US President Donald Trump sets a presidential record for activity on Twitter as impeachment trial continues.
In six days of presentations, the president’s defence team and Democratic legislators from the House of Representatives will attempt to convince senators to join their side to either acquit or convict Trump.
Democratic House managers on Wednesday began arguing their case first, detailing in eight hours of proceedings the timeline of Trump’s politically motivated pressure campaign on Ukraine. The managers have a total of 24 hours over three days to make their arguments, before Trump’s defence team will be given the same amount of time to make their case.
The trial began in earnest on Tuesday with a 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, while 11 amendments proposed by Democrats were voted down.
Here are all the latest updates as of Thursday, January 23:
Pressing their case for a second day, Democrats said there was no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden did anything improper in dealings with Ukraine. Rebutting a central Trump claim, Democrats said the president sought a political investigation of Biden by Ukraine to sway the 2020 election in his favour.
“There was no basis for the investigation the president was pursuing and pushing. None. He was doing it only for his own political benefit,” said Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas, a Democratic prosecutor.
Similarly, Democrats said Trump and his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pushed a bogus, Kremlin-pushed conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 US election.
“Trump put himself first,” ahead of US policy and the national interest, said Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and lead Democratic prosecutor.
Senators bring toys
As senators sat through endless hours of arguments on impeachment, they found a new outlet to focus their attention: fidget spinners.
Republican Senator Richard Burr, handed out the toys to his colleagues before Thursday’s trial proceedings began.
Burr was seen playing with a blue spinner while listening to arguments by House manager Jerrold Nadler. Other senators, including Republicans Tom Cotton and Pat Toomey, were also seen with spinners on their desks.
Silence in the chamber, but not outside
While senators are pledged to silence during the trial proceedings – and deprived of their phones and other electronics – they are speaking out during breaks in the action.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Trump defender, challenged the Democratic argument about the Bidens’s dealings in Ukraine. The White House and some congressional Republicans have raised questions about Hunter Biden’s lucrative job on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, and Joe Biden’s successful efforts to force the firing of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.
“I know a lot about the Trump family and their dealings in Russia,” Graham said. “I don’t know anything about the Biden connection. You’re going to hear more about that.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, rebutted Republican senators who lamented they heard nothing new from House prosecutors. Republicans voted nine times this week to block Democratic amendments for new witnesses and documents.
“If they want new stuff, there is plenty of it,” Schumer said at a news conference before Thursday’s session. “As the (Democratic) managers made clear, a lot of the documents are sitting there, all compiled, all ready to go, with simply a vote of four Republicans to subpoena them.”
What’s still ahead?
Democrats are expected to wrap up their arguments on Friday with Trump’s legal team set to make its case for up to three days beginning on Saturday.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, deflected rumours that the defence may wrap up in a single day.
“We’re going to use a sufficient amount of time to defend our case and point out the inconsistencies of their case. We’re not going to run out the clock,” he said. “I am confident that whether it is (completed) Saturday or Monday or Tuesday that the case will be made defending the president. I have no doubt.”
In a moment that drew rare chuckles on Thursday, at least on the Democratic side of the chamber, Representative Adam Schiff recalled how Putin in November had said he was relieved that Ukraine, instead of Russia, was now being accused of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
“‘Thank God,’ Putin said, ‘Thank God nobody is accusing us any more of interfering in US elections, now they’re accusing Ukraine,'” Schiff said.
“‘Thank God,’ Putin says,” Schiff continued. “Well, you gotta give Donald Trump credit for this, he has made a religious man out of Vladimir Putin.”
There was plenty of laughter among Democratic senators at this, but it was not shared on the Republican side of the Senate.
The 100 US senators who will decide whether to remove Trump from office at the end of his impeachment trial, managed to stay seated and listen to the Democratic case against him for about 20 minutes on Thursday, Reuters noted.
Beginning at 1:20pm, legislators began heading off slowly to the Republican and Democratic cloakrooms at the back of the Senate chamber, where they can make calls and check their smartphones for emails and text messages.
They began wandering off shortly after Schiff, thanked them for their attention through about 20 hours of proceedings over the first two days.
“I’m not sure the chief justice is fully aware of just how rare it is, how extraordinary it is, for the House members to be able to command the attention of senators sitting silently for hours, or even for minutes, for that matter,” Schiff said, alluding to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the hearings.
“Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the morning starts out every day with the sergeant at arms warning you that, if you don’t, you will be imprisoned.”
On Thursday afternoon, as Democrats pressed their case for removing Trump from office, the president seemed more focused on his 2020 elections prospects, than the trial, unleashing a slew of tweets slamming his election opponents.
As his fellow Republicans showed no signs of turning against him, Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the 100-member Senate, which has 53 Republican members. A two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office
“Crazy Bernie takes the lead in the Democrat Primaries, but it is looking more and more like the Dems will never allow him to win! Will Sleepy Joe be able to stumble across the finish line?” he wrote in one tweet.
Minutes earlier, he tweeted a Florida presidential poll which showed him ahead against all Democratic candidates by small margins.
Crazy Bernie takes the lead in the Democrat Primaries, but it is looking more and more like the Dems will never allow him to win! Will Sleepy Joe be able to stumble across the finish line?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
In a rare moment of levity, House manager Sylvia Garcia drew some involuntary laughter from Republicans when she played a video clip of a former White House aide busting on Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Tom Bossert, a former Homeland Security Advisor to Trump had said in a television interview in September that Giuliani’s allegations about Joe Biden in Ukraine were “completely debunked” conspiracy theories.
“There are three ways to impeach one’s self. And the third way was to hire Rudy Giuliani,” Bossert cracked in the Senate clip.
With a back row of Republicans chuckling, that drew a smirk even from the usually stone-faced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senator Marsha Blackburn was seen reading a book during the House managers’ presentation of the impeachment case against Trump on Thursday.
When called out for it on Twitter, she said the reading material, Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters are Breaking America by Kimberley Strassel, offered “good insights into today’s proceedings”.
She added that “busy mamas are the best multi-tasking”.
First – I'm reading Resistance (At All Costs) by Kim Strassel. Read the chapter on obstruction. It provides good insights into today’s proceedings.
Second – busy mamas are the best at multi-tasking. Try it. https://t.co/AEHW19ZztL
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) January 23, 2020
Trump is set to address his party’s leadership on Thursday to rally their support amid impeachment and a trying re-election fight.
The 168-member Republican National Committee (RNC) is holding its winter meeting at Trump’s golf resort outside Miami.
The Republican governing body last year pledged its “undivided support” for Trump.
In an extraordinary move in October, as Democrats moved forward with the impeachment probe, the RNC said it “now more than ever wholeheartedly supports President Trump.”
With some Republican senators complaining of boredom during the lengthy presentations by Democrat House managers, Senator Richard Burr handed out fidget spinners to a few colleagues at the Republican’s caucus lunch.
Inside the Senate chamber on Thursday, he was seen openly twirling a light blue spinner in his hands for half an hour as House manager Jerry Nadler expounded on the constitutional legal basis for Trump’s impeachment.
Sitting next to Burr, Senator Tom Cotton fidgeted with a spinner, letting it twirl on his wooden Senate desk like a child’s top.
“I’m hoping our side will simplify it more and not go into as laborious and complicated arguments,” said Senator Mike Braun.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed optimism that some Republicans would change their mind during the House managers presentation.
“This is an amazing process … I think this is the first time that many Republican senators are hearing the whole case laid out,” Schumer said.
“What happens in that room will hopefully have a little bit of magic,” he said.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, speaking to reporters during a recess in Thursday’s proceedings, said he was “more hopeful than ever” that four Republicans would vote to allow witnesses.
“If we want a fair trial … the best way to go is the four witnesses we’ve asked for and the four sets of documents,” Schumer said. “I am more helpful than every that four … Republicans will come forward and tell McConnell you can’t shut this down without witnesses, you can’t shut this down without documents.”
Here are the Senators to watch in the trial.
A lawyer on Trump’s defence team, Jay Sekulow, said they would not necessarily use the entire time allotted when their turn comes to present their arguments.
“We’re going to use a sufficient amount of time,” Sekulow said.
“We’re not going to try to run the time out. We’re going to do what our legal team thinks is appropriate amount of time,” he said.
The lawyer added that he had seen “nothing that has changed” in the case presented by the House managers.
Legal experts told the Associated Press news agency that a claim of executive privilege from Trump to block former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s testimony would be weak.
Bolton’s testimony is “clearly critical to issues before the Senate, and that outweighs any privilege that applies,” Michael Stern, a former lawyer for the House when the chamber was controlled by Republicans told the news agency.
Mark Rozell, a constitutional scholar who wrote a book about executive privilege, said he believes Bolton could be questioned without revealing sensitive national security information.
“To me, it looks like the president is just trying to protect himself,” Rozell, dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government in Virginia, told the news agency.
Bolton has said he would testify if subpoenaed and Democrats are pushing to be allowed to do so in the Senate trial.
Schumer, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said there are no bipartisan deals in the making for witnesses, document or any new evidence.
“No Republicans are talking to us about deals,” he said.
Senators will debate whether they will be able to subpoena more witnesses or evidence after House managers present their case and Trump’s legal team presents the defence.
Representative Garcia took to the Senate floor to outline the first article of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power.
Garcia is one of seven House managers who are presenting the case for impeachment.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler argued that a crime is not necessary to impeach a president, citing statements by Attorney General Bill Barr and member of Trump’s defence team, Alan Dershowitz.
In a 1998 video of Dershowitz, played by Nadler on the Senate floor, the lawyer argued: “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 poses great danger to our liberty. You don’t need a technical crime”.
