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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5:57 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Rep. Val Demings calls Trump's actions a "violation of public trust"

Senate TV
Senate TV

House manager Val Demings framed the impeachment trial as being "about the American people" during her remarks this afternoon on the Senate floor.

"This moment is about ensuring that every voter whether a maid or janitor, whether a nurse, a teacher or a truck driver, whether a doctor or a mechanic, that their vote matters and that American elections are decided by the American people. President Trump acted corruptly," Demings said.

Demings took shots at Trump who she said "stood to benefit from the abuse of office."

“The only person who stood to benefit from the abuse of office and solicitation of these investigations was Donald Trump. The 45th President of the United States. A violation of public trust. A failure to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. But when it came down to choosing between the national interest of the country and his own personal interests, his reelection, President Trump chose himself," Demings added.

5:39 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Here's who the Democrats quoted the most yesterday

From CNN’s Olanma Mang and Nicolle Okoren

A clip featuring Sondland played during the trial.
A clip featuring Sondland played during the trial. Senate TV

The House managers are relying heavily on video clips to make the case against President Trump. CNN tallied up all the soundbites that were presented at the trial yesterday.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union: 16
  • Bill Taylor, top US diplomat in Ukraine: 16
  • President Trump: 9
  • David Holmes, US Embassy in Ukraine official: 7
  • Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia adviser: 6
  • Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff: 5
  • Marie Yovanovitch, former US Ambassador to Ukraine: 3
  • Kurt Volker, former US Special Envoy for Ukraine: 3
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, National Security Council official: 3
  • Jennifer Williams, senior adviser to Vice President Mike Pence: 3
  • State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent: 2
  • White House adviser Tim Morrison: 2
  • Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary: 1
  • Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani: 1
5:11 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Schiff says Trump doesn’t care about Ukrainian corruption

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Senate TV
Senate TV

Democratic House manager Adam Schiff accused President Trump of lying about his reasons for asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Trump has said that his requests were part of a good-faith effort to root out corruption in a nutritiously crooked country.

Schiff wasn’t buying it, and rhetorically asked the senators: “Are we to really believe that this is about fighting corruption?”

The House impeachment inquiry uncovered substantial evidence to undercut Trump’s explanation that he only asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden because he was genuinely worried about foreign corruption.

A US diplomat testified that US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told him that Trump does not “give a shit about Ukraine,” and cared more about the Biden probe.

CNN fact-checked Trump in October, when he said, “this is about corruption, and this is not about politics."

Here’s a breakdown of Trump and his fight against "corruption":

  • Official government records undermine Trump's explanation
  • Trump hasn't publicly raised corruption issues before with Ukrainians
  • Trump’s “anti-corruption” campaign is only focused on Biden
  • Trump defended Manafort, who made millions from corrupt Ukrainians
  • The State Department hasn't boosted anti-corruption spending
  • Trump has praised other leaders mired by corruption scandals
8:44 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Here's what senators are doing during the impeachment trial

From CNN's Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav

Sketch by Bill Hennessy
Sketch by Bill Hennessy

As day three of the impeachment trial continues, senators have been seen pacing the Senate chamber, doodling, and flicking fidget spinners.

Many senators were standing at their desks, but Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, was spotted pacing around the whole GOP side of the chamber, walking back and forth around the edges for at least 25 minutes.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, ditched the crossword, and spent time doodling what looked like the Capitol building. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, peeled a clementine and ate it. 

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, flipped a purple fidget spinner on his desk as other GOP senators watched.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was seen stretching her neck, taking off her glasses and massaging the bridge of her before putting them back on. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, leaned across an empty seat to whisper something to Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, downed half a glass of milk on the Senate floor, while another half-full glass of milk was spotted on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s desk. She was not observed drinking it, however.

4:40 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Schiff: Trump "truly feels that he can do whatever he wants"

Senate TV
Senate TV

House manager Adam Schiff, speaking on the Senate floor, said President Trump "is a president who truly feels that he can do whatever he wants." 

