Impeachment trial of Donald Trump

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Impeachment trial of Donald Trump
Chief Justice John Roberts presides over the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.jpg
Chief Justice John Roberts presides over the impeachment trial of Donald Trump
AccusedDonald Trump
Proponents
DateJanuary 16, 2020 – present
Charges
CauseAllegations that Trump sought help from Ukrainian authorities to favor him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump, the 45th and incumbent President of the United States, began in the United States Senate on January 16, 2020, and is currently ongoing. It is a result of the impeachment of President Trump by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 19, 2019, following an inquiry stage that lasted from September to November 2019. The House passed two articles of impeachment, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

On January 21, Republican Senators blocked attempts to subpoena testimony from current/former White House officials, and documents the Trump administration had previously withheld from House impeachment investigators. The prosecution's opening arguments were held between January 22–24, and those of the defense were held between January 25–28. This will be followed by 16 hours of questions and answers, four hours of debate and a vote on whether to consider subpoenas for documents or witnesses. A two-thirds majority is required to convict the president. The possible penalties for conviction are the removal from office and disqualification from holding office in the future; these would likely be voted on separately.

Background[edit]

House Resolution 755 — Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the sole power of impeachment (Article I, Section 2, Clause 5), and after that action has been taken, the Senate has the sole power to hold the trial for all impeachments (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6). Trump is the third U.S. president to face a Senate impeachment trial, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.[1]

Early planning[edit]

After the emergence of Trump's phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, House leadership came to the conclusion that impeachment might be necessary, and began an inquiry.[2]

As this was happening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was quietly planning a possible trial. On October 8, 2019, he led a meeting on the subject, advising the Republican Senators to craft their responses according to their own political needs. McConnell proposed two potential avenues: state opposition to the House process, or refuse to comment due to being potential jurors.[3]

Republican plans[edit]

As the articles of impeachment moved to a vote before the full House and referral to the Senate for trial, Mitch McConnell met with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and congressional liaison Eric Ueland, later stating, "Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this ... I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers." As part of the "total coordination", McConnell stated that the president's lawyers could decide if witnesses would be called for the trial.[4][5] McConnell also said there was "no chance" the Senate would convict Trump and remove him from office, while declaring his wish that all Senate Republicans would acquit Trump of both articles of impeachment.[6] On December 14, Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham stated, "I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here ... I will do everything I can to make [the impeachment trial] die quickly."[7] Three days later, McConnell stated, "I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision."[8] The Constitution mandates senators to take an impeachment oath, in which by Senate rules is stated, "I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God."[9][10]

December 2019[edit]

On December 15, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, in a letter to McConnell, called for Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair,[a] John Bolton[b][c] and Michael Duffey to testify in the expected Senate trial, and suggested that pre-trial proceedings take place on January 6, 2020.[17] Two days later, McConnell rejected the call for witnesses to testify, saying that the Senate's job is only to judge, not to investigate. Schumer quickly replied, citing bipartisan public support for the testimony of witnesses who could fill in gaps caused by Trump preventing his staff from testifying in the House investigation.[18][19]

On December 17, McConnell opened the Senate session with a half-hour long speech denouncing the impeachment, calling it "the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair in modern history", and "fundamentally unlike any articles that any prior House of Representatives has ever passed."[20] Schumer replied that he "did not hear a single sentence, a single argument as to why the witnesses I suggested should not give testimony" in the potential Senate trial.[21]

Citing a need to "[s]ee what the process is on the Senate side", on December 18, the day of the impeachment, House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi declined to commit to when, or even if, the impeachment resolution would be transmitted to the Senate, stating that "[s]o far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us."[22] The entire legislative branch adjourned for winter break later that day without taking action to schedule the Senate trial.[23][24] The following day, McConnell and Schumer briefly met to discuss the trial.[25]

January 2020[edit]

