The Senate impeachment has resumed. Refresh here for live updates.
WASHINGTON – A handful of conservative Republicans asked whether the legal standards are different between a House impeachment and a Senate conviction, and whether House Democrats had made their case.
Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel defending President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial, said the House prosecutors hadn’t made their case and hadn’t cited laws the president broke.
The question came from Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
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 during the inquiry.
In responding to the question, Philbin said the House simply made an accusation with its impeachment vote and then faced the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the Senate trial. Philbin said the House managers failed because the summary of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and Zelensky’s later comments, showed no pressure for investigating Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
“They have failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Philbin said.
– Bart Jansen
Schumer question puts spotlight on Bolton
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the first question on behalf of Democrats, putting the spotlight on John Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser and a key witness who Democrats have been eager to hear from in the Ukraine scandal.
“Is there any way for the Senate to render a fully informed verdict in this case without hearing the testimony of Bolton, Mulvaney and the other key eyewitnesses or without seeing the relevant documentary evidence?” Schumer’s question stated, which was read aloud by Chief Justice Roberts.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff used the question to make a plea to senators to call for Bolton and not wait for details of his knowledge about this case to be publicized in a book. A manuscript of Bolton’s book, set to be released in March, reportedly included that the president personally told Bolton that military aid for Ukraine was tied to investigations helpful politically to the president.
“Chief Justice, the short answer the question is no,” Schiff said. “There’s no way to have a fair trial without witnesses.”
He continued, saying senators can get to the bottom of this case if they chose to call those like Bolton with key information.
“If you have any question about the President’s motivation, it makes it all the more essential to call the man who spoke directly with the president, that the President confided in and said he was holding up this aid, because he wanted Ukraine to conduct these political investigations that would help him in the next election,” Schiff said.
– Christal Hayes
Crow: ‘overwhelming evidence’ aid tied to investigations
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who told reporters yesterday she was “processing” everything in the impeachment trial before making up her mind, asked the House managers if it was true there was no evidence Trump had linked aid to investigations, as Trump’s lawyers had argued.
House Manager Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., answered that there was “overwhelming evidence” aid was withheld to pressure Ukraine to open investigations.
Democrats presented a slide labeled “Bogus Explanation: There Is No Direct Evidence” as Crow walked senators through some of the evidence of the aid’s linkage to investigations.
Among several other pieces of evidence, Crow cited a press conference with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney where Mulvaney had initially said Trump had linked aid and investigations into corruption and a DNC server. Mulvaney later walked back the comments.
Crow also discussed U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony, where the ambassador had discussed the conditioning of aid on investigations.
Crow concluded by telling senators if they had “lingering questions” about direct evidence, “you can subpoena Ambassador Bolton and ask him that question directly.”
– Nicholas Wu
Trump lawyer: weighing president’s motives ‘ constitutionally defective’
A trio of Republican senators posed the first question in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, asking how his motives in urging an investigation of a political rival should be weighed in the case.
“If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct, such as the pursuit of political advantage, rooting out corruption and the promotion of national interests, how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of Article 1?”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, posed the question jointly with Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts read it for Trump’s lawyers.
Patrick Philbin, deputy White House counsel, said even if Trump’s only motive was for personal gain, it still wouldn’t merit impeachment because it is “constitutionally defective.” But he also said the case would fail because political figures are always weighing the electoral consequences of their decisions.
“Even if there was only one motive, the theory of abuse of power that the House managers have presented, that subjective motive alone can become the basis for an impeachable offense we believe is constitutionally defective,” Philbin said. “It is not a permissible way to frame a claim of an impeachable offense under Constitution.”
Philbin said mixed motives couldn’t possibly be the foundation for impeachment because senators could never weigh whether a decision was 48% legitimate and 52% personal, or the other way around.
“You can’t divide it that way,” Philbin said. “Once you’re into mixed-motive land, it’s clear that their case fails.”
– Bart Jansen
Trump security officials threaten to block publication of Bolton’s book
White House security officials are threatening to block publication of John Bolton’s book unless the former national security adviser deletes information that is classified.
In a letter to Bolton’s attorney, the National Security Council has determined that the book includes “top secret” information that could undermine national security; it did not specify what those passages were.
Under commitments Bolton made when he accepted the job as national security adviser, the letter said, “the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”
The NSC said it would work with Bolton on deletions on the book that has prompted demands for testimony from the former national security adviser in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Bolton’s team submitted the manuscript to the National Security Council on Dec. 30 for a standard review to see whether the book contains classified information that should not be made public.
– David Jackson
Gardner, facing tough re-election, says he won’t back hearing witnesses
Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who has been viewed as a possible swing vote on calling witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, announced Wednesday he would not support an effort to hear new testimony.
Gardner, who has been one of the senators taking the most notes throughout the trial, said in a statement that he’d reached this decision after paying close attention to the evidence and arguments.
“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” Gardner said. “I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”
Gardner’s statement came one day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told Republicans in a closed-door meeting that the conference did not have the votes to block witnesses from being called in the trial, something that needs a majority of 51 votes.
Gardner is seen as a possible swing vote because he faces a tough reelection battle in Colorado.
– Christal Hayes
Protesters gather outside Capitol as trial begins
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
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.
Manchin is a
– 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.