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Trump Impeachment Trial: Live Coverage From the Senate
The Democrats made a strategic decision to focus on the Bidens during their presentation. But one of President Trump’s lawyers thinks that is a mistake. Here are highlights from Day 2 of the opening arguments.
From half a world away, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is keeping a tight grip on the impeachment trial. Mr. Trump is scheduled to take a day trip to Florida to give private remarks to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting. He posted on Twitter about a “witness trade” as the arguments began.
The presentations at the Senate impeachment trial on Thursday have been some of the most dense yet, starting with a historical lecture about the constitutional roots of impeachment and later delving deeply into the details of President Trump’s actions.
But that hasn’t kept the public away.
The public galleries in the Senate were as full as they have been all week, with almost 200 people listening quietly as the House managers presented their case. The galleries no doubt included some Senate staff members and others who were assigned to be there. But there appeared to be plenty of regular attendees, too — people just eager to watch a bit of history unfold.
“Common sense will tell us that this allegation against Joe Biden is false,” Ms. Garcia told the senators.
But allies of Mr. Trump quickly pounced on the extended discussion about the Bidens to insist that the impeachment trial should include scrutiny of their actions, and potentially a move to call them as witnesses.
Mr. Trump’s Republican defenders have long argued that the president’s demand that Ukraine announce investigations into the Bidens was not improper because he was merely interested in rooting out corruption in that country.
At least one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers suggested the Democrats made a mistake in focusing on the former vice president and his son.
“They have opened the door,” said Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump and a member of his impeachment legal defense team. “It’s now relevant.”
Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri and a staunch ally of the president, made the same point in a tweet during a break after the presentation.
He declined to say whether the White House defense would request any changes to the schedule on Saturday, saying that they would do what “our legal team thinks is appropriate to present our case.”
During a break in the trial, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, applauded the House managers for “pre-empting” arguments from the president’s defense team.
Mr. Sekulow was undeterred. “I am confident that whether it is Saturday, or Monday or Tuesday that the case will be made defending the president,” he said. “I have no doubt.”
The rules of the Senate trial say the senators are supposed to be sitting in their seats throughout the presentation. In President Trump’s trial, they are treating that rule rather liberally.
At one point Thursday morning, when Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York finished his presentation, 19 seats on the Senate floor belonging to a mix of Republicans and Democrats were empty, according to Peter Baker, The New York Times’s chief White House correspondent, who was sitting in the press gallery.
Most were only vacant for a few minutes. It appeared, Mr. Baker said, that several senators were treating the end of Mr. Nadler’s presentation — which was followed immediately by one from a fellow House manager, Representative Sylvia R. Garcia of New York — as an unofficial break.
Ten minutes after the end of Mr. Nadler’s presentation, 10 seats were still empty. Five minutes after that, most of the senators had wandered back in, and only four seats were empty.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic presidential candidate, was one of the senators who left, at 1:59 p.m. She returned 15 minutes later, taking her seat again at 2:14 p.m.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had a white legal notepad in front of him as Thursday’s impeachment trial began — and he was busy doodling.
On the top page, Mr. Paul had created an extensive, and impressive, doodle of the United States Capitol. Drawn with a blue ballpoint pen, the drawing covered the entire bottom third of the paper.
At one point, Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas, a House manager, showed a video clip of George P. Kent, a State Department official, being asked whether some Republicans, like Mr. Paul, believed that what President Trump did in Ukraine was the same as what former Vice President Joseph R. Biden did when he tried to get a corrupt prosecutor fired.
Looking up from his doodle, Mr. Paul smiled and raised a fist with his index finger extended, as if to say, “Yes!” Then, when Mr. Kent answered by saying that what Mr. Biden did was very different than what Mr. Trump did, Mr. Paul lowered his arm.
And he went back to his doodle.
He concluded his presentation with a forceful assertion to the senators: “Impeachment is aimed at presidents who act as if they are above the law, at presidents who believe their own interests are more important than those of the nation, and thus at president who ignore right and wrong in pursuit of their own gain.”
“Abuse. Betrayal. Corruption,” he said. “Here are the core offenses, the framers feared most. The president’s abuse of power, his betrayal of the national interest, and his corruption of our elections plainly qualified as great and dangerous offenses.”
Drawing on legal scholars and liberally quoting historical figures, Mr. Nadler argued that the founders of the nation envisioned that impeachment would be required for presidential abuses of power like the misconduct the House alleged when it passed two articles of impeachment.
The Senate’s impeachment rules normally require the trial to meet every Monday to Saturday at 1 p.m. until a verdict is reached. That late daily start time is meant to accommodate Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who maintains a morning case schedule at the Supreme Court before presiding over the trial. But Chief Justice Roberts does not have court business on Saturdays.
