Impeachment trial of President Trump

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 12:24 AM ET, Sat January 25, 2020
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3:52 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Here's what happened when video of John McCain was played during the trial

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Senate TV
Senate TV

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:

3:44 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Kellyanne Conway reacts to Trump recording discussing ambassador: "It's not evidence at all"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

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.”

3:33 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Senators watch silently as Schiff says Trump was "reciting" Kremlin talking points

From CNN's Manu Raju 

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.

3:32 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

The Senate trial is on a 15-minute break

Senators just took a 15-minute break.

3:36 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Supreme Court gets swamped with impeachment-related calls

From CNN's Ariane De Vogue

The Twittersphere is urging opponents of President Trump to call Chief Justice John Roberts and give him a piece of their mind about the impeachment proceedings.

Some online missives urged Twitter users to contact Roberts and tell him to “stop sitting there.” They even made a veiled reference to a “potted plant.”

Although Roberts is fulfilling his duty under the Constitution and presiding over the trial, his role so far has been largely ceremonial, keeping the clock and the vote tally and sometimes even admonishing the legal teams for a lack of civility. Unlike the quiet of the marble hallways of the Supreme Court — totally void of cameras — the 64-year-old justice has spent long hours front and center on screens across the country. For many, it’s the first they’ve seen of the chief justice since his own confirmation hearings.

While he is wearing his judicial robe and banging a gavel, Roberts is on an unfamiliar playing ground, following the rules put forward by another branch of government. 

This morning he was briefly back at the Supreme Court where he held a regular closed door conference with his colleagues and discussed whether to add cases concerning religious liberty, LGBTQ rights, immigration and the Second Amendment to an already blockbuster set of cases.

In a sign that the impeachment proceedings might be impacting the business of the Supreme Court, no opinions will be released next week. Last year at this time the court had announced eight opinions, compared to four this term.

But Roberts’ day job was not of interest on the Twittersphere this morning.

One Twitter user demanded:

"Call SCOTUS. Demand that Justice Roberts admonish the senators who leave or sleep during testimony. He must tell them to stay in their seats or risk losing their votes!"

See how the Supreme Court plays a role if there's a tie in the impeachment trial:

3:23 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Schiff accuses Trump of promoting "Russian propaganda"

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

During his opening remarks, Democratic House manager Adam Schiff highlighted President Trump’s comments at the 2018 Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and accused Trump of promoting “Russian propaganda” and “kooky, crazy” theories that benefit Russia.

Trump embraced these theories, Schiff said, instead of siding with US intelligence agencies.

"We can see a pattern here," Schiff said. "President Trump solicited interference from Russia as a candidate in 2016, and then his campaign welcomed Russian interference in the election."

He continued: "In Helsinki, President Trump chose to believe Putin over his own agencies, 'I don't see any reason why it would be referring to Russia.' Instead of denouncing Russia's interference, he denounced those investigating Russia's interference. And he raised that now familiar DNC CrowdStrike server thing. And he raised that now familiar DNC CrowdStrike server thing, 'I really do want to see the server. I don't think we can go on without finding out what happened to the server.' That's the exact same server that President Trump demanded Ukraine investigate during his July 25th call with Zelensky."

CNN did a deep-dive on this in 2018, highlighting 10 ways Trump diverged from the findings of the US intelligence community on Russian meddling. Some of these issues later became a part of the Ukraine affair, like Trump’s fixation on who hacked the DNC servers.

6:07 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Here's what senators are doing at today's proceedings

From CNN's Clare Foran

Sketch by  Bill Hennessy
Sketch by  Bill Hennessy

For the most part, senators have been in their seats this afternoon, but there have been occasional absences with the usual shuffle of people getting up to move about in between speakers, most often to run to the cloakroom or stretch their legs.

At one point, Sens. Rob Portman and Ben Sasse stood behind their chairs, presumably to take a break from sitting.

There were a number of whispered side conversations today as there have been every day so far. Some of the senators spotted talking while the trial went on were Sens. Steve Daines and Marsha Blackburn, and Sens. John Boozman and John Hoeven and later Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Barrasso. 

No fidget spinners or glasses of milk have been observed in the chamber so far, but Sen. Mike Braun was spotted with what appeared to be two empty packets of pink Nerds candy on his desk.

3:10 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Trump is "bored" by the proceedings, GOP senator says

From CNN's Manu Raju 

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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.

2:58 p.m. ET, January 24, 2020

Schiff: "Deterring Russia requires persistence"

Senate TV
Senate TV

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."