On Trump's requests for investigation by Ukraine, Schiff said, "That includes coercing an ally to help him cheat. In an election." 

He added: "And if he's successful, the election is not a remedy for that. A remedy in which the President could cheat is no remedy at all, which is why we are here."

4:27 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

House Democrats argue that impeachment witnesses agreed Trump's Ukraine conduct was wrong

During his remarks this afternoon, House manager Adam Schiff cited multiple witnesses from the impeachment inquiry and their positions on President Trump's request to Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

"The consensus is once again clear, the President's demands for political investigations was improper, inappropriate, and wrong," Schiff said. "And again confirms that these requested investigations were not about anything except Donald Trump's political gains."

Here's a graphic that Schiff used to illustrate the witness testimony:

3:56 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Trump's defense team will be "fully engaged, ready to go on Saturday," White House official says

From CNN's Ellie Kaufman

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Eric Ueland, legislative director for the White House, said the defense will be ready to go when it’s their turn Saturday in the impeachment trial. 

“We’ll be fully engaged, ready to go, on Saturday,” Ueland said.

Asked what his preferences were for structuring the defense, Ueland said, “I’ll leave that to Pat and Jay, but we’re very prepared.”  

About Trump's defense team: The team is made of longtime Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel expected to lead the defense.

The team is rounded out with Ken Starr, the famed independent counsel who made the last impeachment case, against Bill Clinton, and Alan Dershowitz, who represented OJ Simpson and Jeffrey Epstein.

3:55 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

Democrats highlight how Trump repeats Kremlin talking points

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Democratic House managers accused President Trump of parroting Kremlin talking points, by accusing Ukraine of interfering in the 2016 election.

The Kremlin has pushed this conspiracy theory to deflect attention from Russia’s own meddling in the 2016 election, according to witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry and classified intelligence briefings given to senators.

At today's hearing, Rep. Adam Schiff said Trump was "pushing Kremlin talking points" on Ukraine.

This isn’t the only topic where Trump has aligned his public comments with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since he entered the political arena, Trump has often broken from Republican orthodoxy and embraced Kremlin-friendly talking points, especially on foreign policy.

Here are two examples:

  • Fighting ISIS: After announcing the Syria withdrawal last year, Trump repeated Kremlin talking points about ISIS. He said, "Russia hates ISIS as much as the United States does" and that they are equal partners in the fight. But Trump's comments don't reflect the reality on the ground: Since intervening in Syria in 2015, the Russian military has focused its airstrikes on anti-government rebels, not ISIS.
  • Annexation of Crimea: Trump once said Putin did "an amazing job of taking the mantle" when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump broke with US policy and suggested he was OK if Russia kept the Ukrainian territory. He repeated a Kremlin talking point, saying, "The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were."
4:00 p.m. ET, January 23, 2020

House Democrats played clip of Lindsey Graham's own comments during Clinton's impeachment

At one point during today's proceeding, House manager Jerry Nadler played a video clip of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's remarks during the Clinton impeachment in which he talked about his interpretation of what the framers of the Constitution meant by "high crimes."

"I think that's what they meant by high crimes, doesn't even have to be a crime. it's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people," Graham said in 1999 when he served as a House manager in the Clinton trial.

Why did he do this: According to CNN's Phil Mattingly, Nadler is "trying to make the point to rebut" the Trump team argument "that because a crime was not committed he cannot be impeached."

Mattingly reported that Graham was actually not in the chamber when Nadler played the recording, but a couple of Republican senators cracked some smiles. Sen. John Barrasso who sits next to Graham was seen patting the empty chair. When Graham returned "a couple senators were seen whispering to him about what had occurred."

The broader point is that it appears the Democrats' strategy is to, at times, cites Republican senators themselves. Mattingly points out these are "he same senators that are going to have to decide ... whether or not to vote to remove the president."

"They are playing to the audience, they are playing to the jury," he adds.

Watch the moment: