Democrats lost a series of rounds in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Tuesday when the Senate voted down attempts by Chuck Schumer to subpoena witnesses and a cache of documents – with an increasingly caustic debate that stretched past 1am and brought a reprimand from the Chief Justice John Roberts.
Lawmakers voted down Schumer’s amendments on a series of 53-47 strict party line votes in all but one case – the same party split that divides the GOP-controlled Senate. The votes were held back to back on the first day of the president’s impeachment trial.
But as the votes piled up late into the night, Democrats used a procedural fight to highlight testimony from the House impeachment inquiry – with a hope of trying to wear down opposition and gain a commitment to call witnesses.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerold Nadler of New York, sidelined for much of the day’s debate, scolded Republicans: ‘The question is whether the Senate will be complicit in the president’s crimes by covering this up?’
He accused Senate Republicans of participating in ‘a treacherous vote’ he said was ‘against an honest consideration of the evidence against the president. A vote against an honest trial. A vote against the United States.’
The president’s lawyers responded furiously, with Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone retorting: ‘The only one who should be embarrassed Mr. Nadler, is you, for the way you addressed the United States Senate.’
The fireworks brought the first public rebuke by Chief Justice John Roberts – who rapped both sides.
‘I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,’ said the chief justice, presiding over the chamber in his black robe at nearly 1am.
Roberts reminded members to ‘avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.’
He cited a 1905 case that brought a ruling against using the term ‘pettifogging’ – or stressing petty details – and said that ‘those addressing the senate should remember where they are.’
THE MOTIONS DEMOCRATS LOST 53-47
Demand for evidence from the White House
Demand for evidence from the State Department
Demand for evidence from the Office of Management and Budget
Demand for Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff to give evidence
Demand evidence from the Defense Department about delay on security aid to Ukraine
Demand information from White House aide Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget aide Michael Duffey
Prohibit selective introduction of evidence when information has been subject to a subpoena and allow for review of classified material
Demand testimony by former national security advisor John Bolton
Allow motions to subpoena witnesses after a question period by senators
Allow chief justice to demand probative evidence relative to either impeachment article
Schumer wanted to subpoena documents from the administration related to Trump’s communications with the president of Ukraine and on intra-administration communication on the withholding – and later release – of U.S. military aid to Ukraine. He also wanted White House budget documents about the withheld aid. But his Republican colleagues voted him down – over and over again.
The White House refused to release such documents – including communication between the president and his top national security team – during the House impeachment investigation.
Republicans followed their lead on Tuesday as only the third impeachment trial of a president in history began, with the bitter partisan warfare potentially overshadowing the fact that President Donald John Trump is on trial accused of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress.
‘This is midnight!’ fumed Rep. Adam Schiff just a few minutes before the clock struck 12 after hours of charged debates.
Again and again, Republicans prevailed in knocking down Democratic amendments into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
In the last, the Senate voted against a Democratic proposal to let the chief justice subpoena witnesses.
‘Why doesn’t the GOP trust the Chief Justice to determine witness relevance? I’ll tell you why, because they want to call Hunter Biden,’ said Schiff, bringing up Joe Biden’s surviving son. ‘What’s his relevance? None. So we have one side who wants a fair trial and one side who’s terrified of a fair trial.’
His trial came hours after senators spoke outside the chamber of the possibility of making a deal on witnesses that would allow Hunter or former Vice President Joe Biden to testify in exchange for testimony by former national security advisor John Bolton or another figure.
Trump’s legal team brought forth a series advocates, from personal lawyers to members of the White House counsel’s office, as well as Trump advisor Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general.
Bondi blasted the House impeachment effort, saying: ‘That hypocrisy is astounding.’ She intoned: ‘That’s why we’re here because they started in the secret bunker hearings where the president and his counsel weren’t even allowed to participate when they’re trying to impeach him.’ She called House Intelligence and Judiciary inquiries a ‘one-sided circus.’
AND THE SINGLE MOTION THEY LOST 52-48
Allowing subpoenas of witnesses after the Senate’s question period
* Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to defect
Schiff countered that the ‘secret depositions’ allowed 100 lawmakers to participate. Only members of key committees were allowed to take part.
