Impeachment trial of President Trump
During the break, GOP Sen. Mike Braun walked by his neighbor, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, and told him, “I think we’ve got another six hours.”
Romney looked genuinely surprised and overwhelmed. “Oh jeez,” he said, shaking his head. “No one’s watching!”
A few seconds later, GOP Sen. Tim Scott walked by and said something to Romney, who responded, “I’m dying, I’m dying!” He then opened up a bag of what looked like peanuts, then walked over to talk to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The session was back in order a little after 4 p.m. ET. There were quite a few tardy senators on both sides, but once most people got back in their seats, most looked fairly attentive.
The Democratic House managers hammered away at President Trump today for his tendency to contradict or reject US intelligence assessments about Russia and Ukraine.
It’s true that Trump has repeatedly questioned, dismissed, or contradicted the public assessments from US intelligence agencies about Russia’s efforts to assist his campaign in 2016, and many other national security topics, including the killing of a Saudi journalist and the North Korean nuclear program. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report cited testimony from several top Trump aides, who said Trump views information about Russian meddling as “a challenge to the legitimacy of his election.”
Speaking with reporters during a break, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow offered an explanation for Trump’s behavior.
“There was all this discussion about why the President was suspicious of some of his intelligence information, some of the leaders he was dealing with within his own government,” Sekulow said. “Well, the No. 3 at the Department of Justice, his wife was working for a firm that was working on a dossier against the sitting President of the United States … we’re concerned about it.”
“For the life of me, I can’t figure out why he’s still there," Sekulow added.
This was a reference to Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official who met with retired British spy Christopher Steele during the 2016 campaign and funneled information from his “dossier” to FBI investigators. During that time, Ohr’s wife worked as a researcher for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that hired Steele to dig up information about Trump’s ties to Russia.
The Justice Department inspector general said in a report last year that Ohr made “consequential errors in judgement” by meeting with Steele without notifying his superiors. But the report rejected Trump’s claims that Ohr’s work, and the Steele dossier, was what caused the FBI to open its investigation in July 2016 into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
House manager Val Demings opened her afternoon remarks by discussing Trump's direction to current and former White House officials not to comply with subpoenas to testify and turn over documents to impeachment investigators.
The Democratic congresswoman also listed off the government agencies that have not complied, at Trump's direction.
She said: "Following President Trump's orders, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of State, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense all continued to refuse to produce a single document or record in response to 71 specific requests, including five subpoenas."
Here's a graphic that Democrats showed during Demings' presentation:
The Senate is back from a short break to continue the impeachment trial of President Trump.
The Democratic House managers are finishing their opening arguments today.
Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump's defense team, said their arguments on Saturday could be described as "a trailer, and a coming attractions."
"I think that you will see, I guess we would call it a trailer, and a coming attractions would be the best way to say it. And obviously, three hours to put it out, so we will take whatever time is appropriate in the three hours to lay out how the case is going to look like and next week is the full presentation," he told reporters during the break.
Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that tomorrow's session will begin at 10 a.m. ET, and run a few hours.
Watch Sekulow's remarks:
Moments ago in the Senate chamber, lawmakers listened to a familiar voice no one had heard for quite awhile.
It was a video of the late Sen. John McCain playing on the Senate's screen, talking about the vital relationship between the US and Ukraine.
The clip was part of the Democrats’ presentation on the importance of preserving the strategic alliance, and as House manager Adam Schiff tossed to the sound, senators looked genuinely surprised — and some comforted — by McCain’s presence in the chamber.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain’s best friend, looked up toward the ceiling for a moment as the clip came to an end. When it was over, Graham folded his hands together and returned his gaze to Schiff.
Watch the moment:
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway was asked today about an ABC report about audio of the President discussing then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2018.
Audio obtained by ABC News appears to include President Trump speaking to a small group — which included indicted Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — and telling them to "get rid" of Yovanovitch and "take her out."
Conway referred reporters to press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s statement, but went on to say, “Every president has the right to have whomever they want on their staff, in their cabinet, as an ambassador. So I think that the people are in a lather about that today, respectfully, because the Lev Parnas credibility and legitimacy and celebrity was immediate from most of you and now it’s like, oh wait, here’s some evidence of that. It’s not evidence at all.”
She continued: “We’ve always maintained he can have whichever staff, we serve at his pleasure, Cabinet, ambassadors, that he would like. How that anything you’re describing is a high crime or misdemeanor that leads to an impeachable offense and remove the democratically-elected President eight months before the next election is a puzzle to me.”
Inside the chamber, Republican senators sat silently as House manager Adam Schiff railed on “the most incredible propaganda coup” of President Trump “reciting Kremlin talking points” and a “kooky” conspiracy theory.
Most GOP senators were in the chamber during Schiff's presentation.
Senators just took a 15-minute break.