The Senate impeachment has resumed. Refresh here for live updates.
WASHINGTON – Dozens of protesters stood outside a Senate office building Wednesday demanding senators call witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
They chanted, “Trump/Pence Out Now,” and held up signs that read, “Full evidence. Full witnesses.”
The trial resumes Wednesday with the first of two eight-hour question-and-answer sessions, during which senators will be able to ask questions of House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team. A big question looming over the trial is whether Democrats can convince enough senators to allow the introduction of witnesses and documents at the trial.
At one point, swarms of Capitol Police circled the protesters blocking the entrance to the building. An officer warned protesters to move to another location. They left peacefully and regrouped steps from the U.S. Capitol, where they continued to protest.
Norm Karl, 79, who was among the protestors, said it was important for senators to hear their demands to “transform a sham trial into a real trial.”
“The future of the children requires us to remove Trump and Pence because they are a disaster for humanity and the planet,’’ said Karl, who traveled from Cleveland Wednesday to join the protest.
Sunsara Taylor, a spokeswoman for Refusefacism.org, said the group has been protesting on Capitol Hill since the trial began, but Wednesday’s focus was on pressing senators, particularly Republicans, to support calling witnesses.
“We’re really trying to seize this moment that Donald Trump is on trial facing the prospect of removal,’’ she said.
– Deborah Barfield Berry
Giuliani associate Lev Parnas shows up at Capitol
Lev Parnas, the onetime Donald Trump supporter who says he helped press Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, arrived at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Parnas and his lawyer, Joseph Bondy, have passes to the impeachment trial of the president, but Parnas can’t attend because a judge won’t let him remove the ankle monitor he must wear as he awaits trial in a criminal campaign finance case. No electronic devices are allowed in the Senate gallery.
On Wednesday, Bondy went into Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office when they arrived. After a few minutes in the office, Bondy emerged, smiling, with two tickets to the trial. He said he would be watching the trial from the gallery, and Parnas would be watching from a “safe” place elsewhere.
Bondy declined to comment on current negotiations with the Southern District of New York but said their appearance could be “beneficial” for Parnas’ case because “people respect those who tell the truth.” Parnas told reporters it would not hurt his pending criminal case.
Parnas was indicted with three co-defendants in October on charges of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to U.S. election candidates and committees to gain political influence.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include allegations that Parnas and a business associate falsified the source of a $325,000 contribution to a super PAC backing Trump.
– Kevin McCoy and Nicholas Wu
Key Democrat Joe Manchin: Hunter Biden ‘relevant witness’
Hunter Biden is a “relevant” witness that Democrats should not be afraid to call at the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump if the Senate moves ahead with further testimony, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Wednesday
“I think so. I really do. I don’t have a problem there because this is why we are where we are,” he said on MSNBC’ “Morning Joe” show.
Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, which is at the center of the impeachment charges. Trump is alleged to have withheld congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine last summer until that country announced corruption investigations into the Bidens involving Burisma.
Manchin said he thinks Hunter Biden can “clear himself” based on what he knows about the case.
“But being afraid to put anybody that might have pertinent information (on the witness stand) is wrong, no matter if you’re Democrat or Republican,” he said. “If its relevant, it should be there.”
Manchin’s comments could complicate efforts by Democratic leaders to woo a handful of Republican senators, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, into calling Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness.
Democrats are eager to hear directly from Bolton who in a forthcoming book alleges Trump told him directly that he wished to continue withholding nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine unless the country announced investigations the Bidens.
Asked about Manchin’s comments, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed Hunter Biden as “irrelevant and a distraction.”
“It is not up to Joe Manchin whether to call Hunter Biden,” Schumer said. “It is up to Joe Manchin to cast a vote on whether we should have witnesses and documents.”
On that point, Schumer said, Democrats remain “totally united.”
Collins also told reporters Wednesday morning that it’s “very important that there be fairness, that each side be able to select a witness or two,” according to CNN.
– Ledyard King and Nicholas Wu
Trump tells GOP don’t let Dems ‘play you’ on witnesses
President Donald Trump gave a warning to Senate Republicans on Wednesday, telling them not to be “played” by Democrats into calling witnesses for an impeachment trial he wants wrapped up.
Noting that the House had witnesses during its impeachment inquiry, Trump tweeted: “Remember Republicans, the Democrats already had 17 witnesses, we were given NONE! Witnesses are up to the House, not up to the Senate. Don’t let the Dems play you!”
Several Republicans have said they might be interested in hearing from witnesses, particularly former national security adviser John Bolton, perhaps enough to force subpoenas later this week.
Trump, White House aides and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, are trying to lobby certain GOP senators not to call any witnesses and move for a dismissal of the case.
– David Jackson
McConnell: Not enough votes yet to block witnesses
As senators on Wednesday begin up to 16 hours of questions in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the biggest question lurks: Will witnesses be allowed?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republicans in a closed-door meeting Tuesday that they did not have the votes to block additional witnesses from being called, according to multiple media reports.
Allowing witnesses would give Democrats a major victory and could significantly lengthen the trial. Democrats hold 47 seats in the Senate and have been attempting to get at least four Republicans to vote with them, which would give them the 51 votes needed to consider additional witnesses and documents.
It could also open the door for both Democrats and Republicans to call those at the top of their list, including John Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, along with GOP-witnesses, such as the whistleblower whose complaint helped launch the impeachment inquiry and Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son.
The vote on witnesses is currently planned for Friday.
– Christal Hayes
John Bolton’s new title is ‘conservative target’:Bolton stirs GOP fury for Trump revelations but friends say he’s used to knife fights
How the question and answer session will work
Senators must submit questions in writing to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding at the trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the questions will alternate between Republicans and Democrats in eight-hour sessions beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
Senators said party leaders would review the questions to avoid repetition and offer some order to the proceeding. Roberts suggested that the House managers and the president’s lawyers try to answer each question within five minutes, although that isn’t a firm rule.
The opportunity for questions follows opening arguments, which granted each side up to 24 hours spread over three days to explain their positions. The seven House managers used nearly 22 hours of their time, according to C-Span, which broadcast the trial. Trump’s team finished in less than 12 hours, according to C-Span.
House Democrats accused Trump of abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while withholding $391 million in military aid. The House also accused Trump of obstruction of Congress for directing his administration to defy subpoenas from the inquiry.
But Trump’s defense team argued that the charges were too vague to enforce because they weren’t based on statutory crimes. Setting the bar so low for removal from office would leave future presidents vulnerable to impeachment when Congress is held by the other party, they warned.
Despite the lengthy arguments, senators on both sides said they have plenty of questions. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said he wants to ask the lead manager, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., about any contact his office had with the whistleblower who first raised the alarm about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she would like to ask about the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.