Trump was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter tweeting only one to say ‘READ THE TRANSCRIPTS.’ He was 6,000 miles away in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum. He was due to break his silence Wednesday morning in interviews with CNBC’s Squawk Box and Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.
As the procedural debate wore on into the night, Schumer introduced another effort – this time a vote on subpoenaing testimony from acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who has been identified by witnesses as a key player in the decision to withhold aid.
With several victories under his belt, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told grim-faced senators the break 30 minutes for dinner – pizza – then come back to consider still more amendments on witnesses and documents.
The Republican vote victories may have put a positive gloss on a shakier day than McConnell might have expected.
He was forced to change the rules he put forward on Monday night, to give each side three days instead of two to make their cases, after moderate Republican Susan Collins said she wanted the trial to be more like that of Bill Clinton.
Speeches: Adam Schiff, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager – in effect, the prosecutor – gestures to Republican senators at the rear of the chamber, while Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel and Donald Trump’s lead defense counsel looks at the Republicans in the front rows
What you can’t see on TV: Mitch McConnell has introduced rules which severely restrict television images from the Senate. Only two shots are shown when impeachment managers or Trump’s attorneys make their case – one focused on the speaker, the other a wider view of the well of the Senate. But this sketch from the gallery of the Senate shows how each senator must stay at their desk for all of the trial
Prosecution and defense: Zoe Lofgren was the second Democrat to speak in favor of subpoenaing White House documents, while Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal attorney, followed Pat Cipollone to the well of the Senate
Ready to go late: The Capitol would normally be quiet on a Thursday evening but senators were kept at their desks for the impeachment trial as Democrats forced vote after vote on subpoenas for documents and witnesses
Dinner time: Mitch McConnell leaves for the half-hour break he called after Democrats’ lost their third attempt at forcing evidence to be subpoenaed
Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi blasted the House impeachment inquiry as a ‘one-sided circus’
Head to head: Democratic impeachment manager Hakeem Jeffries, the third-most senior member of the Democratic caucus, makes the case to subpoena Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, while Trump’s deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura argues against
READ THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST DONALD TRUMP
In 1,414 words, the articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives lay out two charges against President Donald Trump.
Article I: Abuse of Power
Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.
He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.
President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.’
Article II: Obstruction of Congress
As part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials.
In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment — and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.
That stretched out a timetable that ultra-Trump loyalist congressman Jim Jordan had started the day by scoffing would see him impeached in a week – and every extra day makes McConnell’s high-wire management of the trial more difficult.
And the Washington Post reported that Democrats began to discuss cooking up a deal to offer Hunter Biden as a witness in exchange for evidence from John Bolton, an unexpectedly bold move which could also include Joe Biden. Such an arrangement would scramble McConnell’s plan for no witnesses and call Trump’s bluff after months of tweeting: ‘Where’s Hunter?’
Chris Coons, a family friend of the Bidens and successor to Joe’s Delaware Senate seat, said he had not spoken to the Democratic front runner about such a deal, said: ‘I can’t imagine a person more comfortable in the well of the Senate than a man who spent 36 years here as a United States senator.’
Inside the chamber – where Idaho Democrat James Risch, 76, was caught nodding off by The New York Times’ sketch artist – Democrats saw the chance to grind Republicans down with a sitting long into the night.
Schumer can propose an unlimited number of amendments and each one is eligible for two hours of debate – one hour for each side.
Next Schumer will push to subpoena relevant documents from the Office of Management and Budget, which did not hand them over during the House investigation upon orders from the White House.
In the end all Schumer may accomplish is running out the clock.
McConnell has made clear he has the votes among his Republican majority to shoot down any Democratic legislative maneuvers Schumer makes to try and amend McConnell’s resolution governing the rules of how the trial will proceed.
Several moderate GOP lawmakers – who Democrats had hoped to pick off to their side – said they were fine with waiting to vote on subpoenaing documents and witnesses after each side presents its opening argument, which is the same procedure used in Bill Clinton’s Senate trial.
He also made it clear he’s willing to take this into the night while offering a not so subtle reminder he will keep doing what he has been doing – move to table Schumer’s amendments and get them defeated.
