Senate adopts rules for Trump impeachment trial following marathon session, 11 defeated amendments

The lead House impeachment manager, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, warned that results of the 2020 election might not be trusted if the Senate doesn’t convict and remove President Donald Trump from office for his alleged misconduct.

Schiff argued impeachment was urgent because Trump invited foreign interference in elections not just from Ukraine, but from Russia and China. The California Democrat said Trump must be removed because his attempt to “cheat in an election” threatens national security and election integrity.

“For precisely this reason, the president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” Schiff said.  “The president has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of constraint.”

The House articles of impeachment accuse Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender in the 2020 campaign. The House also accused Trump of obstruction of Congress for directing executive agencies to defy subpoenas during the inquiry.

“If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government, inviting future presidents to operate as if they are also beyond the reach of accountability, congressional oversight and the law,” Schiff said.

Schiff noted that Ukraine wasn’t the only country Trump invited to interfere with U.S. elections.

“In 2016, candidate Trump implored Russians to hack his opponent’s email account, something the Russian military agency did hours later. Only hours later they hacked his opponent’s campaign,” Schiff said. “The president has made clear this would also not be the last time, asking China only recently to join Ukraine in investigating his political opponent.”

Protesters rally at Capitol as Schiff opens arguments

Groups of protesters gathered in several spots around the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, greeting senators arriving for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump with loud chants and signs calling for Trump’s ouster.

One group held a large orange banner reading “TRUMP/PENCE #OUTNOW” near a hub where senators are dropped off at the Capitol.

Another group stood along the streets surrounding the Capitol, chanting “Trump, Pence. Out now!” Vehicles passing honked and cheered for the group as several wearing black T-shirts lined up. Each had a letter on their shirt and together the group spelled out “REMOVE TRUMP”

“We’re here because there’s an impeachment trial happening. It’s rigged by these Republicans who are – the so-called jury – is working in cahoots with the defendant,” said Rafael Kadaris, one of the protesters who traveled from New York. “Everyone needs to come down here to D.C. to call out this sham of a trial, but even more than that, to demand Trump and Pence out now.”

Kadaris, 38, said he and others plan to protest each day of the trial, hoping to alter how Republican senators see Trump’s conduct.

“We have to rely on the power of the people,” he said. “If they see all these people, maybe we can make a change.”

House Democrats lay out plan for trial arguments

House Democrats who are prosecuting the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump said Wednesday they would open their arguments with the facts and chronology of the president’s alleged misconduct.

“We believe we will make an overwhelming case for the president’s conviction,” the lead manager, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters. “The facts are damning. We’re going to lay them out in great detail today.”

The Senate rejected 11 proposals Tuesday to subpoena witnesses and documents for the trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said there will be votes after opening arguments to decide whether to subpoena witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Schiff repeated his request for witnesses and documents to flesh out the case.

“The House should have the opportunity to prove its case,” Schiff said. “The Senate should allow us a fair trial.”

But he rejected a possible “trade” of witnesses, perhaps allowing Democrats to call Bolton in exchange for Republicans calling Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Schiff said the Bidens aren’t relevant to the trial, but that calling them would continue to smear their reputations.

No motions filed from either side

Get ready for a lot of speeches uninterrupted by voting.

Because neither White House lawyers nor House Democratic managers filed motions before the 9 a.m. deadline, there won’t be any votes on procedures today in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

As such, the House managers are expected to begin their opening arguments when the Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m. – a mere 11 hours after adjourning around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

There had been some speculation that Republicans would immediately introduce a motion to dismiss the impeachment articles.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has said there are 45 votes to dismiss the charges against Trump. But McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have each said they expect to hear arguments from the House managers and White House lawyers, with questions from senators, before entertaining a motion to dismiss.

Schumer: ‘Cloud of unfairness’ hangs over trial

Republican senators’ rejection of Democrats’ requests for additional evidence and witnesses have cast a pall on the impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. charged Wednesday.

“It was a dark day and a dark night for the Senate,” Schumer told reporters at a Capitol Hill News Conference following the marathon session Tuesday to debate the rules of the trial that begins this afternoon. “As a consequence, the impeachment trial of President Trump begins with a cloud hanging over it. A cloud of unfairness.”

Republicans rejected all 11 amendments Democrats proposed Tuesday, including seven that pertain specifically to allowing more witnesses and testimony beyond what the House included in the two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Schumer said Democrats plan to try again later, after the question-and-answer portion of the trial is over. But he said what’s already transpired shows how partisan the GOP and McConnell have chosen to run the trial.

“If there’s one thing we learned from the series of votes on the Senate floor, on the Senate floor it’s that Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans don’t want a fair trial that considers all the evidence,” Schumer said.

Later in the day, Graham said he agreed with the president’s hard-line stance not to cooperate with the Democrats.

“They’re on a crusade to destroy this man,” the South Carolina Republican said of Trump. “If I were the president, I wouldn’t cooperate with these guys at all.”