After the Senate reconvened from its holiday break, Lindsey Graham proposed that he and McConnell "change the rules of the Senate so we could start the trial without [Pelosi], if necessary".[26] On January 7, McConnell announced that he had the caucus backing to pass a blueprint for the trial, which discusses witnesses and evidence after the opening arguments.[27] Pelosi called for the resolution to be published before she could proceed with the next steps,[28][29] but McConnell asserted that the House had no leverage and that there would be no negotiating over the trial.[30] This prompted several Democratic Senators to voice their readiness to have the trial begin.[31] On January 9, Pelosi said she would deliver the articles soon, but continued to cite a need for Republican transparency in the Senate;[32] the same day, McConnell informed members of his caucus that he expected the trial to begin the next week,[33] and Senator Josh Hawley announced that McConnell had signed on as a co-sponsor to his resolution to dismiss articles of impeachment not sent to the Senate within 25 days.[34] On January 10, Pelosi announced that she had "asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate".[35]

Officers of the trial[edit]

Presiding officer[edit]

Senator Chuck Grassley administers the oath of office to Chief Justice John Roberts on January 16, 2020.

The Chief Justice is cited in Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution as the presiding officer in an impeachment trial of the President.[36] As such, Chief Justice John Roberts assumed that role and was sworn in by Senate President pro tempore Chuck Grassley on January 16, 2020. He immediately administered the oath, as required by Rule XXV, to 99 of the senators in attendance:[37][d]

I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws; [So help me God].[39]

As in all parliamentary proceedings in the Senate, Justice Roberts is advised on procedural matters by Elizabeth MacDonough, Parliamentarian of the United States Senate.[40]

House managers[edit]

The House managers, who will conduct the prosecution, were appointed on January 15.[41][42][43] The seven congressmembers were chosen for their legal and national security experience and for geographic, racial, and gender diversity.[44]

House managers
Lead manager
Adam Schiff
(D-CA)
Jerry Nadler
(D-NY)
Zoe Lofgren
(D-CA)
Hakeem Jeffries
(D-NY)
Val Demings
(D-FL)
Jason Crow
(D-CO)
Sylvia Garcia
(D-TX)
Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg
U.S. Rep Jerry Nadler (cropped).jpg
Zoe Lofgren headshot.jpg
Hakeem Jeffries official portrait.jpg
Val Demings, Official Portrait, 115th Congress.jpg
Jason Crow, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
Sylvia Garcia, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Trump counsel and congressional defense team[edit]

The White House has formally announced its Senate trial counsel as being led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, alongside Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Raskin, Eric Herschmann, and Robert Ray.[45] Additionally, Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin will participate in the trial.[46]

On January 20, the White House named eight House Republicans to serve on Trump's defense team: Doug Collins, Mike Johnson, Jim Jordan, Debbie Lesko, Mark Meadows, John Ratcliffe, Elise Stefanik, and Lee Zeldin.[47]

White House counsel
White House Counsel
Pat Cipollone
Jay Sekulow Ken Starr Alan Dershowitz Pam Bondi
Pat Cipollone (January 21, 2020).jpg
Jay Sekulow Speaking at CPAC 2012 (6854519337) (cropped).jpg
Kenneth W. Starr.jpg
Alan dershowitz 2009 retouched cropped.jpg
Bondi bio photo crop.jpg
Jane Raskin Eric Herschmann Robert Ray Patrick F. Philbin Michael Purpura
Gray - replace this image female.svg
Gray - replace this image male.svg
Gray - replace this image male.svg
Patrick F. Philbin (January 21, 2020).jpg
Gray - replace this image male.svg
Congressional defense team
Doug Collins
(R-GA)
Mike Johnson
(R-LA)
Jim Jordan
(R-OH)
Debbie Lesko
(R-AZ)
Doug Collins, Official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Mike Johnson, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
Jim Jordan official photo, 114th Congress.jpg
Debbie Lesko, official portrait, 115th Congress.jpg
Mark Meadows
(R-NC)
John Ratcliffe
(R-TX)
Elise Stefanik
(R-NY)
Lee Zeldin
(R-NY)
Mark Meadows, Official Portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Congressman John Lee Ratcliffe.jpg
Elise Stefanik, 115th official photo.jpg
Lee Zeldin new official portrait.jpg

Opening ceremonies[edit]

Representative Adam Schiff reads the Articles of Impeachment before the Senate.
Senator Dianne Feinstein signs the oath book.

Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution states that "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments."[48] Per the Senate's impeachment rules adopted in 1986, the submission of the articles to the Senate initiated the trial.[49] Speaker Pelosi signed the articles of impeachment on January 15 and gave them to the sergeant-at-arms, who along with House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, and the managers,[50] delivered them to the Senate where Johnson entered the chamber and announced to Grassley and the Senate leadership that President Trump had indeed been impeached and must stand trial.[51]

Once this happened, Grassley told the managers and their entourage to leave and return at noon the following day. They left and at the appointed hour repeated a version of the ceremony.[52] Some Republicans criticized Pelosi for giving congressmen the pens used to sign the articles of impeachment, which have her name printed on them. McConnell commented, "It was a transparently partisan performance from beginning to end."[53]

For this trial, the Senate President pro tempore swears in the chamber's presiding officer, the Chief Justice of the United States, who then swore in all senators who will act as jurors. Each is required to take the following oath (or affirmation):

I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, President of the United States, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.[54][55]

The Senate sergeant-at-arms, Michael Stenger, then read aloud the following proclamation to mark the beginning of the proceedings:

Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, President of the United States.

With the ceremonial beginning over, the Senate adjourned for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess beginning the following day.[56][57] In the meantime, the Senate chamber was modified to resemble a courtroom.[58] The House impeachment managers began their opening presentation at 1 PM EST on January 22.[59]

Trial memoranda and responses[edit]

Trial Memorandum of the House of Representatives
Answer of President Trump to the Trial Memorandum of the House of Representatives
Replication of the House of Representatives to the Answer of President Trump
Trial Memorandum of President Donald Trump
Answer of the House of Representatives to the Trial Memorandum of President Donald Trump

On January 18, 2020, the House trial managers released a 111-page trial memorandum, which included new evidence from after Trump was impeached, such as the Government Accountability Office's conclusion that it was illegal for the Trump administration to have withheld military aid to Ukraine without informing Congress – a violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Trump attorneys released a 6-page response to the articles of impeachment, criticizing what they described as a "lawless process", while not directly addressing the allegations that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine in an attempt to have Ukraine announce investigations of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.[60][61][62] On January 20, House trial managers released a 9-page rebuttal to the original Trump response, rejecting the claim that Trump cannot be removed from office "even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment", as they argued that the Constitution "allows the Senate to remove Presidents who, like President Trump, abuse their power to cheat in elections, betray our national security, and ignore checks and balances".[63]

Also on January 20, Trump attorneys released a 110-page trial memorandum.[64] The memorandum asserted the impeachment was illegitimate and the president should be immediately acquitted because he was not accused of violating any specific law and that abuse of power is not in itself an impeachable offense. This reasoning has been roundly rejected by legal scholars,[65] and contradicts a 2018 statement by Trump's attorney general Bill Barr, who before taking office wrote a memo to Trump's Justice Department and legal team advising that abuse of power is an impeachable offense.[66] As a Trump legal team member, prominent constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz also argued that proof of a crime is required to impeach a president, though during the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton he asserted, "It certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty. You don't need a technical crime," adding, "We look at their acts of state. We look at how they conduct the foreign policy. We look at whether they try to subvert the Constitution." After video of his statements resurfaced in light of the Trump trial, Dershowitz retracted his earlier position.[67][68] On January 21, House trial managers released a 34-page response to the Trump attorneys trial memo, where they stated that the Trump attorneys trial memo was "heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances" but did not feature a "legitimate defense" of the president.[69] The House trial managers also argued that "any imagined defect" in the House's procedures could be addressed with the Senate admitting and receiving evidence of its own, to give Trump the "fair trial" he requested.[70]

Procedural resolution and debate[edit]

For Trump's impeachment trial, McConnell supports the procedure that if any proposed rules change should receive less than a majority of the Senate's support, it will fail. This contrasts with the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson in 1868, when a majority of senators agreed that ties of votes regarding procedural challenges could be broken by the presiding officer.[71]