‘I suggest we go ahead, get through the debate, and vote before we take a 30 minute recess for dinner, and I would remind everyone that I will be moving to table the amendment,’ the Senate Republican Leader told lawmakers.
In the longer term Democrats broadly will try to use the votes against evidence and witnesses as a line of attack against more marginal Republicans in the November Senate races.
Tuesday has been about legislative procedure. Neither side can officially make their case until the Senate approves a resolution on how the trial will proceed.
But both sides are presenting their arguments as the procedural debates take place on the Senate floor.
And the trial got off to an angry clash as Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff accused the president of engaging in a ‘corrupt’ effort to get Ukraine to help him ‘cheat’ in his reelection.
In return the presidents’ attorneys tried to put Schiff on trial, accusing him off rigging his investigation, depriving Trump of ‘due process,’ and misleading Americans by reading a mocking version of Trump’s call to Ukrainian president Zelensky.
At one point Schiff stared down Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, as Sekulow attacked him.
Sekulow ended by saying: ‘Where is the whistleblower?’ and walked away from the podim.
Schiff, a California Democrat who is heading a team of impeachment managers, made his case before 100 senators seated at their desks – telling them they must provide for a ‘fair trial’ that lets each side make its case. But his initial argument, put forward over the rules of the trial themselves, didn’t keep him from digging into the Ukraine affair that constitutes the first article of impeachment against him.
President Trump ‘seeks the full and complete destruction of a co-equal branch of government,’ said Schiff, who played video of Trump saying the Constitution’s Article II gives him the power to ‘do whatever I want.’
On Ukraine, Schiff accused Trump of ‘soliciting a foreign power to help him cheat in the next election.’
He called for a full trial complete with appearances by witnesses – including by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and forced out national security advisor John Bolton.
‘You may never know the full scope of the president’s misconduct or those around him, and neither will the American people’ without hearing from them, Schiff said.
But in one possible concession to push-back, McConnell put forward a rules package allowing for 24 hours of debate for each side spread over three days – rather than two. The earlier timetable would have ensured debates as late as 2 or 3 am.
Beginning: Chief Justice John Roberts started the trial at 1.17pm, marking the real beginning of only the third ever impeachment trial of a president
Voting time: The tightly-controlled images from the chamber means that
Republican side: Mitch McConnell unveiled trial rules which would prevent witnesses being called until after senators have asked questions of the prosecution and defense – and Pat Cipollone, the president’s White House counsel and lead attorney, who has never been heard speaking on television before, supported him
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer talks to reporters during a break in the trial
Impeachment manager Rep. Val Demmings played a clip of Lev Parnas during the Senate trial to argue additional documents and witnesses are needed
He made the change under pressure from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and others – the first indication that McConnell had to trim his preferences to maintain support from a small group of centrists.
‘Senator Collins and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the House transcript in the record. Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible. She thinks these changes are a significant improvement,’ Collins spokesperson Annie Clark said in a statement.
Collins, however, has indicated that she will – later in the process – support a Democratic effort to subpoena documents and have additional witnesses.
‘I anticipate that I would conclude that having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999,’ the senator said in a statement Thursday evening.
Democrats want four additional witnesses, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton along with two other administration aides.
Schiff’s team has been making the case for such witnesses as Tuesday went on.
‘The House and the Senate would see their power disappear,’ Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California warned senators if they let President Trump use his executive power to with hold witnesses. Lofgren was appealing to the desire of many senators on both sides of the aisle to retain legislative power.
And Rep. Val Demmings of Florida played a clip from indicted Rudy Giuliani side kick Les Parnas speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to argue new evidence has been revealed that warrants additional documents and witnesses.
President Trump, meanwhile, weighed in with a tweet from Switzerland, where he attending meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
‘READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!’ Trump wrote.
‘READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!’ Trump wrote fro Switzerland
The Senate votes on an amendment from Chuck Schumer
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts arrives at the Capitol on Tuesday
Sen. Susan Collins was among the moderate senators who pushed Mitch McConnell to change his resolution for the trial’s rules
The fireworks began At 1.17pm, as Chief Justice John Roberts took the chair – 17 minutes behind schedule – and began by swearing in James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who missed the formal swearing in last week.
