Impeachment trial of President Trump
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said he spoke with President Trump two nights ago after one of the proceedings this week and he gave him his thoughts about them so far.
Graham, an ally of the President, said Trump thought Democratic House manager Adam Schiff "did a bad job."
But Graham said he told Trump that Schiff did a "pretty good job."
He added that Trump is "bored" by the proceedings.
During his remarks this afternoon, House manager Adam Schiff is focusing in on how delaying aid from Ukraine emboldened Russia.
He called Russia's invasion of Ukraine "a threat to the peace and security of Europe."
Schiff said that if Congress had not "voted overwhelmingly on a bipartisan basis for military assistance" to Ukraine it would have invited "further Russian adventurism" in the country.
"Deterring Russia requires persistence. Not just one military aid package or one Oval Office meeting, but a sustained policy of support for our partners," Schiff said. "We only deter Russia by consistently demonstrating support for our friends, friends like Ukraine."
In his argument, Schiff cited Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Shultz compared diplomacy and alliance management to gardening.
"[Schultz] said, quote, if you plant a garden and go away for six months, what have you got when you come back? Weeds. Diplomacy, he said is kind of like that. You go around, talk to people. You develop a relationship of trust and confidence, and then if something comes up, you have that base to work from," Schiff said.
He aded that Trump's decision to transform the military aid package and Oval Office meeting into "leverage" was "the equivalent of trampling all over Shultz's garden."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the House impeachment managers, suggested President Trump's actions involving Ukraine are an attack on America's character.
In his opening argument, the New York Democrat detailed the Democrats' evidence against the President.
"There's a toxic mess at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, and I humbly suggest that it's our collective job on behalf of the American people to try to clean it up," Jeffries said. "President Trump tried to cheat. He got caught, and then he worked hard to cover it up."
He then went through a series of transformative events in American history, saying, "Whenever America has found itself in a tough spot, we always make it to the other side."
Jeffries then posed the question of America's character under Trump.
"America is a great country. We can handle adversity better than any other nation in the world, but what are we going to do about our character? President Trump tried to cheat and solicit foreign interference in an American election. That is an attack on our character. President Trump abused his power and corrupted the highest office in the land. That is an attack on our character. President Trump tried to cover it all up and hide it from the American people and obstruct Congress. That's an extraordinary attack on our character. America's a great nation. We can handle adversity better than any other country in the world, but what are we going to do about our character?" he said.
Republican senators say they discussed the plan for the 16-hour Q&A session of the trial during their conference lunch today.
They said that a member of leadership in their caucus will likely review questions from Senators before sending them to Chief Justice Roberts to read during the trial. Senators Ernst and Braun said that if there are similar questions from multiple senators, they will likely be combined into one question presented to the Chief Justice. Ernst said that senators’ names will be attached to their questions when they are read.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune said the process will be similar to the process used in the Clinton trial.
“I think that it’ll pretty much follow what happened last time around. Questions are asked to the Chair, first come first served, we’ll have more to say about that,” Thune said.
This comes as we expect Democrats to prepare for the questions in much the same way with leadership condensing any redundant questions.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham missed the airing of his 1999 comments about impeachment at the trial this week because he said he was "sick as a dog."
Asked about the video clip, which was aired Thursday during the Democrats' opening remarks, Graham noted how much he's aged since then, then reasserted that there's no statutory crime in this case.
He said he wished he had been in the room to watch himself, but took frequent breaks because he's been "sick as a dog.... I have spent more time in the bathroom than I normally do."
About the video clip: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler played the clip of Graham arguing that "high crimes" don't "even need to be a crime," a statement that runs counter to a central Republican talking point in President Trump's impeachment trial.
Graham, a fierce Trump ally, was not on the Senate floor when the video played, but Republican Sen. Ben Sasse could be seen whispering something to him on his way back in, and Graham smiled.
House manager Hakeem Jeffries, Democratic congressman from New York, claimed in his remarks that the President worked hard to hide his misconduct.
"The President tried to cheat. He got caught, and then he worked hard to cover it up," he said.
Jeffries said that by July 2019, White House officials were aware of "serious allegations of misconduct by President Trump" regarding the withheld military aid to Ukraine. "But instead of halting the President's corrupt scheme, they worked overtime to conceal it from the American people," he said.
"As additional evidence mounted, the Republicans worked hard to keep the American people from learning about the president's misconduct. Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Esper and John Bolton tried to convince President Trump to lift the hold on the security assistance. They failed."
"The $391 million in security aid was only released because President Trump was caught red-handed," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went over scheduling details for today and tomorrow at the start of the impeachment trial.
Here's what you can expect:
- Today: The House managers will wrap up their opening remarks. Meanwhile, senators will take short breaks every two to three hours, he said. At some point, they'll take a 30-minute recess for dinner if needed.
- Tomorrow: The session will start at 10 a.m. ET and "run for several hours" as the President's defense team lays our their opening arguments.
Rep. Adam Schiff pushed back on the GOP argument that claims of executive privilege could substantially delay the Senate impeachment trial if witnesses are called. Chief Justice John Roberts, he said, would be able to make decisions about evidence and privilege.
“Unlike in the House, where the President could play rope-a-dope in the courts for years, that is not an option for the President's team here, and it gives no refuge to people who want to hide behind executive privilege to avoid the truth coming out,” said Schiff.
He continued: “We have a very capable justice, sitting in that Senate chamber, empowered by the Senate rules to decide issues of evidence and privilege. And so if any of these witnesses have a colorable claim that they wish to make or the President on their behalf, we have a justice who is able to make those determinations, and we trust that the Chief Justice can do so.”
“The Senate will always have the opportunity to overrule the justice,” Schiff added, “But what they fear, what the President’s team fears, is that the Justice will in fact apply executive privilege to that very narrow category where it may apply. And here, that category may be nowhere at all, because you cannot use executive privilege to hide wrongdoing or criminality or impeachable misconduct. And that is exactly the purpose for which they seek to use it.”
The Senate just reconvened for the fourth day of the impeachment trial. The Democratic House impeachment managers will finish making their opening arguments, which they began giving on Wednesday.
After the Democrats finish, Trump's legal team will be given the same amount of time — 24 hours over the course of three days — to make their case.