Impeachment trial of President Trump

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 1:36 AM ET, Fri January 24, 2020
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2:30 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Most senators have been attentive during the first hour. But there are exceptions.

From CNN's Alex Rogers

Senate TV
Senate TV

Most senators have been attentive in the first hour of today's proceedings. Many of the members are taking notes and watching the video clips played by the Democrats.

Sen. Susan Collins picked up her pen to write down something after House manager Jerry Nadler argued the White House defense team is “completely wrong” in arguing that an impeachable offense must be a statutory one.

But there are exceptions. Around 1:45 p.m. ET, Sen. Rand Paul turned to glance at a clip of attorney Noah Feldman — who testified in the House during the impeachment investigation — before returning to his drawing of the Capitol.

And when Rep. Nadler cued up a Lindsey Graham clip, Sen. John Barrasso affectionately patted the arm of Graham’s chair. By then, Graham had already left the floor for the cloakroom. Graham came back to the floor around 1:58 p.m. Sen. Ben Sasse whispered something to him on his way in and Graham smiled. 

2:20 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Fact check: Nadler claimed all prior impeachments included abuse of power. Not quite.

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Senate TV
Senate TV

In arguing the legal basis for the abuse of power article of impeachment against President Trump, House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, one of the House impeachment managers, claimed, “All prior impeachment considered of high office have all included abuse of power."

Facts First: Not quite. While abuse of power was among the articles of impeachment drawn up against Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, it was not part of the 11 articles sent to the Senate for President Andrew Johnson. 

This is actually the first time the Senate has considered abuse of power as an article of impeachment against a sitting President. Abuse of power was not among the articles approved by the full House for Clinton. The full House never voted on the articles of impeachment against Nixon, since he resigned beforehand.

The President and his legal team have themselves inaccurately decried abuse of power as “made up.”

While there is precedent for abuse of power as an article of impeachment, it’s not true that all prior impeachments against the high office of President have included it.

2:08 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Rep. Sylvia Garcia is now speaking

Senate TV
Senate TV

House manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia, of Texas, has taken the podium to walk lawmakers through the first article of impeachment: abuse of power.

"We will discuss the evidence that shows overwhelmingly that President Trump directed this scheme with corrupt intent. With one corrupt objective, to obtain foreign assistance in his re-election bid in the 2020 United States presidential election," Garcia said.
2:21 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Nadler: "The Constitution is not a suicide pact"

Senate TV
Senate TV

Democratic House manager Jerry Nadler said during his remarks today, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."

He added that the Constitution "does not leave us stuck with presidents who abuse their power in unforeseen ways that threaten our security and democracy."

These remarks came as Nadler laid out the Democrats' case that President Trump abused his power.

In his remarks, Nadler targeted one of the Trump defense team's arguments that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.

"There is thus overwhelming authority of against restricting impeachments to violations of established or statutory law," Nadler said.

2:03 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Nadler: "The President's conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous."

Senate TV
Senate TV

Rep. Jerry Nadler, one of seven Democratic House impeachment managers, detailed in his opening statement today the evidence against President Trump to support the charge of abuse of power.

"The President's conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous. And it captures the worst fears of our founders and the framers of the Constitution," he said.

Nadler went on to describe why they've brought forward two articles of impeachment against Trump.

"First, he withheld the release of $391 million in vital military assistance appropriated by congress on a bipartisan basis which Ukraine needed to fight Russian aggression. And second, President Trump withheld a long-sought-after White House meeting which would confirm to the world that America stands behind Ukraine in its ongoing struggle," the New York Democrat said.

Watch for more:

1:42 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

GOP senator: The House managers' case is "not really changing our opinion"

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Manu Raju 

Alex Wong
Alex Wong

Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, said the presentation by Democratic House managers isn't budging Republicans.

“It's not really changing our opinion,” Ernst said after the party lunch today.

She added: “I think we're still waiting to see the overwhelming evidence and once we see that maybe it will convince us that more information is needed, or not. We don't know, because I haven't had that presented yet.”

2:21 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Some senators have fidget spinners at their desks

From CNN's Alex Rogers

The senators were a little late today. At 1 p.m. ET, there were dozens of empty seats in the chamber.

Georgia Sen. David Perdue joked to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney that he thought 1 p.m. meant 1 p.m. Around 1:10 p.m., Sen. Lindsey Graham was the last one to get to his desk.

Within the first 20 minutes of Rep. Jerry Nadler’s remarks, Sen. Richard Burr removed his papers from his desk and spun a blue fidget spinner.

Sen. Tom Cotton has a purple one on his desk and Sen. Pat Toomey has a white one.

Burr's spokesperson said that he brought an assortment pack of fidget toys for his conference, including fidget spinners and stress balls.

Burr was in charge of the lunch Senate GOP lunch today and provided the goodies for senators when they arrived along with the food.

CNN saw Sen. Thom Tillis walk onto the Senate floor with a fidget spinner earlier. 

1:35 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Trump is tweeting about trading witnesses as the trial continues in the Senate

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Minutes into the third day of the impeachment trial, President Trump is tweeting about trading witnesses.

Read his tweet:

What's this about? Witness trading is the idea of agreeing to bring forward witnesses Democrats want to hear from, like John Bolton, in exchange for also bringing forward witnesses Republicans want to hear testify, like Hunter Biden.

House manager Rep. Adam Schiff panned the idea yesterday, saying, "This isn't a fantasy football trade."

1:31 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Susan Collins anticipates she will vote for witnesses and documents

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Susan Collins reiterated to CNN today that she anticipates she will vote for witnesses and documents. 

“My response is the same as it was Tuesday, I’ve worked very hard to make sure we vote on witnesses and documents at the appropriate stage of the trial. The same as we did during President Clinton’s impeachment trial, the cases have been made by both sides, the questions have been asked. I tend to like information and would anticipate I would vote for more…,” Collins said.