It is a dramatic moment in history: the Senate will now adjudicate just the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president, with Trump and his ‘perfect’ call to Ukraine on trial before a jury of 100 senators – 53 of them from the party the president has dominated for three years.
He is accused of abusing his power by withholding military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to force an investigation of Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, and of obstructing Congress by refusing to cooperate with its investigating into Ukraine.
Mindful that process can shape the outcome, Democrats unloaded over proposed rules to govern the trial unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell off Kentucky that set up a rush of 12-hour days and late night Senate sessions.
Those procedures don’t automatically allow for the full written record from the House or witnesses Democrats are demanding be heard during the course of the trial.
‘Leader McConnell wants the process rushed with as little evidence as possible in the dark of night,’ fumed Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York Tuesday morning.
Those rules must be debated in the Senate and voted on, and Schumer said he will insist on amendments, but vowed not to be ‘dilatory.’
‘If proved, the president’s actions are crimes against democracy itself,’ said Schumer in remarks on the Senate floor.
Schiff called the rules an attempt to ‘rig’ the trial.
Opening: The Senate’s sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger formally warns senators to be silent, as the Democratic impeachment managers sit to the left and the Trump defense to the right
Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who will lead the Democrats’ prosecution of Donald Trump called the rules an attempt to ‘rig’ the trial.
Attorney Martin Raskin (C) and attorney Jane Raskin (R) arrive along with other members of the defense team for US President Donald J. Trump for the Senate impeachment trial in the US Capitol
‘READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!’ tweeted President Trump from Davos, where he had meetings scheduled with world leaders including Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga
Key figure: Moderate Republican Mitt Romney is now at the center of the storm over whether witnesses will be called
He told senators: ‘The most important question is the question you must answer today; will the president and the American people get a fair trial? Will there be a fair trial?’
He said if senators don’t allow for witnesses and a full record of documents of the president’s conduct: ‘You may never know the full scope of the president’s misconduct or those around him, and neither will the American people.’
‘You have all now sworn an oath to do impartial justice,’ he told them. ‘That oath binds you. That oath supersedes all else.’
Schiff summoned his most high-powered witness by playing a video tape of Trump himself, speaking inside the White House.
‘I would love to have [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, I would love to have Mick [Mulvaney]. I would love to have [Energy Secretary] Rick Perry and many other people testify,’ Trump said in comments played for senators.
The Senate has an opportunity to take the president up on his offer.
Schumer called the rules ‘completely partisan’ and said they ‘seem to be designed by president Trump for President Trump.’
The first would Schumer amendment subpoena the White House for documents related to the holdup of $391 million in aide to Ukraine amid a campaign to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
But Schumer appeared to acknowledge he might not be able to prevail, with even GOP waverers showing willingness to go along with the package.
‘We need four Republicans who are willing to stand up for what’s right, who are willing to stand up for what America wants and needs, and not simply bow down to the president,’ said Schumer.
Trump lawyers and White House lawyers made arguments that might appeal to senators as well as President Trump himself – making sure to bring up an episode that drew Trump’s fury: Schiff’s paraphrase of his infamous July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
Sekulow bashed Schiff for his opening statement when he paraphrased Trump’s defense strategy.
‘And what we just heard from Manager Schiff: court’s have no role, privileges don’t apply, what happened in the past, we should just ignore,’ Sekulow said in his opening argument on the Senate Floor Tuesday afternoon.
‘In fact, Manager Schiff just said – tried to summarise my colleague’s defence of the president. He said, ‘Not in those words, of course,’ which is not the first time Mr. Schiff has put words into transcripts that did not exist,’ the president’s personal attorney continued.
Sekulow lamented that the Democrats have not yet given the president due process in the impeachment proceedings and don’t intend to quietly allow Republicans to do so in the Senate.
‘Let me quote from the House impeachment report at page 16,’ Sekulow said. ‘Although President Trump has, in times, invoked the motion of due process, an impeachment trial – an impeachment inquiry is not a criminal trial and should not be confused with it.’
Sekulow argued that due process is meant to protect the person who is accused in a case, which in this instant would be Trump. But during the House impeachment probe, none of the witnesses Republicans requested be called to testify were approved by the Democrat majority chamber.
