in his opening statement today he believes "an impartial juror" will vote to remove President Trump from office after hearing the case against him. Schiff reminded the Senate of their duty to act impartially. “It is up to you to be the tribunal Hamilton envisioned. It is up to you to show the American people and yourselves his confidence and those of the other founders was rightly placed. The Constitution entrusts you to the responsibility of acting as impartial jurors."
- Republican senator calls on Hunter Biden to testify: 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.”
- Giuliani called a "cold-blooded political operative" for Trump: House impeachment manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries took shots at President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, this afternoon during his remarks, calling him a "cold-blooded political operative." He added: "Giuliani is not the secretary of state. He's not an ambassador. He's not a member of the diplomatic corps. Rudolph Giuliani is a cold-blooded political operative for President Trump's re-election campaign."
- Glass of milk: Sen. Tom Cotton was spotted drinking two glasses of milk today with some chocolate he was sneaking from under his desk. Surprisingly, milk and water are the only beverages allowed on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial. So why milk, and not coffee? The reason is simple: It was designed to help senators with ulcers. According to Alan Frumin, the former Senate Parliamentarian and CNN contributor, a precedent from Jan. 24, 1966, stated, “Senate rules do not prohibit a Senator from sipping milk during his speech.”
See the biggest moments so far:
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."