On January 20, McConnell presented a resolution providing procedures for the trial, subject to approval by a simple majority vote. The resolution provided the White House counsel and House impeachment managers 24 hours each over two days to make opening statements, beginning at 1:00 p.m. each day. The next day, the resolution was amended to extend opening statements to three days.[72] Opening statements will be followed by 16 hours of questions and answers, followed by four hours of debate and a vote on whether to consider witnesses or new information. Minority leader Schumer criticized the resolution as a "national disgrace" because it did not automatically include evidence from the House inquiry and rushed the trial, while the White House was pleased with the proposal. The next day, McConnell amended his resolution to automatically include the House inquiry evidence unless a simple majority vote prohibited it.[73] The White House and its Senate allies were confident they could garner the simple majority needed to prevent calling witnesses, though they worked on a fallback plan if former national security advisor John Bolton was compelled to testify by asserting national security concerns to move his testimony to a closed-door session.[74] Some conservatives floated a proposal to permit Bolton's testimony in exchange for requiring Hunter Biden to testify, which Democrats rejected.[75] Biden had been the subject of baseless conspiracy theories related to his business activities in Ukraine.[76]

On January 21, Schumer and the House managers introduced 11 amendments to McConnell's resolution, which sought to subpoena testimony from current and former White House officials (Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey) and also subpoena White House, State Department, and Office of Management and Budget documents.[77] The White House and the State Department previously refused to pass such documents to House investigators.[78] All 11 amendments were tabled.[79] With the exception of a single amendment to extend the amount of time permitted to file motions, which was supported by Republican senator Susan Collins, the amendments were defeated along party lines with a vote of 53 to 47.[80]

Also on January 21, Sekulow drew a parallel between Trump withholding aid to Ukraine and President Obama withholding aid to Egypt in 2013. In the latter case, Egypt had just experienced a military coup d'etat, which under US law required aid to be withheld.[81]

On January 22, Trump gave public comments on his impeachment trial. He stated: "I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material." The White House denied Trump was referring to documents that had been withheld from House impeachment investigators and sought by the Democratic trial managers.[82] The following day, Sekulow told reporters, "the White House will use, and we will use, appropriate documents that will be admissible to what this record is."[83]

During statements in the Senate chamber regarding trial procedures, Trump attorneys Cipollone and Sekulow made significant false statements that had previously been asserted by Trump supporters but debunked. Cipollone asserted that Republican House members were not allowed to participate in closed-door hearings, when in fact all Republicans who were members of the three investigating committees were entitled to attend the hearings, and many did and questioned witnesses. Cipollone also accused Schiff of manufacturing a "fake" transcript of Trump's comments during the Trump–Zelensky phone call, but Schiff had stated in advance that he was paraphrasing Trump's words. Cipollone also misrepresented the genesis of the president's impeachment, falsely asserting that Schiff proceeded with his investigation despite knowing his allegations were false. Sekulow asserted that Trump was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, examine the evidence, or have an attorney present during Judiciary Committee proceedings, though the White House was invited to exercise those rights, but declined, as the president had refused to cooperate in any way with the inquiry. Sekulow also falsely asserted that the Mueller Report concluded that Trump did not engage in obstruction of justice.[84][85]

Opening statements[edit]

Prosecution[edit]

Opening statements began on January 22. During his initial statements, Schiff referenced a quid pro quo in Trump's actions. Outside the Senate chamber, Sekulow told reporters that the articles of impeachment do not mention any quid pro quo, though Article I states that Trump had "conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested," without using the expression quid pro quo.[86][87]

On day one, Democrats presented evidence from House impeachment inquiry testimony, the Trump–Zelensky phone call and Trump's statements. Adam Schiff started by asserting that President Trump needs to be removed from office because he has shown he is ready and willing to cheat in the 2020 elections. "The president's misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box because we cannot be assured the vote will be fairly won," Schiff told the Senate. Jerry Nadler and Sylvia Garcia discussed Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani's efforts to smear and get rid of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Jason Crow and Hakeem Jeffries explained the significance of the Trump–Zelensky phone call. Schiff and Zoe Lofgren detailed how the scheme was exposed to the public. Lofgren mentioned that Pentagon officials wrote to the Office of Management and Budget warning that freezing aid to Ukraine might be illegal. Schiff concluded by pointing to the courage of administration officials who risked their careers in testifying and called upon Senators to show equal courage.[88][89]