Dershowitz has said that is no longer his view.
Nadler also referenced a 2018 memo by Barr, in which he wrote that, while a president cannot be indicted or criminally investigated, Congress could impeach presidents who abused their power.
Trump took to Twitter as the fourth day of the Senate impeachment trial against him began.
Trump said a so-called witness trade “would be a big problem” for Democrats, referencing speculation that Democrats could strike a deal with Republicans to call some witnesses.
The Democrats don’t want a Witness Trade because Shifty Schiff, the Biden’s, the fake Whistleblower(& his lawyer), the second Whistleblower (who vanished after I released the Transcripts), the so-called “informer”, & many other Democrat disasters, would be a BIG problem for them!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
Some Republicans have called for Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, as well as the whistle-blower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry, to testify. Meanwhile, Democrats want to hear from former National Security Advisor John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
On Wednesday, Schumer said a witness swap involving Hunter Biden was “off the table”.
Nadler is arguing the impeachment case against Trump hoping to win over Republican Senators and the American public by laying out the constitutional grounds for removing the president from office.
“The articles are overwhelmingly supported by the evidence amassed by the house,” Nadler told the Senate, “notwithstanding the president’s complete stonewalling.”
The House managers are arguing two articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said a classified document related to Vice President Mike Pence’s September 18 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy should be made part of the public record.
“Hiding evidence of wrongdoing through bogus classification is unacceptable,” he tweeted.
Just left the secure room having read the classified document regarding VP Pence’s Sept 18 call w Zelensky.
1. Nothing in it is classified. It should be made part of the public record immediately.
2. Hiding evidence of wrongdoing through bogus classification is unacceptable.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 23, 2020
Murphy said he had viewed the document in the secured room of the chamber.
Nadler has begun the second day of arguments laying out the impeachment case against Trump.
The House managers are expected to lay out the constitutional grounds for removing Trump from office.
Despite strict rules meant to keep Senators attention on the proceedings, at least one legislator was seen taking what appeared to be a nap during Wednesday’s arguments by House managers.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia could be seen at his desk in the back row, leaning on his right arm with a hand covering his eyes. He stayed that way for around 20 minutes, then shifted to rest his chin in the same hand, eyes closed, for about five more minutes, the Associated Press reported.
Impeachment trial Senate floor rules include no coffee or snacking on the floor, no pacing, note-passing, working on other matters or talking. But during two days of lengthy proceedings so far, Senators have appeared increasingly restless and less concerned about the rules.
At least 17 people have died from a new coronavirus in China following an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, and more than 550 cases have been reported globally – leading the World Health Organisation to weigh declaring a global health emergency.
Read more about the outbreak here.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that Myanmar had “caused irreparable damage to the rights of the Rohingya” and ordered the country to take emergency measures to prevent genocide of the minority Muslim group.
Read more about the ruling here.
President Donald Trump’s administration on Thursday published new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism”. Applicants will be denied tourist visas if they are determined by consular officers to be coming to the US primarily to give birth, according to the rules published in the Federal Register.
Read more about the rule here.
Schumer struck an optimistic tone on Thursday, shortly before Democrat House managers are set to begin their second day of arguments for the impeachment of Trump.
“It may have been the first time that many of my Republican colleagues heard the full story, the complete narrative from start to finish, uninterrupted,” Schumer told reports at a press conference.
“It may have planted the first seed in their minds that, yes, perhaps the president did something very wrong here,” he added.
Trump began the fourth day of the impeachment trial against him by tweeting and retweeting at least eight times deriding the process and Democrats involved.
“The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for? They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!” he wrote in one tweet.
The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for? They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
In another tweet, he referenced a letter signed by 21 Republican state attorney generals, reported by local media, calling for the articles of impeachment to be rejected by senators.
On Wednesday, Trump broke his record for most tweets or retweets in a single day while in office, according to Factba.se, a service that compiles and analyses data on Trump’s presidency.
The House of Representatives appointed seven Democrats to make their case against Trump, which they began on Tuesday. They will have 24 hours over three days to lay it all out.
Read more about them here.
Democrats have been vocal about wanting more witnesses and documents for the Senate trial. During his opening arguments, lead House manager Adam Schiff referenced the new evidence that has emerged since Trump was impeached in December.
That evidence includes:
Read more about the new evidence here.
Here is a breakdown of how the trial will work based on the resolution passed early on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, technically the second day of the trial but the first full day of proceedings, the Senate voted along partisan lines to approve Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rules resolution after nearly 12 hours of debate.
Meanwhile, 11 amendments introduced by Democrats were blocked.
Read more about what happened here.
On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the lead House manager in the trial, began the presentation of the case against Trump by laying out the timeline of his alleged pressure campaign on Ukraine.
Read more about Wednesday’s proceedings here.