The Senate impeachment trial has resumed. Refresh for live updates.
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opened the question session by assuring Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts that the Senate would respect his unique position in reading questions for senators.
“We’ve been respectful of the chief justice’s unique position in reading our questions,” McConnell said. “I want to be able to continue to assure him that that level of consideration for him will continue.”
After a Democratic question, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., submitted a question that Roberts refused to read.
“The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” said Roberts, who did not offer further explanation.
Paul walked out of the chamber after Roberts declined the question.
– Bart Jansen
Pelosi: Trump ‘will not be acquitted’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that President Donald Trump can’t be exonerated if senators don’t call witnesses in his impeachment trial.
“He will not be acquitted,” Pelosi told reporters. “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. And you don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”
The speaker was responding to repeated questions from reporters about Democrats’ next move if the Senate clears Trump.
“We’re still prayerful, hopeful,” she insisted, “that the Senate will have the courage to hear the truth.”
Does she think Trump will be chastened and understand that Congress is watching him, she was asked, or will he be emboldened?
Pelosi restated the question before answering.
“Does the president know right from wrong? I don’t think so,” she said. “That’s all I can say.”
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Channeling Paul Revere, Pelosi warned that democracy and the nation’s system of government are at stake.
“The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming,” she said. “And the president has led a clear path for them to interfere, once again, in our election as they are currently doing.”
Pelosi, who has said before that all roads lead to Russia, added: “I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally or financially, but he doesn’t see Russia as an adversary.”
– Maureen Groppe
Dershowitz responds to criticism of ‘mixed motives’ argument
Trump defense attorney Alan Dershowitz pushed back Thursday against criticism of his argument during the first day of questions in the trial that said it was not impeachable for elected officials to act for their own political benefit if they believe their election is in the public interest.
He said that engaging in a quid pro quo that broke the law, or was for personal financial gain, would be impeachable, however.
Critics, such as 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said Dershowitz’s argument placed the president above the law and paved the way for unrestrained abuses of power. And many compared it to former President Richard Nixon’s infamous declaration that no presidential act can be considered illegal.
Dershowitz said his argument was being “willfully misconstrued” and elaborated on his answer in a series of tweets. He said he was responding to the House impeachment managers’ “claim that any electoral benefit would constitute an impeachable quid pro quo.” He said his point was that a president could act out of “mixed motives” that were both in the national interest and his or her own political interest.
– William Cummings
Another 8 hours of questions on tap Thursday
The Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump resumes Thursday with up to another eight hours of questions to House Democrats prosecuting the case and the president’s defense team.
The second and final question session begins at 1 p.m. With opening arguments out of the way for each side, the question phase sets up pivotal votes Friday about whether the Senate will call witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton.
Many of the questions Wednesday focused on Bolton because the New York Times reported that his pending book says Trump demanded Ukraine investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for military aid. Trump has denied saying it and his defense team attacked Bolton as a disgruntled former worker.
Bolton’s accusation could serve as confirmation of the central House impeachment allegation. But the National Security Council contends the book contains classified information, which could hinder its publication scheduled in March.
The House managers led by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., contend that the trial won’t be fair unless the Senate calls witnesses such as Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
But Trump’s defense team called the House case “half-baked” and said if witnesses were necessary, the House should have called them. Trump’s team also said the testimony could potentially be blocked by executive privilege, in order to protect confidential advice from top aides.
Several questions focused on the burden of proof senators should weigh in deciding whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. The president’s removal is unlikely because it would require a two-thirds majority in a chamber with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats.
What are senators thinking?:Senators’ questions at Trump impeachment trial show most minds are made up
Trump’s team has argued that the impeachment is unconstitutional because it isn’t based on violations of criminal statute, but on vague accusations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The defense lawyers argued that the House managers should have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, as with a criminal case.
House managers contend that the article on abuse of power has been used in past impeachment inquiries against former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. In this case, Schiff said the charge is akin to bribery or extortion because Trump demanded an investigation in exchange for $391 million in military aid. The House managers said senators should use their own judgment in deciding whether to remove Trump.