Early during Rep. Jeffries's presentation, a protester interrupted, reportedly yelling about Jesus. Chief Justice Roberts had the protester removed and quickly restored order.[89] During the proceedings, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was caught working a crossword puzzle. After the session, Justice Roberts allowed a page of supplementary evidence from Vice President Mike Pence to be admitted into the record.[88] Just before adjournment, the Senate gave a standing ovation to the teenage pages who serve as messengers. An estimated 11 million viewers tuned in to watch the proceedings. A Pew Research Center poll shows that 51% of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office and 70% believe he has done unethical things.[90]

On day two, House managers presented arguments to assert the evidence warranted Trump's removal from office. Jerry Nadler argued that abuse, betrayal, and corruption, or the "ABCs" of impeachment make a strong case for removal. He played videos from the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton showing statements by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and lawyer Alan Dershowitz arguing that impeachment does not necessitate the breaking of a law; Graham absented himself during the showing of the video. They also played videos of Fiona Hill and FBI director Chris Wray to debunk the notion that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election. Sylvia Garcia and Adam Schiff argued several points to highlight why Trump's activities were inappropriate, including that he was not looking for an actual investigation but only an announcement of one, that the investigations were not official foreign policy and were carried out through unofficial channels, and that the White House first tried to bury the call. They pointed out that Trump himself told us he was looking for an investigation into the Bidens. They also pointed out that Vice President Biden pushed out Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin because he was not fighting corruption in Ukraine, and his ouster was backed by international organizations. Schiff concluded by arguing that Trump cannot be counted on to stand up to the Russians if they interfere in the 2020 presidential election.[91][92]

Despite strict rules of silence during the trial, Senator Graham chuckled through the presentation about Biden and he whispered to Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and John Cornyn (R-TX). At the end of the day, Susan Collins sent a note to Chief Justice Roberts complaining about Nadler's remarks that senators would be complicit in a coverup if they did not allow testimony from additional witness.[91] Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) played with toys while Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) read a book during the session.[92]

On their final day, Democrats discussed how they expected the Trump defense might respond and asked the Senate to call witnesses. Jerry Nadler called Trump a dictator and said, "The president has declared himself above the law. He has done so because he is guilty." He contrasted Trump's complete stonewalling of any witness or documents with the cooperation other presidents have offered during investigations, including Ronald Reagan during the Iran–Contra affair. Schiff rebuffed Republican arguments that House Democrats should have subpoenaed witness by pointing out that the process would probably have dragged out in the courts for months.[91][93] Schiff concluded, "Give America a fair trial. She's worth it."[94]

Some Republicans remarked that the Democrats' presentations were repetitive, though Democratic senator Tim Kaine indicated this was intentional as many senators and the public had not closely followed the impeachment inquiry. Republican senator John Kennedy acknowledged, "Senators didn't know the case. They really didn't. We didn't stay glued to the television. We haven't read the transcripts."[95] Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said, "I have to say this: Schiff is very, very effective."[96] In his closing remarks, Schiff said of the Trump defense team, "If they couldn't get Ukraine to smear the Bidens, they want to use this trial to do it instead."[97] ABC News revealed a video from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas which seems to show President Trump calling for the ouster of Ambassador Yovanovitch; Trump has denied on several occasions knowing Parnas.[93]

Defense[edit]

As Trump's defense team prepared to begin their statements the next day, Sekulow told reporters that during their statements Democrats had "kicked the door down" on Burisma and the Bidens, and that his team planned to respond.[98] The Washington Post reported that the Trump team planned a scorched-earth defense by targeting the Bidens in an effort to both sway senators in the trial and undercut Trump's political opponent.[99] Lindsey Graham stated his opposition to subpoenaing either Biden even if other witnesses are called, because he does not want the trial to interfere with the 2020 presidential election;[e] but stated his support of a separate investigation.[101]

