The Senate impeachment session for Thursday ended. The trial is expected to begin again on Friday at 1 pm.
Below is a recap of how things played out.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, presented one of the final questions of the evening, asking if there was “any evidence that anyone was directed by President Trump to tell the Ukrainians that security assistance was being held on condition of investigation into the Bidens?”
House Manager Adam Schiff said there were two pieces of direct evidence of the conditioning of aid: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony, and the statements from acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
“The president made the direct link to Ambassador Sondland,” and Sondland talked with the Ukrainians about the linkage, Schiff explained.
Schiff also mentioned Mulvaney’s press conference in which the Trump administration aide had told reporters aid had been contingent on the opening of investigations, though Mulvaney later walked the remarks back.
Michael Purpura, counsel to the President, disagreed.
“In the House record before us, there was no evidence that the president told anyone to tell the Ukrainians that the aid was linked.”
He cited Sondland’s testimony and Sen. Ron Johnson’s statements that Trump had told them there was “no quid pro quo” and no connection between investigations and aid.
Former Republican senator calls for witnesses in Senate trial
Late Thursday evening, former Sen. John Warner, a Republican who represented Virginia from 1979 until 2009, issued a statement calling for witnesses in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump.
“As a lifelong Republican and a retired member of the U.S. Senate, who once served as a juror in a Presidential impeachment trial, I am mindful of the difficult responsibilities those currently serving now shoulder,” Warner said.
Warner said the Senate could not risk Americans believing the trial was a “sham” because of a lack of additional evidence, so he would urge the Senate to follow “judicial norms” and welcome “relevant witnesses and documents as part of this impeachment trial.”
During President Bill Clinton’s trial, Warner voted against charges of perjury but for obstruction of justice.
– Nicholas Wu
Murkowski asks why Senators shouldn’t call John Bolton as a witnesses
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., who is a potential swing vote, asked White House lawyers Thursday night why the Senate should not call former national security adviser John Bolton since the reported comments in his upcoming book contradict the president’s legal team.
“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” the question asked, also pointing out the contradictions between Ambassador Gordan Sondland, Sen. Johnson, and Bolton on whether there was a quid pro quo. “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?”
Philbin answered that the Senate shouldn’t finish the House’s job in terms of witnesses while adding Bolton hasn’t verified reports about his manuscript.
“Ambassador Bolton has not come out to verify that to my knowledge, but then we should have this chamber called new witnesses and establish the new normal for impeachment proceedings as being that there doesn’t have to be a complete investigation in the House, I think that is very damaging for the future of this institution,” Philbin said.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., grimaced slightly as his name was mentioned when Chief Justice John Roberts read out the question.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., an undecided vote on witnesses, looked up from the book he was reading and stared over at Murkowski.
Bolton allegedly wrote in the book that Trump demanded Ukraine investigate a political rival in exchange for foreign aid, an accusation that is central to the impeachment case against the president.
– Savannah Behrmann, Nicholas Wu
Democrats see hope in having Chief Justice Roberts break a tie
Senate Democrats see hope in having Chief Justice John Roberts break a potential 50-50 tie vote on witnesses tomorrow.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told USA TODAY Roberts “should” help break ties on witnesses.
“I would like him to step up for the traditional system and help us bring witnesses,” Brown said.
Roberts should “absolutely” break a tie,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told USA TODAY.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters Roberts has “got the precedent if he wants to use it.”
“In Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial, the Chief Justice broke two ties in terms of the questions of the visibility around witnesses and evidence, so he’s got the precedent if he wants to use it,” Coons explained.
One Senate Democrat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., submitted a question during the trial pointed at Roberts and his role in the process.
“At a time where large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus refused witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of the United States and Constitution?” Warren’s question read.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a former clerk for Roberts, told reporters he would be “surprised if he broke the tie.”
Hawley explained the prior precedent for then-Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase’s tie-breaking votes during Johnson’s impeachment trial was “fiercely controversial,” with multiple motions introduced in the Senate to try to overturn them, though they all failed.
