The Republican-controlled United States Senate heard opening arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, kicking off up to six days of presentations on the question of whether Trump should be removed from office.
Democrats from the House of Representatives will go first, laying out their case against the president. House managers have 24 hours over three days to make their arguments. Trump’s defence team will then make its case.
The start of opening arguments follows a contentious, marathon session of debate that ultimately culminated in a partisan vote in favour of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution outlining the rules for the impeachment trial.
As opening arguments get under way, here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, January 22:
Opening arguments day 1 highlights
Here’s a summary of some of the key takeaways from the first day of opening arguments by the House managers.
Represenative Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor, spoke for more than two hours early in the afternoon, laying out the case House Democrats made in weeks of hearings last year. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump had pursued a “corrupt scheme” to abuse his presidential power and then obstruct Congress’ investigation.
He appealed to senators not to be “cynical” about the politics of impeachment, asking them to draw on the intent of the nation’s Founding Fathers.
The founders “feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain,” Schiff said. “And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.”
The challenge before Schiff and other House managers was clear, as they tried to win over not just fidgety senators sitting silently in the chamber but a divided American public. Senators were especially restless Wednesday, as lawmakers convened less than 12 hours after a marathon session that stretched to nearly 2am.
Freshman Representative Jason Crow, a House impeachment manager, had trouble holding the attention of senators, who by Senate rules were sitting in silence without access to phones or other electronics. Many senators left their seats and headed to nearby cloak rooms, or stood in the back or openly yawned as Crow talked about Trump’s hold on military aid to Ukraine. At one point, more than 10 senators’ seats were empty.
Crow, a military veteran who tried to emphasise the importance of the delayed aid to Ukraine, noticed the unusual level of activity, telling Chief Justice John Roberts at about 5 p.m. that he saw a lot of senators moving about. He wondered aloud if the Senate wanted to take a recess. No such luck. Roberts urged him to continue, and McConnell announced the Senate would not break until 6:30pm for dinner.
Trump sets a record
As Democrats presented their case, Trump blasted the proceedings from afar, joking that he would face off with Democrats by coming to “sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.” Trump, who returned Wednesday from a global leaders conference in Davos, Switzerland, set a presidential record for activity on his favourite social media platform, sending at least 124 tweets in a single day, according to Factbase, a service that compiles and analyses data on Trump’s presidency.
The previous record for tweets was set on the day last month that the House Judiciary Committee opened its marathon session to approve two articles of impeachment against the president.
Just before dinner, Capitol police swiftly grabbed and dragged out of the chamber a man in the visitors’ gallery who was yelling. As he was being held in a hallway outside the chamber, the gray-haired man could be heard shouting, “Dismiss the charges!” He also yelled “you’re hurting me!” as police subdued him.
What will happen on Thursday?
Democrats will continue arguments continue through Friday under rules approved by the Senate. Trump’s lawyers will then have up to three days to rebut the Democrats’ case.
While polling suggests widespread agreement that Trump should allow top aides and former aides to appear as witnesses at the trial, that possibility seems remote.
In wrangling over rules for the trial that stretched into the early morning hours, Republicans shot down, one by one, Democratic efforts to get Trump aides to testify, including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
While some Republicans have expressed openness to new witnesses, the Republican majority is likely to repeat those rejections next week, shutting out any chance of new testimony.
And we’re back
House lead manager, Adam Schiff, is back at the podium, delivering opening arguments for the Democrats.
Schiff said he expects his team have about 2-2 1/2 hours of presentations.
Senate breaks for dinner
The Senate will take a 30-minute break for dinner. They will likely return for another three-hour session before adjourning for the night.
Record number of Tweets
Trump set a personal record on Wednesday with the highest number of Tweets fired off in a single day, according to internet website Factba.se, with 125 tweets and the most retweets at 110.
And, for your information, we have a record as of 4:25 pm on @realDonaldTrump. The most tweets of his presidency at 125 and counting. The most retweets ever at 110 and counting. Closing on the all time record set in 2015… pic.twitter.com/V9hLmN2lEu
— Factba.se (@FactbaseFeed) January 22, 2020
Impeachment trial draws 11 million TV viewers
About 11 million TV viewers watched the start of the impeachment trial on Tuesday when legislators sparred for hours over witnesses and records for the historic proceedings, according to Nielsen ratings data.
The total fell short of the roughly 13.8 million viewers across 10 broadcast and cable television networks who tuned in last November for the first day of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into Trump.
The audience figure on Tuesday covered the four and half hours of daytime coverage by six cable and broadcast networks that aired live telecasts on Tuesday.
The networks were Walt Disney Co’s ABC, ViacomCBS Inc’s CBS, Comcast Corp’s NBC and MSNBC, AT&T Inc’s CNN and Fox Corp’s Fox News.
Schumer: I am hopeful
Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, smiled and nodded during Schiff’s opening remarks.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to be arguing the case, other than Adam Schiff,” Schumer told reporters outside the Senate chamber. “He was amazing.”