The Trump defense team began its statements on January 25. The primary arguments were a lack of direct evidence of wrongdoing, and that Democrats were attempting to use the impeachment to steal the 2020 election.[102][e] Sekulow cited the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election, suggesting that this gave Trump a basis to investigate corruption in Ukraine.[103][f] Deputy White House counsel Michael Purpura presented video from the impeachment inquiry of three envoys to Ukraine testifying that the first time they had become aware Ukraine had expressed concern about the aid being withheld was in August 2019, suggesting that Ukraine was unaware of the hold at the time of the Trump–Zelensky phone call. Purpura did not present the testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, who testified that her office received emails about the hold from Ukrainian officials on July 25, the day of the call.[102] Despite White House resistance to witness testimony during the impeachment inquiry and trial, deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin stated, "cross-examination in our legal system is regarded as the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth."[106]

On January 26, The New York Times reported that Bolton had written in a draft of his forthcoming book that the president told him in August 2019 that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in aid to Ukraine until officials there pursued investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.[15] Trump denied Bolton's claim.[16] The House impeachment managers subsequently called for the Senate to call Bolton as a witness.[107] Despite stating in December 2019 that he was working in "total coordination" with the White House for the trial, McConnell evidently had no knowledge of the book contents prior to the Times story, though White House aides have reportedly had the manuscript since late December.[108][109] After the Times story was published, Trump falsely asserted that House impeachment investigators had never called Bolton to testify.[110]

The following day, Pam Bondi dedicated most of her time discussing the motive behind President Donald Trump's actions, which was a conspiracy theory involving the Bidens and Burisma, saying, "We would prefer not to be talking about this. But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it." She repeated allegations that Joe Biden had sought the removal of Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who was ostensibly investigating the firm that employed Hunter Biden, though this action was in agreement with the foreign policy of the United States and other Western governments towards Ukraine at the time.[111][g] Meanwhile, Bondi herself had been tied to indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas by Parnas and his lawyer. In the newly leaked audiotape of his April 2018 dinner with Trump, Parnas mentioned with regard to his illegal financial support for Florida Republican politicians like Rick Scott that he had just had lunch with Bondi, who was Florida's Attorney General at the time. Photos were released of two meetings between Parnas and Bondi.[112][113]

Trump attorney Jane Raskin followed Bondi and told senators, "In this trial... Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player, that shiny object designed to distract you," though several impeachment inquiry witnesses testified that Trump had instructed them to coordinate their activities through Giuliani,[114] who was mentioned by name multiple times in the Trump–Zelensky phone call.[115] Giuliani had also sent Zelensky a letter on behalf of Trump as a private citizen requesting a meeting with the newly elected Ukrainian president in May 2019.[116] Trump counsel Eric Herschmann asked why Hunter Biden was hired and paid so much by Burisma despite having no experience in the energy sector or Ukraine, then played a video of him explaining that he was employed to head the corporate governance and transparency committee on the Burisma board.[117] Trump's team asserted that President Obama had abused his power with Russia, with Herschmann characterizing a 2012 "hot mic" incident between Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev[118] as a quid pro quo, rhetorically asking, "Where were the House managers then?" though Republicans controlled the House from 2011 through 2018.[119] He also played a video from a 2012 presidential debate in which Obama mocked his opponent Mitt Romney for stating that Russia was America's top geopolitical opponent.[120]

On January 28, the final day of the Trump team's opening statements, Pat Philbin argued that no one could get into the president's mind and decide what is or is not an "illicit motive". Philbin went on to say that the president is not beholden to what his subordinates say or think.[121] Sekulow stated the trial was "not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts," characterizing the reported assertions in Bolton's book as inadmissible. Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Lindsay Graham proposed that Bolton's book should be reviewed in a classified setting; some argue that this would be illegal.[122] Schumer immediately shot the idea down.[123] Sekulow stated the trial was "not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts," characterizing the reported assertion in Bolton's book as "inadmissible." Schiff later remarked, “I don’t think quite frankly that we could have made as effective a case for John Bolton’s testimony as the president’s own lawyers."[124][125] The same day, The Wall Street Journal reported that McConnell had privately told colleagues that he did not have the votes to block a subpoena for witnesses.[126]