‘Believe me,’ the president’s lawyer continued, ‘what has taken place in these proceedings is not to be confused with due process. Because due process demands, and the Constitution requires that fundamental fairness and due process – we’re hearing a lot about due process – due process is designed to protect the person accused.’
During the opening remarks at an Intelligence hearing in September, Schiff paraphrased the essence of a conversation Trump held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July – which eventually sparked the whistle-blower complaint that launched the impeachment probe.
McConnell defended his rules package, and said he had already obtained the support needed to push them through.
Those rules will answer questions such as: ‘Can the Senate still serve our founding purpose?’ McConnell said.. ‘Can we still but fairness and even-handedness and historical precedent’ despite the ‘partisan passions of the day?’ he asked.
He said any vote on amendments would occur ‘after – after – opening arguments and senators questions,’ having secured support from key GOP senators for the idea.
‘Nobody will dictate procedure to United States senators he said, taking issue with complaints by Democratic House impeachment managers.
He said if a senator moves to bring witnesses or change procedures before that point: ‘I will move to table such amendments and protect our bipartisan precedent.’
‘Fair is fair. The process was good enough for president Clinton … it ought to be good enough for this president as well,’ said McConnell.
McConnell spoke on the Senate floor after House Democrats penned an explosive lawyer to the head of President Donald Trump‘s legal team hours before the impeachment trial was set to begin – saying lawyer Pat Cipollone may be a ‘material witness’ to two impeachment articles.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake was spotted in the Senate watching the trial
Schiff used a visual aide to show past impeachment trials and how many witnesses were heard from
Diplomat Kurt Volker wrote ambassador Gordon Sondland it was ‘crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign’
Democrats pointed to documents accumulated for past impeachments
Schiff made his case for presidential obstruction as he appeared for new documents and witnesses
Schiff cited past trials as precedent, but McConnell indicated he had the votes to pass a rules package he proposed
The gambit comes hours before the start of the historic Senate impeachment trial, amid an angry fight over the processes that will govern it. They write that the issues are ‘directly implicated’ by his involvement matters dealing with the first impeachment article, which accuses Trump of abuse of power in his conduct toward Ukraine.
House impeachment managers wrote Cipollone that multiple impeachment witnesses testified that they ‘raised concerns about the President’s scheme with John Eisenberg’ – a White House lawyer who ‘reports directly to you in your capacity as White House counsel.’
They cite such witnesses as national security official Fiona Hill, as well as Purple Heart Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. National security official Timothy Morrison also testified he reported events to Eisenberg.
The letter mentions that similar matters where someone serves as both counsel and a fact witness an result in ‘disqualification’ – although the letter does not call for this directly.
It is signed by seven House impeachment managers, including California Rep. Adam Schiff, who oversaw the inquiry where Vindman, Hill, and others testified about the administration’s policy toward Ukraine.
‘Mr. Eisenberg appears to have informed you of at least some, if not all, of these incidents,’ they write.
Said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah: ‘Overall, it aligns closely with the rules package approved 100-0 during the Clinton trial’ – a characterization Schumer disputes.
‘If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts,’ said Romney, who has previously indicated he wants to hear from witnesses. An opportunity for a second vote may come later.
The chamber’s procedures will be governed by a combination of precedent, improvisation, and raw political power – with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell withholding his proposed rules to govern debate until the final hours before the most senior Republican gavels in the start of the trial.
Neither side is predicting that Democrats can muster the two-thirds needed to remove a president from office. But neither are they diminishing the political stakes, with Trump’s fate, the 2020 elections, and control of Congress all arguably up for grabs.
A rhetorical battle that has been fought on Twitter and in Capitol hearing rooms for years has now been joined by a phalanx of lawyers – with the president’s legal team mocking the procedure as a ‘charade’ based on ‘flimsy evidence.’
A group of seven House impeachment managers – Congressmen who are a diverse bunch of lawyers and litigators who nevertheless have never dealt with a case of this magnitude – punched back with their own filing Monday, citing ‘overwhelming evidence’ of Trump’s guilt.
