Trump impeachment trial
January 17, 2020

The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump began on Thursday, with the House impeachment managers walking the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, lead House prosecutor Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) reading the articles to the full (and silent) Senate, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts taking an oath to administer "impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws," then asking the jury of all 100 senators to swear to the same. ABC News recapped the formal and solemn proceedings, noting that the impeachment trial is beginning even as new evidence emerges.

"After we were all sworn in, a surprise (at least for me): we were all requested to sign our names, one by one, in the trial's log book," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) recounted. "Afterward, one of my colleagues showed me his notes, where he had kept track of how many senators are left handed." And the number of southpaws — 13, by our count — does stand out as you watch the senators sign their names, sped up here by ABC News:

If you haven't perused the two articles of impeachment, you can read along as Schiff recited them for the Senate.

As Schiff read the articles to the "deathly quiet" Senate, journalist Jon Ward observed from inside the Senate chamber, "all senators listened intently, but note-taking was far more prominent among the Democrats," and "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) let out a lengthy yawn, as did Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La)," while "Sen. Susan Collins [R-Maine] & Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] sat next to one another, with somewhat pained expressions on their faces." Trump tweeted: "I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!" Peter Weber

January 15, 2020

While CNN was focused on the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, MSNBC was digging through the newly released documents Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas handed over to the House Intelligence Committee. MSNBC hosts and guests found quite a few bits of evidence "shocking," like the involvement of President Trump's White House impeachment team in Parnas' efforts to procure dirt on Joe Biden from Ukrainian officials, but two sets of documents were deemed especially damning.

"Among the most disturbing material released tonight is a long series of encrypted text messages" in which Parnas discussed ominous-sounding efforts to closely surveil U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovich with Robert Hyde, a Trump donor now running for a House seat in Connecticut, Rachel Maddow said, asking Rep. Jim Hines (D-Conn.) to "please tell me this is a fabulist who has concocted some sort of fantasy plot in his mind, and this wasn't a real thing."

Hyde "is a malignant clown," and "it is quite possible that he was just making all this stuff up," Hines said. But threatening an ambassador "is the kind of thing that we take very, very seriously, despite the clownlike behavior of Mr. Hyde."

The Hyde texts are among the "most ominous" things in the documents, Chris Matthews agreed, but his guest Andrew Weismann, a former top prosecutor on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, found more significance in a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Giuliani letter "is a real smoking gun," Weismann said, "because you have Rudy Giuliani saying that he's acting in the president's personal capacity. That shows that the president and Rudy knew this would be improper to use the office of the presidency for a personal errand, to use Dr. Fiona Hill's phrase. And yet, the president, on the call with President Zelenksy, was using the office of the president. That is precisely what has been charged in the impeachment count."

"If there was any room for doubt that this was a shakedown by the president and that he was involved and that Rudy was involved and Rudy's subalterns Lev and Igor [Fruman] were involved, former federal prosecutor John Flannery told Ari Berman, the letter from Giuliani to Zelenksy "put that all to rest." Peter Weber

January 14, 2020

President Trump tweeted Sunday that he would prefer the Senate vote to immediately dismiss the two articles of impeachment the House approved against him in December, as several of Trump's GOP allies in the Senate have proposed with the backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Republicans have a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and summary dismissal of the charges would take only 51 senators, "but it is clear McConnell does not have the votes," The Associated Press reports.

"I think our members, generally, are not interested in the motion to dismiss," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of McConnell's leadership team. "They think both sides need to be heard." Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he's not sure Trump even wants a quick dismissal of the charges. "At different times the president has expressed different views," he told Politico. "But I wouldn't get too distracted by an intervening tweet."

Trump has also said at various points he would like the trial to be a made-for-TV spectacle that includes witnesses. McConnell does not want witnesses, but there may be enough Republican votes to at least force a vote on whether to call witnesses. "I've said I'd like to hear from John Bolton," Trump's former national security adviser, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Monday. "I expect that barring some kind of surprise, I'll be voting in favor of hearing from witnesses after those opening arguments." Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have said they also want the option to see new evidence and hear from witnesses.

That would appear to leave the pro-witness caucus one vote short, though any one of several Republicans could tip the balance. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), reportedly considered a "wild card" by the White House, notes that witnesses cut both ways. "Don't think you can just vote for Bolton and not the witnesses Trump wants," he warned his GOP colleagues last week. Peter Weber

January 13, 2020

House Democrats will get the ball rolling again on impeachment at a meeting Tuesday morning, deciding Tuesday or Wednesday on which House lawmakers will serve as managers at the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. Assuming the House sends its two impeachment articles to the Senate on Wednesday, Trump's trial will likely start next week, though the Senate hasn't yet agreed on rules for the trial.

Trump tweeted Sunday that an impeachment trial would give "credence" and "credibility" to the House's charges, so Senate Republicans should vote for "outright dismissal." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has "signed on to an outlier proposal" to dismiss the charges without a trial, "but he does not have enough support in the Republican-held chamber to actually do it," The Associated Press reports. Instead, he's facing the possibility that a handful of Republicans could side with the Democrats and open the door to witnesses and new evidence.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) disclosed Friday that she has been working with a "fairly small group" of GOP colleagues to ensure a "trial that will allow the opportunity for both the House and the president's counsel if they choose to do so." She did not name names, though Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she wants rules like those used in President Bill Clinton's trial, which did allow witnesses. If four GOP senators sided with all 47 Democrats, they could control which rules were adopted.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico that support for procuring new documentary evidence is "even stronger than we thought, with large numbers of Republicans supporting it." Trump will almost certainly survive the trial — conviction takes support from two-thirds of senators — but Democrats will make the most of demanding a "fair trial" to put vulnerable Republicans like Collins on the spot, and Republicans will apply other pressures to peel off any vulnerable Democrats. Peter Weber

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