“I think he would probably take an out because it gets political at that point,” said Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind.
-Nicholas Wu and Savannah Behrman
Ex-Giuliani associate gives more material to impeachment investigators
Brace yourself for the possibility that House impeachment investigators might disclose more information from Lev Parnas, the Ukraine-born businessman who helped President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, seek damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden.
Parnas’ attorney, Joseph Bondy, told a federal judge in New York on Thursday his office has downloaded material from his client’s Apple iCloud account and turned it over to the House Intelligence Committee.
“We’re doing everything possible to cooperate” with a subpoena issued last year, Bondy said. More material will be handed over as it is downloaded, he said, adding that he might make some of it public even if impeachment investigators do not.
During a Wednesday news conference with Parnas outside the U.S. Capitol, Bondy told reporters some of Parnas’ material could implicate Trump.
Bondy discussed the evidence after a hearing in a campaign finance case in which Parnas, business associate Igor Fruman, and two co-defendants are charged with funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to U.S. election candidates and committees.
The case includes a $325,000 contribution that Parnas and Fruman allegedly made under false pretenses to a super PAC supporting Trump.
Unlike Fruman, Parnas has broken ranks with Giuliani and Trump — who maintains he does not know Parnas, despite a video showing Parnas with his arm on the president’s shoulder during a gathering at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida.
Another hearing in the case is set for Monday. Attorneys for all but one defendant said their clients would prefer to waive their right to attend.
But not Parnas. “We couldn’t keep him away, your honor,” Bondy said.
– Kevin McCoy
Trump’s lawyers say Giuliani did not carry out U.S. diplomacy
The first bipartisan question of the trial came from Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Susan Collins, R-Me., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., to Trump’s lawyers, asking them to “assure the American public” private citizens would not carry out American diplomacy.
“I want to make clear that there was no conduct of foreign policy being carried out here by a private person,” said Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin, noting the question likely referred to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry described Giuliani as part of a “parallel track” of American diplomacy to pressure Ukraine to open politically motivated investigations, and Giuliani has said his actions in Ukraine were part of legal work to defend his client, Trump.
“The president’s policy is always to abide by the laws and continue to do so,” Philbin said, responding to a part of the question that noted unauthorized diplomacy by U.S. citizens was prohibited under the Logan Act.
Philbin also referenced precedent from previous presidents who had asked private citizens to act as messengers to foreign countries, as President George Washington had asked Gouverneur Morris to do with France.
“That is a remarkable admission,” House Manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said later in the trial.
“They have now acknowledged that the person in charge of this was not conducting policy. So the investigations that Giuliani was charged with trying to get Ukraine to announce were not policy,” Schiff said.
Instead, they were “domestic political errands,” Schiff argued.
– Nicholas Wu
McConnell huddles with key vote hours before witness vote
Hours before the Senate will decide whether it will consider additional witnesses and documents as part of the president’s impeachment trial, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell huddled with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key vote, for several minutes on the Senate floor during a break.
While the two were talking, Sen. Susan Collins, another key Republican vote, was approached by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the Democrats who is thought to be considering Trump’s acquittal. The two locked arms and Manchin escorted Collins to the back of the chamber, where the pair talked for several minutes then left together.
Manchin also greeted Sen. John Thune, the Republican whip attempting to unify the GOP in voting against witnesses, with a handshake that turned into a hug.
– Christal Hayes
Trump’s lawyer claims Trump didn’t ask Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens
Several Republican senators asked both President Donald Trump’s lawyers and Democratic impeachment managers under what circumstances a “president could request a foreign country to investigate a US citizen including a political rival who is not under investigation.”
Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin answered the question by going back to the record of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump had asked Zelensky to “do us a favor” and look into allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Philbin, however, asserted that Trump had not called “for an investigation necessarily into Vice President Biden or his son, but the situation in which the prosecutor had been fired,” referring to the ouster of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
Republicans have argued Trump’s conduct on the call was justified because of his concerns about the Bidens and corruption.