Schumer could be seen looking over to the Republican side of the Senate aisle, checking the facial expressions of his Republican colleagues at key points during Schiff’s presentation. Schumer needs at least four Republicans to join Democrats in calling for witnesses.
“I look around every so often at the faces of my Republican colleagues and I am hopeful,” Schumer said.
“You know the kind of weightiness that we heard today and importance to the future of the republic and the seurity of the country weighs on peoples shoulders differently,” he said.
Some Republicans complain Schiff spoke for too long
Some Republicans complained that Schiff talked too long and presented no new information during his opening remarks against Trump.
Towards the end of Schiff’s nearly two-and-half-hour speech, as many as 14 empty Republican seats could be seen in the chamber.
With 15 minutes to go in Schiff’s remarks, Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican, abruptly stood up and walked out, saying to colleagues he couldn’t listen to more.
“How long can you sit and listen to even a subject matter you love,” Senator Mike Braun, a Republican, said after Schiff concluded.
“You know, if we were talking about hunting or fishing or all the things I love to do, I would start to squirm after maybe 45 minutes,” Braun told reporters a Senate hallway.
Schumer: Witness swap ‘off the table’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said an exchange of witnesses with Republicans was “off the table”.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that a small group of Democrats were privately discussing the idea of trading testimony of Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, for the testimony of a top Trump administration official.
Schumer was speaking to reporters during a break of the House managers’ opening arguments.
Most Americans believe Trump acted illegally or unethically while in office
A new poll from the Pew Research Center suggests that just over half of US voters (51 percent) want Trump removed from office. The results, however, are starkly divided along party lines. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 86 percent say he should stay in office. Among Democrats, 85 percent believe he should be removed.
Opinions about Trump’s removal may be divided, but a solid majority of all Americans believe Trump has definitely (38 percent) or probably (25 percent) done things that are illegal while in office or when running for president in 2016.
Even more, 70 percent, believe he has done unethical things, according to the survey. The poll was conducted with 12,638 US adults between January 6 and 19.
Senate breaks for recess following Schiff’s opening statements
The presentation of the case against President Donald Trump could span as long as 24 hours over three days, per the rules resolution approved by the Senate majority early Wednesday morning.
Revisit the often-cited Clinton impeachment trial – one of only two such proceedings in US history – here.
Trump, White House attack Schiff on Twitter
The White House countered House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s opening statements in real-time on Wednesday, tweeting that “Schiff keeps lying” and asserting that the transcripts of President Donald Trump’s calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“At no point on the call did President Trump ask President Zelensky to announce investigations,” the White House Tweeted. “It’s all in the transcript.”
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted “No pressure” an apparently refuting he had led a pressure campaign against Ukraine.
Schiff keeps lying.
At no point on the call did President Trump ask President Zelensky to announce investigations.
It’s all in the transcript: https://t.co/wfHIQ0aO76
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 22, 2020
Schiff: ‘If this conduct is not impeachable, then nothing is’
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s opening statements on Wednesday appealed to Senators, who will eventually vote on the articles of impeachment against Trump.
“The question for you is whether the president’s undisputed actions require the removal of the 45th president of the United States from office,” Schiff said, adding Trump “abused his office … by using his power for personal gain, by seeking illicitly foreign assistance in his reelection”.
“If this conduct is not impeachable, then nothing is,” he said.
Many are familiar with the President’s July 25 call, when he said to Zelensky: “I’d like you to do us a favor though”
But that call was not the beginning of the President’s corrupt scheme, nor the end.
It was only part of a months-long pressure campaign by Trump and his allies. pic.twitter.com/3w0cuqWLjA
— House Intelligence Committee (@HouseIntel) January 22, 2020
Refresher: Who are the House managers?
The House of Representatives appointed seven Democrats to make their case against Trump. That presentation began on Wednesday, with two hours of opening statements from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
Read more about the house managers here.
What evidence has come out since Trump was impeached?
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, during his opening statements on Wednesday, referenced new evidence that has emerged since the House’s initial inquiry.
Schiff said “there is significantly more evidence of the president’s guilt, that he continues to block” from the impeachment proceedings.
The new evidence includes:
Statements from Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas,
An offer from former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify if subpoenaed by the Senate
A government watchdog report saying the Trump administration broke key federal budget laws in unilaterally withholding aid from Ukraine
Emails and media reports that shed further light on the machinations surrounding the withheld aid.
Read more about the new evidence here.
Report: Senator Paul says 45 senators ready to dismiss Trump charges
Republican Senator Rand Paul told the Washington Post on Wednesday that 45 Senators are prepared to dismiss impeachment charges against President Donald Trump.
“There are 45, with about five to eight wanting to hear a little more,” Paul said. “I will push it at some point … The more Adam Schiff speaks, the more we become unified.”
