US President Donald Trump’s impeachment defence team gave their final of three days of arguments on Tuesday, which came after three days of presentations by the Democrats making the case to impeach the president.
On Monday, Trump’s defence team gave the first full day of arguments, offering only a “preview” on Saturday, in apparent response to the ratings-minded president’s desire to avoid lacklustre weekend television ratings. Tuesday’s arguments were also relatively brief, leaving a large portion of the allotted 24 hours unused.
Trump’s lawyers have framed the impeachment as an attempt to undermine US democracy, arguing there was no basis to remove the president from office. They also spent a good deal of time on Monday focusing on what they characterised as an apparent conflict of interest of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, being given a place on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while the then vice president was tasked with fighting corruption in the country.
Up next in the trial will be a 16-hour period, eight hours on Wednesday and Thursday, for senators to submit question to both teams. After that, the trial will move into the debate over whether more evidence – including subpoenaing witnesses and documents – will be permitted.
As Trump’s defence team prepares to finish making its case, here are all the latest updates as of Tuesday, January 28:
The president’s defence team wrapped up opening arguments early amid indications of flux among Republican and Democratic senators over whether to call witnesses – a crucial decision that would extend the trial and pose political risks to both sides.
Sitting in the back of the Senate chamber after the trial adjourned for the day, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema listened at length to Republican Lamar Alexander explain his views on the trial so far. Both are potential swing votes.
“Thank you. I appreciate that,” Sinema said as they parted. “I like it, I like it,” Alexander said nodding affirmatively about their conversation.
Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin were seen talking with Republican whip John Thune. Republican Senator Roy Blunt crossed the aisle to talk to Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen.
Lawyers for the House managers approached the president’s defence team to shake hands and appeared to engage in cordial conversation.
The trial will now shift gears as senators prepare to pose written questions to the House managers and the president’s team for the next two days. Key votes on whether to call witnesses are expected Friday.
House managers who presented the case against President Donald Trump addressed the president’s defence after arguments concluded on Tuesday.
Lead House manager Adam Schiff said that the defence team strengthened the case for former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify, adding Republicans were still “reeling” from the reported revelations in the draft of Bolton’s book.
Schiff added that it was “extraordinary” that former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly said he believed Bolton’s account and “by implication does not believe the president of the United States, that he worked closely with for such a long time”.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate Democrats plan to use the question period to “give the House managers time to rebut all of the holes in the defence’s arguments”.
Lead House manager Adam Schiff said President Donald Trump’s defence team did not defend the president based on facts, that their argument has evolved to “he did it, so what?”, and that Trump’s lawyers strengthened the Democrats’ case on calling former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify.
Here are my takeaways:
Trump’s lawyers cannot, and did not, defend him on the facts.
Their defense has evolved to this: he did it, so what?
His lawyers strengthened our case that the Senate must hear from Bolton.
A fair trial requires key witnesses. Will America have one?
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 28, 2020
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the period where senators can submit questions to both the prosecution and defence will take place over the next two days.
Senators will submit their questions to Chief Justice John Roberts, who will pose them to the House managers and Trump’s defence team. They questions will alternate between Republicans and Democrats during eight-hour sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Roberts requested that responses and rebuttals are kept to five minutes.
McConnell requested that, like in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, senators are “thoughtful and brief with their questions” and the House managers and defence team were “ succinct in their answers”.
President Donald Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone ended the defence’s three days of arguments again framing the impeachment proceedings as an attempt by Democrats to overturn the election.
“What they are asking you to do is throw out an elected president with no basis,” Cipollone told senators. “It would weaken forever our Democratic institutions.”
“Why not trust the American people with this decision? Why tear up their ballots? You can’t do that. You know you can’t do that,” he said, adding senators should “respect and defend the sacred right of every American to vote and to choose their president”.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on President Donald Trump’s defence team, argued that Democrats presenting the case against the president are seeking to “lower the bar of impeachment”.
Sekulow said that, during the defence arguments “you’ve now heard from legal scholars, from a variety of schools of thought, from a variety of political backgrounds – but they do have a common theme with a dire warning: Danger, danger, danger,” Sekulow said.