Philbin continued, arguing that potential malfeasance by an American overseas would be “perfectly legitimate” to ask about, even if it’s “not something that would mean a criminal investigation here in the United States.”
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Me., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, had posed the question. Collins is a key undecided vote on both allowing witnesses and Trump’s conviction or acquittal.
Democrats disagreed. House Manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “it would be hard for me to contemplate circumstances where that would be appropriate.”
Citing reforms made after the Watergate scandal, Schiff said such an ask would be “contrary to the history of our legal traditions.”
– Nicholas Wu
Schiff cites the Justice Department’s argument against Trump’s lawyers
Arguing in support of the obstruction of Congress charge, House Manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., cited arguments made by Department of Justice lawyers today about the remedy for failure to comply with subpoenas.
Schiff said the Justice Department had argued Congress had the power to impeach the president if subpoenas were ignored – an incongruity, he said, that was in the category of “you can’t make this stuff up,”
“What more evidence do you need of the bad faith of this effort to cover up?”, Schiff asked senators.
Trump’s defense team has argued throughout the trial that the president cannot be impeached over failure to comply with subpoenas because of executive privilege.
The Democratic side of the chamber erupted in laughter and sounds of exasperation as Schiff spoke, and many Democrats looked at each other and shook their heads in disbelief.
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-OR., threw his hands up in the air.
As Schiff kept speaking, and eventually answered the original question from Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, about the withholding of aid to Ukraine, many Republican chambers left the chamber and walked into their cloakroom off the Senate floor.
By the end of Schiff’s remarks, USA TODAY counted 13 empty seats on the Republican side of the chamber.
– Nicholas Wu and Savannah Behrmann
Jeffries: US ‘is not a banana republic’
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the House managers in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, declared that the United States “is not a banana republic” in blasting the president’s willingness to accept information from foreigners in his political campaign.
“It’s wrong in the United States of America,” said Jeffries, D-N.Y. “This is not a banana republic.”
The articles of impeachment accuse Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while withholding $391 million in military aid. Jeffries was responding to a question from Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about the implications of foreign countries interfering in U.S. elections.
The House managers had just played a video of Trump telling ABC News in the Oval Office that he would listen to what a foreign country offered. Another video featured Trump outside the White House telling reporters that China should investigate Biden.
“There’s nothing wrong with listening,” Trump told ABC News. “If somebody called from a country – Norway – we have information on your opponent. I’d think I’d want to hear it. It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.”
But Jeffries said Trump and his defense team were wrong, that foreign interference is illegal and disqualifying. He quoted FBI Director Christopher Wray saying the FBI “would want to know about foreign election interference.”
Jeffries also quoted Ellen Weintraub, a member of the Federal Election Committee, who issued a statement on June 13, 2019, about foreign influence.
“It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” Weintraub said. “This is not a novel concept. Electoral interference from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation.”
In a fiery summation, Jeffries said foreign influence is at the heart of the case about why the Senate should remove Trump from office.
“It is wrong. It is corrupt. It is lawless. It’s an abuse of power. It’s impeachable,” Jeffries said. “And it should lead to the removal of President Donald John Trump.”
– Bart Jansen
Justice Roberts refuses to read question from Sen. Rand Paul
WASHINGTON – Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., submitted a question during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump that Supreme Court Chief Justice John 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. He told reporters his question didn’t name the alleged whistleblower – although his question, which he wrote in a tweet, mentioned the name of an official some Republicans have speculated is the whistleblower.
The question revived allegations from some Trump allies that the whistleblower “conspired” with a House committee staff member to reveal information that would lead to the president’s impeachment. Paul did not offer evidence for the claim.
“It was an incorrect finding to not allow a question,” Paul said, but declined to say why he did not force a vote to overrule Roberts.
Before the question, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opened the question session by assuring Roberts that the Senate would respect his “unique position in reading in reading our questions.”
“I want to be able to continue to assure him that that level of consideration for him will continue,” he said.
– 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.”
Attempt to block book:Donald Trump security officials threaten to block publication of John Bolton’s book
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.