The decision may also depend on the president’s lawyers, who are scheduled to begin their defense against the House charges on Saturday. If they want to move the trial along as quickly as possible, they could ask for an early start on Saturday but also that the session be allowed to run into the evening. Or they could simply shorten their arguments.
“I suspect we’ll start on Saturday, and then we’ll go, probably another day or two, but who knows,” Jay Sekulow, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers said Wednesday night. “I mean we’ve got to make that determination, with our team.”
Any change would require consent from both Democrats and Republicans.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of the impeachment managers in 1999, left the Senate chamber just minutes before House Democrats played a video of him speaking during President Bill Clinton’s trial.
In the clip, Mr. Graham gave a broad definition of a “high crime”: “It’s just when you’re using your office in a way that hurts people, you’ve committed a high crime,” he said.
One of the Republicans’ talking points is that there was no crime underlying President Trump’s conduct, therefore it was not impeachable. That argument is widely disputed.
Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, who sits next to Mr. Graham on the Senate floor, briefly patted the South Carolina Republican’s empty seat as the video began to play.
Mr. Pence, who is visiting Jerusalem, said at Mr. Netanyahu’s request he had also invited Benny Gantz, an opposition leader in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu said he would “gladly accept.”
It is another instance of the administration moving forward with legislative and diplomatic work while the impeachment trial is going on in the Senate.
On Wednesday, Republican senators held a ceremonial event to formally send Mr. Trump’s revised North American trade pact to his desk for his signature.
Just as Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, a House manager, started his presentation about “high crimes and misdemeanors,” President Trump started tweeting, accusing Democrats of not wanting to agree to a trade in which the Senate would subpoena several administration officials in exchange for people Mr. Trump’s allies have said they want. Two people Republicans have sought to interview are Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president, and the anonymous whistle-blower who first expressed concerns about Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
Democrats have urged the Senate to subpoena John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and two other administration officials. But they have said they will not consider a deal that would include what they call irrelevant witnesses like Mr. Biden.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the House impeachment managers have 16 hours and 42 minutes remaining to make their case.
A Democratic official working on the inquiry said that the seven managers planned to spend the day going through the firrst article of impeachment, abuse of power, and applying the law and the Constitution to their case. On Friday, the lawmakers plan to do the same with the second article of impeachment.
Moments before the Senate convened, pages could be seen placing packets of paper on desks across the chamber. Senators, ahead of the trial, dropped off binders and bags before stealing a final moment off the chamber floor.
Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, Democrat of Pennsylvania and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, could be seen on the Senate floor, observing the proceedings.
Senators must sit quietly to listen to the arguments; even during the 16 hours they will have devoted to their questions, those questions will be submitted in writing.
The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, again promised on Thursday to release more evidence of the widely debunked conspiracy theory implicating one of the president’s top political rivals, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in wrongdoing.
Mr. Biden is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the narrative Mr. Giuliani has been promoting is at the center of the impeachment charges against Mr. Trump.
While he’s not on Mr. Trump’s defense team for the Senate trial, Mr. Giuliani is deeply entwined in the pressure campaign on Ukraine that led to the president’s impeachment. And he is among the witnesses who refused to testify during House impeachment inquiry. Mr. Giuliani has said that his work in Ukraine had Mr. Trump’s support.
For the first time since the Senate began hearing arguments against him, President Trump is back in Washington and on Twitter. He tweeted a number of criticisms toward Democrats and their arguments, rehashing favorite insults against his opponents and quoting Fox News personalities.
After returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday evening, the president is scheduled to travel to Florida on Thursday afternoon just as House managers will begin their second day of arguments.
It is not clear how much of the trial the president has watched live.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead impeachment manager, told senators that they would spend Thursday “go through the law, the Constitution and the facts as they apply to article one” of impeachment.
“We’ve introduced the case, we’ve gone through the chronology and tomorrow we will apply the facts to the law as it pertains to the president’s abuse of power,” Mr. Schiff said as he concluded Wednesday’s arguments.
The impeachment managers have until Friday evening to use their remaining hours of argument time to present before a rancorous Senate. Lawmakers, despite rules threatening imprisonment for talking, have grown increasingly restless while cooped up in the chamber — and few minds appear to be changed.
On Wednesday, the seven lawmakers tasked with presenting the case for Mr. Trump’s conviction took turns outlining the charges that the president attempted to pressure Ukraine for assistance in his re-election campaign by withholding critical military assistance and a White House visit for the country’s leader.
Several Senate Republicans emerged late Wednesday to inform reporters that they had not learned anything new after hours of presentation from the House.