GOP attorneys general: Trump impeachment ‘dangerous precedent’

Republican attorneys general of 21 states Wednesday issued a harshly worded “friend of the Senate” letter defending the president and attacking the Democratic impeachment as not just legally flawed but an unprecedented attempt to nullify the 2016 election.

“This impeachment proceeding threatens all future elections and establishes a dangerous historical precedent,” the 14-page brief reads. “That new precedent will erode the separation of powers shared by the executive and legislative branches by subjugating future presidents to the whims of the majority opposition party in the House of Representatives.”

It also calls both impeachment articles the House approved last month as “legally flawed and factually insufficient.” The first article, abuse of power, is “nebulous” and not tied to any high crimes or misdemeanors, while the second, obstruction of Congress, is an overreach of legislative power that should be settled in the courts, they contend.

The letter, released by Republican Attorneys General Association, echoes arguments the president’s lawyers and Capitol Hill allies have been making leading up to the Senate trial.

The 21 states represented are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

The Republican AGs of five states did not sign on to the brief: Arizona, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Trump: Democrats ‘don’t have all the material’

Trump lashed out at Democrats for prosecuting a shoddy case based on incomplete evidence.

“We have all the material. They don’t have all the material,” he said during a news conference Wednesday following his appearance at a global economic conference in Davos, Switzerland.

That drew a retort from one of the impeachment managers, Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., who said the president’s remarks about not providing all the evidence amounted to a taunt that confirmed why the House charged him with obstruction of Congress.

“This morning the President not only confessed to it, he bragged about it,” she tweeted.

Trump also lashed out at the top two House Democrats who are prosecuting his impeachment trial as “sleazebags” and said he’d “love” to go to the proceedings being conducted by the Senate.

“Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that be beautiful?” he said during a news conference Wednesday following his appearance at a global economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. “I’d love to sit in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.”

The Senate is scheduled to begin the trial Wednesday on two impeachment articles adopted by the House last month – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – stemming from efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating 2020 political rival Joe Biden.

“It’s total hoax. It’s a disgrace. They talked about their tremendous case. They have no case,” Trump said.

The president went on to say that he would leave the decision to call witnesses to the Senate though he has previously said he wanted them to be included. And he called Democratic lawmakers Schiff and Jerry Nadler, the top two House managers who are prosecuting the case in the Senate, “major sleazebags.”

‘Like stealing an election’

After House managers present their case, Trump’s defense team will then have 24 hours to dispute the findings or offer their own arguments.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and private lawyer Jay Sekulow offered a preview of their strategy Tuesday by blasting the House inquiry and arguing that Democrats have wanted to remove Trump since he was elected.

“A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” Cipollone told senators. “It’s a partisan impeachment that they delivered to your doorstep.”

Motions to dismiss the impeachment?

Both sides in the trial face Wednesday morning deadlines for additional motions, like those that could dismiss the entire case.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a congressional member of Trump’s impeachment defense team, told reporters he did not expect the White House to file such a motion – but added he did not speak for the White House.

Speaking to reporters in the basement of the Capitol, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX., said he didn’t “think we’re going to see a dismissal, and I think a dismissal is not nearly as good an outcome for the president and for the country as will be a final judgment on the merits.”

White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, however, did not rule the option out and told reporters he would wait to see what happened in the morning.

“I think we’ll all stay tuned to see what’s filed by 9 a.m. tomorrow morning and what’s filed by 11 a.m. tomorrow morning,” Ueland told reporters of the Wednesday morning deadlines to file and respond to motions. 

Democrats to outline case

The trial resumed at 1 p.m. as House Democrats explain lay out the charges their accusations that the president abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.

The seven House managers, led by Schiff will outline their arguments.

Rules organizing the trial were adopted on a party-line vote early Wednesday morning after a marathon session that had started Tuesday afternoon.

Now the managers have 24 hours, spread over three days, to argue in depth how Trump tried to “cheat,” in Schiff’s term, by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival.

“It is the president’s apparent belief that under Article II he can do whatever he wants, no matter how corrupt, outfitted in gaudy legal clothing,” Schiff told senators.

Arguments: Only chance to make case?

These lengthy arguments – followed by 16 hours of written questions from senators – might be the only chance each side has to make their case. Under the rules adopted Tuesday, the Senate will postpone voting on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents until after the opening arguments and written questions.

A 51-vote majority is needed to call witnesses, in a chamber with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. A handful of key Republicans will decide whether to join Democrats to summon witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Republican leaders have argued against having witnesses to bolster a House case they contend was partisan and rushed. But Schiff said that would leave only the opening arguments for senators to weigh. Republicans blocked efforts to subpoena White House and State Department documents in party-line votes Tuesday.

“If the Senate votes to deprive itself of witnesses and documents, the opening statements will be the end of the trial,” Schiff told senators Tuesday. “To say let’s have the opening statements and then let’s see, let’s have the trial and maybe we can sweep this all under the rug.”

But Trump’s defense team accused House Democrats of being unprepared for trial.

“The president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said Tuesday. “It is long past time to start this proceeding and we are here today to do it.”