Possible outcomes[edit]

Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution, a two-thirds majority of the Senate (in this case, 67 if all members are present) is required to convict the president. The possible penalties for conviction are the removal from office and disqualification from holding office in the future, but the Senate would likely conduct separate votes for these. This means that Trump could be removed from office and still be able to continue running for re-election in the 2020 presidential race, or that he could remain in office, but be barred from holding office in the future.[48][127][102]

At least 20 Republican senators would need to vote with all Democratic Senators to convict Trump for either outcome to take place.[128] If Trump is removed from office, current vice president Mike Pence would become President in accordance with the 25th Amendment.[129]

Public opinion[edit]

Americans remain sharply divided on whether Trump should be removed from office, with Democrats largely supporting removal, Republicans largely opposing, and independents divided.[130] A CNN poll conducted on January 16–19, 2020, the first major one after the impeachment trial began, found that 51% of people – 89% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans – supported Trump's removal from office, compared to 45% who opposed the idea. The poll also found that 69% support calling new witnesses during the trial. Of the respondents, 32% of those sampled were Democrats, and 26% were Republicans.[131] A January 17–22 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that about 72% of Americans believe the trial "should allow witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the impeachment charges to testify," including 69% of Republicans.[132]

A Quinnipiac University poll released on January 28 shows that 75% of those polled support calling witnesses; 49% of Republicans, 95% of Democrats, and 75% of independents. On the issue of removing Trump from office, 48% say no and 47% say yes. 89% of the respondents said they are firm in their opinions.[133]

Political reactions[edit]

During the trial on January 24, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) tweeted her disdain for National Security Advisor Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, questioning his patriotism.[134]

On January 27, former Vice President Joe Biden pushed for witnesses but said he would not testify because he had nothing to defend.[135] The following day, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) said that she believed the trial would hurt former Vice President Joe Biden in the Iowa caucuses on February 3. A Biden spokesperson replied, "Senator Ernst just said the quiet part out loud: Republicans are terrified that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, defeat Donald Trump, and help progressives gain seats in the House and take the Senate."[136]

Steve Benen, who writes for The Rachel Maddow Show reported on January 28 that former Trump White House chief of staff General John F. Kelly responded to Trump's downplaying of Bolton's book by saying, "If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton." Benen notes that Kelly attributes Bolton with honesty, integrity, and character, but fails to apply the same terms to the president.[137] Benen also quoted Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) as rejecting witnesses, saying that he did not want to "stretch this out with no change in outcome".[138]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ One of Mulvaney's top aides until being promoted by Trump on December 23 to a special representative for global telecommunications policy.[11]
  2. ^ The former national security advisor did not attend his scheduled House deposition on November 7, 2019, and threatened to take legal action if he was subpoenaed. According to a House Intelligence Committee official, this is evidence of the president's obstruction of Congress.[12] On January 6, 2020, Bolton said that he would be willing to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed.[13] However, Trump has said that he would invoke executive privilege to keep him from testifying.[14]
  3. ^ On January 26, The New York Times reported that Bolton had written in a draft of his forthcoming book that the president told him in August 2019 that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in aid to Ukraine until officials there pursued investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.[15] Trump denied Bolton's claim.[16]
  4. ^ Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe did not take the oath due to a family emergency.[38]
  5. ^ a b Trump has argued that the impeachment's timing was designed to hurt Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign by forcing him to focus on the trial.[100]
  6. ^ The United States intelligence community, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FBI have not found evidence that Ukraine interfered in the election.[104][105]
  7. ^ Bondi did not mention that both Western governments and non-governmental organizations had sought Shokin's removal because they believed that he was corrupt and that the Burisma investigation had gone dormant under him.[111]

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External links[edit]