The public, too, is weighing in, on Monday in the form of a new CNN poll that found a 51 per cent majority now backs Trump’s removal from office. But Trump’s political base is holding, with 45 per cent saying the Senate should vote against removal – about the same percentage that backs Trump in most surveys of his approval.
Poll says 51% of Americans want Senate to REMOVE Donald Trump from office
Americans are split on whether the Senate should move to remove Donald Trump from office, with 51 per cent saying a poll released Monday that he should be convicted.
In the CNN/SSRS poll, 45 per cent of Americans said the Senate should not vote to convict and remove the president and 4 per cent of respondents said they had no opinion on the matter.
But 89 per cent of Democrats believe he should be convicted and removed from office while only 8 per cent of Republicans agree. Independent voters are split.
The poll comes the day before the Senate is set to begin the proceedings in the impeachment trial.
It also shows a slight shift from the same poll in December, which had 47 per cent of Americans said Trump should not be removed compared to the 45 per cent who want to see him ousted from the White House.
Of the 1,156 respondents, 58 per cent feel Trump did abuse his power of the presidency and 57 per cent say it’s true he obstructed the House from being able to properly investigate him.
But on a critical procedural question, the public has shifted against the president’s position: An overwhelming 69 per cent of Americans want a trial with witnesses. That includes a 48 per cent plurality of Republicans and 69 per cent of independents.
The number follows an intensive push for witnesses by congressional Democrats who found themselves stymied by White House obstruction during their House impeachment inquiry. They even included ‘Obstruction of Congress’ as the second of two articles of impeachment. The first is ‘abuse of power.’ Both were voted out of the house on a mostly party-line vote.
Senate Minority Leader Schumer is vowing to demand a vote on witnesses at the first available opportunity at the outset of the trial and stepped up that call Monday night, calling the planned rules ‘a national disgrace’ and ‘a cover-up, not a trial.’
McConnell appears to have his conference in line for now – but that does not mean he can prevent a potential rump group from breaking off later in the trial.
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah – who delivered a blistering critique of Trump before the November 2016 election – and perennial holdout Susan Collins of purple state Maine have each expressed support for witnesses in some capacity.
Another key change allowed for evidence presented in the House to automatically come over to the Senate – rather than requiring a special vote to allow it.
The focus on witnesses come as Democrats continue to bet the next explosive revelation that could somehow shift the arithmetic is right around the corner.
As is so often the case in the Senate, impeachment will kick off not with a substantive debate about the matter at hand, but a clash over the process itself.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell - only hours before debate was set to begin – put out his proposed rules. They would provide for a series of late night, with blocks of 24 hours set aside for each side to make its case, then another 16 hours for senators to ask written questions.
Schumer blasted the proposal as ‘nothing short of a national disgrace,’ and vowed to try to amend the procedure.
After a two-hour debate over process, Schumer gets to offer his own ideas as amendments – something he is vowing to do. He wants to call at least four witnesses and bring forth documents related to Ukraine. The Senate next is set to go into closed session for lawmakers to figure out a way forward.
That is a throw-back to 1999, when leaders of both parties orchestrated a closed meeting inside the old Senate chamber to figure out how to get to a trial. But in that case, even amid a fraught party clash, senators reached a 100-vote consensus on how to proceed.
The preceding few weeks have seen an astonishing amount of new material emerge, with no certainty yet that it will change any minds in the trial.
House Democrats handed over reams of documents, including voluminous material provided by indicted former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who has said he participated in efforts to get the government of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Parnas turned over such items as a May 2019 letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seeking a private meeting and saying he was acting with Trump’s ‘knowledge and consent.’
He also turned over photos of himself with Trump, Trump family members, and key Trump World figures. His lawyer says he wants to testify.
Each side will make arguments as best they can in initial one-hour increments. House managers include California Rep. Adam Schiff, who Trump lawyers singled out for denying the president ‘any semblance of fairness’ while overseeing House proceedings.
Schiff, in remarks before the House Intelligence committee, has accused the president of orchestrating a ‘shakedown’ of Ukraine for his own political benefit.
On the sidelines is presidential candidate Vice President Joe Biden, whose own work on Ukraine under President Obama has become part of the Trump defense. Republicans are threatening to call his surviving son, Hunter, as a witness, due to Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, that was part of the push by Trump and his allies for a probe that might tarnish a rival.
