The impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump entered a new phase on Wednesday as senators were given their first chance to ask questions to both the Democratic House managers prosecuting the case and the defence team working for the president.
Both House managers and the president’s lawyers presented their arguments for and against removing Trump from office over the last six days.
Democrats spent most of their allotted 24 hours over three days outlining the two articles of impeachment on which the House voted to impeach Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They argued that failing to remove the president would set a dangerous precedent for future leaders of the country to use their office in a self-serving way.
Meanwhile, Trump’s defence team, leaving over 10 hours on the timer in much briefer arguments, framed the impeachment as an attempt to undermine US democracy. They also repeatedly returned to the fact that the president had not committed a crime, portraying the grounds for impeachment outlined by Democrats as dangerously subjective.
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On Wednesday and Thursday, senators, who are banned from speaking during the trial, will submit written questions to presiding officer Chief Justice John Roberts, who will pose them to the prosecution and defence.
After this phase of the trial, the proceedings will move into the much-anticipated debate over whether more evidence – including subpoenaing witnesses and documents – will be permitted. That debate has grown more fraught in recent days, with reported revelations in a draft book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton further stoking Democrats calls for the former White House official to testify.
As the trial moves into the question and answer portion, here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, January 29:
Senate adjourns for the night
The Senate has adjourned until Thursday, when senators will have eight more hours for questions.
McConnell: Four more questions for the night
McConnell said there are two more questions or the Republicans and two more for the Democrats before the Senate adjourns for the night.
Quotes from Wednesday
From Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer:
“We’ve always said it’s uphill. There’s tremendous pressure from a vindictive, nasty president on every Republican senator, but I think they sit there as they listen to these questions … and we’ve got a real shot to get witnesses and documents.”
Trump lawyer Patrick Philbin:
“It’s not just a question of, ‘Well should we just hear one witness?’ That’s not what the real question is going to be. For this institution, the real question is: ‘What is the precedent that is going to be set for what is an acceptable way for the House of Representatives to bring an impeachment of a president of the United States to this chamber?’”
Democratic impeachment manager Adam Schiff:
“When you have a witness as plainly relevant as John Bolton who goes to the heart of the most serious and most egregious of the president’s misconduct, who has volunteered to come and testify – to turn him away, to look the other way I think is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror.”
Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz:
“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right. Your election is in the public interest. And if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono on Dershowitz:
“That was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard as a response. That means that basically anybody, even someone who is totally off-base or even insane, if that person happens to be the president … that’s A-OK.”
Trump on Twitter:
“There is much talk that certain Democrats are going to be voting with Republicans on the Impeachment Hoax, so that the Senate can get back to the business of taking care of the American people. Sorry, but Cryin’ Chuck Schumer will never let that happen!”
And we’re back
The next part off the session is expected to be the last before the Senate adjourns for the night.
Senators take a short break
The Senate is breaking for about 15 minutes. Questions will resume after the break.
Trump defence: Ukraine ‘quid pro quo’ not impeachable
One of the defence’s main lines of argument on Wednesday that that a trade of U.S. military aid for political favours – even if proven – could not be grounds for his impeachment.
It was a striking shift from Trump’s claims of a “perfect call” with his Ukrainian counterpart – a call that has become the basis off the president’s impeachment.
Trump’s defense spotlighted retired professor Alan Dershowitz, a member of their team who said that every politician conflates his own interest with the public interest. Therefore, he declared, “it cannot be impeachable.”
Roberts reviewed questions: Report
CNN reported that Chief Justice John Roberts had a chance to review the question before the start of Wednesday’s proceedings.
The cable news station, citing two unnamed sources, reported that Roberts would not read the name of the whistle-blower if included in the question.
Republican Senator Rand Paul’s question was reportedly rejected. US media reported that Paul’s question had to do with the whistle-blower.
Ukraine part of Bolton manuscript should not be classified: lawyer
Bolton and his lawyer do not believe any information in a chapter on Ukraine in Bolton’s book manuscript should be considered classified, the lawyer wrote last week in a letter to the White House.
Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, released his letter on Wednesday after an earlier letter he had received from the White House became public. In that letter, the White House National Security Council said Bolton’s book manuscript appeared to contain “significant amounts of classified information” and could not be published in its current form.
Trump: GAME OVER!
Trump tweeted a video of his former national security adviser, John Bolton, describing the calls between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart as “warm and cordial”.
The only thing he wrote about the video was “GAME OVER!”
Bolton has become a central part of the impeachment trial as senators battle over whether he and others should be called as witnesses.
GAME OVER! pic.twitter.com/yvMa6bPqfy
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020
54 questions so far
At the time of the dinner break, 59 senators had asked a total of 54 questions so far.
Break for dinner
The Senate is on a 45-minute break for dinner. After the break, they will return for several more hours of questions.
Battle over witnesses
As the Senate prepared to open its first day of questions from senators, Republicans and Democrats were battling privately over whether to call witnesses and extend the trial. As senators were milling about before taking seats, Republican Senator Susan Collins, a potential swing vote, was surrounded by four Republican colleagues including John Thune, the party whip, who are trying to prevent her from breaking ranks. Democrats want to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Collins was peeled away from the group by Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell. Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema crossed over the Republican side and spoke with Republican senators Dan Sullivan, Rob Portman and John Boozman. Senator Mitt Romney, who has already said he wants to hear witnesses, stood alone by his desk near the northeast corner of the chamber. In the public gallery, Lev Parnas lawyer Joseph Bondy, a guest of Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, peered down on the Senate floor as senators began to ask questions. Parnas was not allowed into the proceedings because he is wearing a court-ordered ankle bracelet. Senate rules prohibit electronic devices.
‘Let Bolton testify’
Sheet cakes were delivered to all 53 Republican senators demanding that John Bolton and witnesses testify in the trial. Each cake was decorated with a different message, including “don’t dessert democracy,” “you’re in the room where it happens,” “this trial is half-baked without witnesses,” and “this is history in the baking,” along with the statement, “let Bolton testify.”
A GoFundMe campaign raised over $7,000 this week and asked a bakery in Brooklyn to make and decorate the cakes.
These sheet cakes are being delivered today to ALL Republican Senators. 🍰 #ImpeachmentCakes #JohnBoltonMustTestify pic.twitter.com/KQ2FQaVIe6
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) January 29, 2020
‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!’
As part of the #SwarmTheCapital action on Wednesday demanding witnesses, documents and justice in the Senate trial, dozens of protesters raised their fists outside of the US Capital chanting: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”
— Colleen Boland 🌎⌛️🐝 (@ColleenBoland) January 29, 2020
‘Momentum’ to end impeachment by Friday
US Republican Senator John Barrasso told reporters that Republicans have the “momentum” to move to end Trump’s impeachment trial by Friday, without calling witnesses.
Schumer: It was a ‘good afternoon for us’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer explained why Democrats almost completely questioned Democratic House managers presenting the case for removing the president, and not President Donald Trump’s defence team.
“They needed the chance to rebut the false argument, the fallacious reasoning, the half-truths and even no truths” that president’s defence made during three days of arguments, Schumer said.
Twenty-six questions asked so far
Senators posed 26 questions to President Trump’s defence team and the House managers prosecuting the case before taking the first break of the day.
Questions have centred on the possible inclusion of witness testimony, the details outlined in the House case, whether a crime is needed to impeach a president, whether “quid pro quo” matters in impeachment, and what the “implications” of calling witnesses will be, among others.
Republican asks defence team to discuss ‘implications’ of calling more witnesses
Senate Republicans asked the defence team for President Trump what the implications would be for more witnesses to be called in the Senate.
“The implications here, in our constitutional structure, for trying to run things in such an upside-down way would be very grave for this body as an institution,” said Lawyer Patrick Philbin, saying giving the Senate the “investigatory task” of collecting more evidence will “slow down” and “hinder” the Senate regular roles.
In a subsequent question, House manager Hakeem Jeffries argued that, based on the rate in the House inquiry, witness depositions in the Senate can be done in an “expeditious fashion”.
Cruz question to defence: ‘Does it matter if there was quid pro quo?’
Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked President Trump’s legal defence if it matters “if there was quid pro quo” (Latin for a favour for a favour) in the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
In response, Trump defence lawyer Alan Dershowitz referenced his attendance at the unveiling of Trump’s Middle East plan on Tuesday.
He said, if in executing that plan, a president tells Israel that they will not get aid if they do not “stop all settlement growth” or tells officials from the Occupied Palestinian Territories that they will not get aid if they do not stop harbouring “terrorists”, that would be acceptable quid pro quo.
Dershowitz also said if Trump thought he was acting in the public interest by helping himself get re-elected: “That cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
“All quid pros are not the same. Some are legitimate and some are corrupt, and you don’t need to be a mind reader to figure out which is which,” Schiff said in a subsequent question, adding: “For one thing, you can ask John Bolton”.
National Security Council says Bolton manuscript ‘may not be published’
The National Security Council (NCS), in a letter to former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s lawyer, has said that Bolton’s unpublished manuscript contains classified information at a “top secret level” and “may not be published or disclosed without the deletion of this classified information”.
In the draft book, Bolton reportedly wrote that President Trump told him he wanted to continue to withhold military aid from Ukraine until officials from the country agreed to help with investigations into Democratic rivals. The revelations have increased calls for Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial.
The National Security Council has said former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s unpublished manuscripts contain classified information and may not be published [File: Luis M Alvarez/The Associated Press]
The NSC letter said that the information contained in the draft book “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States”.
“We will do our best to with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects US national security,” the NCS representative said in the letter. Bolton’s manuscript had been given to the NSC for standard review before publishing.
Democrats first question ask if senators can fairly make judgement without Bolton testimony
Senate Democrats first question addressed the spectre of former National Security Adviser John Bolton that has hung over the proceedings since this week, asking if Senators can render a fair judgement without hearing from Bolton and other relevant witnesses.
“To turn [Bolton] away, to look the other way … is deeply at odds [with being] an impartial juror,” lead House manager Adam Schiff said.
In a following question, Trump Lawyer Patrick Philbin argued that allowing witnesses in the Senate trial will set a precedent that House impeachment inquiries can be “done in a hurried, half-baked partisan fashion”.
Senator Collins gives first question to Trump’s defence team
Republican Senator Susan Collins submitted the first question on Wednesday, which she said was also on behalf of Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Mitt Romney – all considered possible swing votes from the Republican majority.
“How should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of article one?” The question asked, referring to the abuse of power article of impeachment.
Trump lawyer Patrick Philbin responded that once it’s established there is at least a portion of “legitimate public interest” behind the president’s actions, the allegations are null.
“Once you’re into mixed-motive land, it’s clear that their case fails,” he said.
Lead House Manager Adam Schiff, in responding to a subsequent question, said that if Trump’s political desires were “in any part a causal factor” in his actions, “that’s enough to convict”.
Representative Engel says Bolton told him to look into removal of US Ambassador to Ukraine
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel has said that former National Security Council Adviser John Bolton had told him to look into the removal of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch shortly after Bolton was fired by President Trump in September of 2019.
“He and I spoke by telephone on September 23. On that call, Ambassador Bolton suggested to me – unprompted – that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv,” Engel said in a statement.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel has said that former National Security Council Adviser John Bolton had told him to look into the removal of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch [File: Andrew Harrer/Reuters]
“At the time, I said nothing publicly about what was a private conversation, but because this detail was relevant to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees’ investigation into this matter, I informed my investigative colleagues. It was one of the reasons we wished to hear from Ambassador Bolton, under oath, in a formal setting,” he said.
Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, was removed following a campaign against her by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his associates. A video recently provided to congressional investigators from April 2018 shows Trump calling for Yovanovitch’s removal while speaking to Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
Parnas not allowed into trial
Lev Parnas, an indicted businessman who says he worked to pressure Ukraine to investigate one of President Trump’s political rivals, arrived on Capitol Hill trailed by TV cameras, photographers and a sign that read “FAIR TRIAL”.
Parnas took a selfie with a pink hatted woman before picking up tickets for the trial on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
Lev Parnas walks with media on Capitol Hill in Washington [Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press]