Republicans need 51 votes to dismiss the charges. Republican leadership has indicated they do not want to dismiss the charges.
Schiff: We cannot be assured that 2020 election would be ‘fairly won’ by Trump
In his opening statements on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff rebutted critics who say removing the president from office should be left up to the ballot box.
Schiff, in laying out the allegations against Trump – that he withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for politically motivated investigations and that he then obstructed justice by categorically preventing his administration from testifying – said there would be no guarantee that a 2020 Trump election would be ‘fairly won’.
Schiff again summarises allegations against Trump
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff began Wednesday’s opening statements by again recounting allegations that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to “to secure foreign help with his re-election, in other words, to cheat”.
Opening statements will continue over the next two hours, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It will be followed by a recess.
Third day of Senate impeachment trial begins
The Democrat House managers will have 24 hours over three days to present their case for the impeachment of US President Donald Trump.
Chief Justice Roberts pulling double-duty
Chief Justice John Roberts, who the US constitution mandates must ‘preside’ over a presidential impeachment trial, has faced a punishing schedule during the first days of arguments.
After presiding over 12 hours of argument that stretched to nearly 2am Wednesday, Roberts then presided over oral arguments starting at 10am in the Supreme Court.
Roberts arrived back for the Senate trial, which was scheduled to begin at 1pm. Under a long-standing rule, the chief justice will only be able to fuel up on water or milk while on the Senate floor.
Read more about Roberts’s powers in the trial here.
Schumer: Yesterday was ‘a dark day and a dark night for the Senate’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the impeachment trial began with a “cloud of unfairness” hanging over it.
Speaking to reporters before the trial resumed on Wednesday, Schumer said the first full day of the Senate impeachment trial represented “a dark day and a dark night for the Senate”.
All 11 amendments proposed by Democrats were voted down before a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rules resolution passed along party lines shortly before 2am Wednesday morning.
He urged his Republican colleagues to “make this trial more fair”.
“It’s not a question of ability, they can, if they want. It’s a question of conscience,” Schumer said
The bottom line is this:
The very first thing the American people saw when they tuned in to the impeachment trial of President Trump was Republican Senators voting against having a fair trial with relevant witnesses and documents. pic.twitter.com/uXY8hLN41Q
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 22, 2020
Schumer keeps door open on Bidens testifying
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking at a news conference at the Capitol, did not respond directly when asked if he would rule out testimony from former Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter Biden.
But he said: “The witnesses should have something to do with and direct knowledge of the charges against the president. We don’t need to have witnesses that have nothing to do with this” adding that some “are trying to distract Americans from the truth”.
What amendments did Democrats request yesterday?
Yesterday, Democrats proposed 11 amendments to the rules resolution put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. All were rejected 53-47, save for one, which was voted down 52-48.
Here are those proposed amendments:
Ability to Subpoena White House, White House budget office, State Department, Defense Department emails and other documents related to pressure campaign against Ukraine.
Ability to subpoena White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, White House budget office official Michael Duffey, top adviser to the White House Chief of Staff Robert Blair, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Requirement that Trump’s defence to provide documents sought by Democrats if the president’s team introduces new evidence into the trial record.
Guarantee that Senate will eventually vote on whether specific witnesses will be called to testify, rather than a general vote on whether subpoenaing further witnesses will be allowed at all.
Granting 24 hours, not two, to respond to any motions introduced the case. Republican Senator Susan Collins broke from her party and voted in favour of the amendment, which was voted down 52-48.
Requirement that Chief Justice John Roberts must rule on motions to subpoena witnesses and documents. Under the current rules, Roberts can choose to make rulings, or can send motions directly to a vote. However, any ruling from Roberts can be overruled by a simple majority vote.
What rules did the Senate approve for the trial?
Here is a breakdown of how the trial will work based on the resolution passed early on Wednesday.
- Each side will get 24 hours over three days to present their case (that means opening arguments could last up to six days).
- After arguments, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions, submitted in writing.
- After the question and answer session, the Senate will likely discuss whether to subpoena witnesses and documents.
- House evidence will be admitted automatically for the record unless there is a motion to throw out any evidence.
Who are the House managers?
The House of Representatives appointed seven Democrats to make their case against Trump. Read more about them here.
Trump slams impeachment in Davos
President Trump said US economic growth is the buzz at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, but reporters are focused on the impeachment trial under way back in Washington, DC.
Trump held a news conference on Wednesday before leaving the gathering of top business and political leaders where he rattled off a long list of positive economic statistics, and then took questions about his impeachment.
He said he will leave it to the Senate as to whether there will be witnesses called during his impeachment trial.
Trump said that in the run-up to the trial, the Democrats talked about the “tremendous case” they had, but “they don’t have a case”.
He again called the impeachment a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt” that started right after he was elected.
Missed the marathon debate over the rules resolution?
From 11 amendments being blocked to a preview of what is to come from each side, check out what happened during Tuesday’s debate on the rules package here.