But with a trial that could last week, the former VP will have ample time to travel Iowa and early primary states, while rival senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar will sit view the trial as jurors in the Senate.
Like fellow colleagues, they won’t be able to make speeches on the floor – just ask written questions.
Also out of the spotlight will be Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. He was left off the president’s dozen-strong legal team, having spent months arguing the president’s case on television. But he will certainly be part of the record, whether or not former national security advisor John Bolton is allowed to testify. Bolton disparaged the ‘drug deal’ Giuliani was running in Ukraine, according to witness testimony.
Weighing in from across the Atlantic will be President Trump, who opted to fly to meeting at the annual economic conference in Davos. He spent part of Monday tweeting about what he calls the impeachment ‘hoax.’
Trump’s legal team asserted Monday that he did ‘absolutely nothing wrong,’ calling the impeachment case against him ‘flimsy’ and a ‘dangerous perversion of the Constitution.’ The lawyers decried the impeachment process as rigged and insisted that abuse of power was not a crime.
What isn’t year clear is when the key moments in Trump’s happen – and whether anyone will be awake when they occur. Under the rules proposed by McConnell, some of the action could be taking place after midnight, unless Republicans back down under accusations of setting up a ‘cover-up.’
The brief from Trump’s lawyers, filed before arguments expected this week in the Senate impeachment trial, offered the most detailed glimpse of the lines of defense they intend to use against Democratic efforts to convict the president and oust him from office over his dealings with Ukraine.
It is meant as a counter to a filing two days ago from House Democrats that summarized weeks of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses in laying out the impeachment case.
The 110-page filing from the White House shifted the tone toward a more legal response. It still hinged on Trump´s assertion he did nothing wrong and did not commit a crime – even though impeachment does not depend on a material violation of law but rather on the more vague definition of ‘other high crimes and misdemeanors’ as established in the Constitution.
‘It is a constitutional travesty,’ the lawyers wrote.
The document says the two articles of impeachment brought against the president – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – don’t amount to impeachment offenses. It asserts that the impeachment inquiry, centered on Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden, was never about finding the truth.
‘Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way – any way – to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election,’ Trump’s legal team wrote. ‘All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.’
‘The Senate should speedily reject these deficient articles of impeachment and acquit the president,’ according to a summary.
Trump’s team continues to attack the ‘abuse of power’ articles voted through the House, which lawyer Alan Dershowitz has argued does not constitute a crime.
‘House Democrats’ newly-invented ‘abuse of power’ theory collapses at the threshold because it fails to allege any violation of law whatsoever,’ they write.
The prosecution team of House managers was expected to spend another day on Capitol Hill preparing for the trial, which will be under heavy security. Before the filing, House prosecutors arrived on Capitol Hill to tour the Senate chamber.
Earlier Monday, Trump claimed Democrats ‘didn’t want’ fired national security advisor John Bolton to testify. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told Fox news the president ‘may exert executive privilege’ to prevent Bolton from testifying before the Senate. ‘The House should have called John Bolton if they were so anxious to hear from them,’ she said.
‘Very little, although the president may exert executive privilege.
The impeachment case accuses Trump of abusing power by withholding military aid from Ukraine at the same time that the president was seeking an investigation into Biden, and of obstructing Congress by instructing aides to not participate. But Trump’s team contended Monday that even if Trump were to have abused his power in withholding the Ukraine military assistance, it would not be impeachable, because it did not violate a specific criminal statute.
Opening arguments are expected within days following a debate Tuesday over rules, including about whether witnesses are to be called in the trial.
All about the Bidens: The trial grows out of Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine to investigate Hunter and Joe Biden over the former vice-president’s son’s role as the director of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy giant, despite having no expertise in energy or ability to speak Ukrainian
The trial begins after stunning new revelations from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas
Trump signaled his opposition to witnesses, tweeting Monday: ‘They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!’
That’s a reference to former national security adviser John Bolton, who was not subpoenaed by the House in its impeachment inquiry but has said he is willing to testify in the Senate if he is subpoenaed.
The White House brief argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House are
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