‘I got four hours sleep’: Takeaways from opening arguments in the Trump impeachment Senate trial

WASHINGTON — It was another marathon session in the Senate as Democratic impeachment managers opened arguments in the trial of President Donald Trump.

After a lengthy opening from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the Democrats made their case against the president.

They accused Trump of orchestrating a pressure campaign against Ukraine in order to secure investigations that would be beneficial to his 2020 campaign, leveraging official acts to do so.

Each side will have 24 hours, spread over three days, to present their arguments. Then comes an additional 16 hours of written questions from lawmakers.

Read some of the important highlights from Wednesday’s arguments:

Democrats rehash impeachment evidence

For viewers who have been following along as Democrats have made their case for impeachment, it is notable that the House managers didn’t say very much that was new Wednesday. Rather, they rehashed the evidence and testimony from the House investigation that supports their arguments for conviction.

This might be the only chance for each side to present their arguments, however, because after the rules debate, the Senate will postpone voting on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents until after the opening arguments and written questions.

Democrats say that Trump improperly withheld nearly $400 million in military aid money that had been approved by Congress, along with a desired meeting at the White House, so that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky would announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and the origins of 2016 election interference.

They replayed testimony from the House impeachment hearings with key witnesses, including former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, Ukraine Ambassador Gordon Sondland, former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Schiff played recordings of an Oct. 17 news conference, when acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said withholding funding from foreign governments for political purposes is common.

They replayed testimony from the House impeachment hearings with key witnesses, including former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, Ukraine Ambassador Gordon Sondland, former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Schiff played recordings of an Oct. 17 news conference, when acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said withholding funding from foreign governments for political purposes is common.

Witness trade deal a no go

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer dismissed a proposition that would have allowed Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, to testify—if Hunter Biden would testify as well.

“I think that’s off the table,” Schumer said during a break.

Democrats want White House officials such as Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to be subpoenaed for the trial, as they refused to appear during the House impeachment hearings. House managers brought up testimony from the House hearings about Bolton’s knowledge of the Ukraine dealings.

Commenting on the proposal Wednesday, Joe Biden said that he would not be involved in such a trade-off.

“The reason I would not make the deal, the bottom line is, this is a constitutional issue,” he said. “We’re not going to turn it into a farce or political theater… I want no part of being any part of that.”

Schumer also cast aside concerns that remarks made by manager and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler from Tuesday evening during the trial could alienate key Republicans. Nadler said that Republicans would be part of a “coverup” if they didn’t vote to hear from Bolton.

“The chief justice chastised both sides without naming anybody for rhetoric that he thought should be toned down,” Schumer explained. “I think if you were a juror listening to both sides, you would have sided with the house managers because the president’s counsel didn’t directly answer the question why we shouldn’t have witnesses and documents.”

Trump team reacts to the trial

The president tweeted repeatedly during Wednesday’s trial session, including retweets from Republicans accusing Democrats of twisting the facts of the case, and attempting to redirect attention to the Bidens and the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked impeachment.

President Donald Trump lashed out at Democrats ahead of the trial’s start on Wednesday. Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, where he had made an appearance at a global economic conference, Trump said the two top Democrats involved in impeachment were “sleazebags.”

He also accused them of an incomplete House investigation.

“We have all the material. They don’t have all the material,” Trump said during a news conference.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., responded on Twitter, saying 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.

Chief Justice Roberts and his long workday

While the Senate got 11 hours between shifts, the tough turn-around award went to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.

Roberts had to be at the Supreme Court before 10 a.m. to hear arguments in a Montana religious freedom case before gaveling the Senate trial into session at 1 p.m.

As Tuesday night’s session dragged into Wednesday, Roberts was forced to admonish both House impeachment managers and White House lawyers over the tone of their arguments after a nasty exchange between Nadler and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Roberts said he was addressing both sides “in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body. One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner, and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.”

Wednesday’s proceedings went forward in a more civil tone.

The mood in the chamber

Senators were still recovering from the Tuesday session that extended into the night as they listened to impeachment managers present their case.

Many took breaks from listening to the hours-long presentations by house managers to stretch. But only hours into the presentations, several senators were spotted nodding off, including Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. Sen. Joni Ernst was spotted sipping a Monster energy drink as she walked through the halls of the Capitol in the morning.

Others were ready for the day, or energized by discreet snack breaks.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said, “I don’t know why, I think it’s the occasion, but really, I don’t feel tired,” he said. “I got four hours sleep. I like more but it’ll catch up to me at some point.”

A few senators visited the desk of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; it contains the only food in the chamber: a drawer full of candy. Other than the “candy desk,” lawmakers are only allowed to drink milk or water when on the Senate floor, according to the chamber’s rules.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., were spotted with tall glasses of milk on their desks along with the glass of water provided to every senator.