“To lower the bar of impeachment based on these articles of impeachment would impact the functioning of our constitutional republic and the framework of that Constitution for generations,” he added.
President Donald Trump Defence team lawyer Jay Sekulow, in an apparent reference to reported former National Security Advisor John Bolton revelations, described impeachment as “not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts”.
Bolton’s unpublished manuscript, which had been provided to the White House National Security Council for regular review for former officials, was leaked to the New York Times. In the draft, he described that Trump had told him in August that he wanted to continue to withhold aid from Ukraine until the country agreed to help with investigations into Democrats.
Trump’s defence team have largely avoided the new information regarding Bolton in their arguments.
Trump Lawyer Patrick Philbin argued on Tuesday that Democrats definition of abuse of power is “antithetical” to the framers of the US constitution’s approach to impeachment.
“What we see in the House managers charges and their definition of abuse of power is exactly antithetical to the framers approach because their very premise for their abuse of power charge is that it is entirely based on subjective motive, not object of standards, not predefined offenses,” said Philbin.
He said under Democrats’ approach, the definition of abuse of power is “infinitely malleable”.
Retired General John Kelly, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff for a year a half, responded to reported revelations in the draft of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book.
“If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton,” said Kelly who was speaking as part of lecture series in Florida on Monday night, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Kelly, describing Bolton as an “honest guy” and a “man of integrity and great character”, said the American public should hear the whole story from witnesses.
“I mean half of Americans think this process is purely political and shouldn’t be happening but since it is happening the majority of Americans would like to hear the whole story,” Kelly said.
“So I think if there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt … I think they should be heard,” Kelly said, adding: “I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate but I wasn’t there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from.”
The president’s defence team will present the final arguments in their case.
They have 15 hours and 33 minutes left to make their case, which “will not be possible” to do before the end of Tuesday, their third allotted day under the rules resolution passed at the beginning of the trial, Chief Justice Roberts said.
Trump’s defence team lead lawyer Pat Cipollone said they do not plan to use their entire time, and will likely be done “by dinner time”.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has said his colleagues are “not negotiating” on Hunter Biden testimony.
“We have made clear that we are not negotiating,” Wyden said before the eighth day of the trial began. “I support having witnesses who are relevant to the President’s conduct and the four witnesses we have asked for are clearly relevant.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn, speaking before the eighth day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, said new information revealed in a draft book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton did not change the facts of the impeachment case.
“Based on what the New York Times reported I don’t think it sheds any new light on the facts,” said Cornyn, referring to Bolton’s manuscript, which reportedly said Trump told him he wanted to continue to withhold aid from Ukraine until the country agreed to help with investigations into political rivals.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the revelations reported in former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s unpublished book should serve as a “warning” to Republicans that more information will continue to come out.
“If you vote with the White House … the odds are strong that the truth will someday come out,” said Schumer.
He also made it clear that a witness swap involving Hunter Biden would be unlikely, referring to the former vice president’s son as a “shiny object” used by Republicans to divert attention from the allegations against the president.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said he “totally supports” a plan that would allow senators to read the manuscript of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s unpublished book.
On Monday, Republican Senator James Lankford suggested that the manuscript be provided to senators. Lankford also urged Bolton to publicly address the reports before the debate over witnesses begins.
I totally support @SenatorLankford's
proposal that the Bolton manuscript be made available to the Senate, if possible, in a classified setting where each Senator has the opportunity to review the manuscript and make their own determination. https://t.co/e18nUfSMgI
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 28, 2020
President Trump criticised Fox News, his usual go-to news source, for “loading the airwaves with Democrats” in their impeachment coverage.
In a tweet, Trump said the news network is “trying to be so politically correct by loading the airwaves with Democrats like Chris Van Hollen, the no name Senator from Maryland. He has been on forever playing up the Impeachment Hoax.”
Democratic Senator Van Hollen appeared on the network on Tuesday morning before the start of day eight of the impeachment trial.
Really pathetic how @FoxNews is trying to be so politically correct by loading the airwaves with Democrats like Chris Van Hollen, the no name Senator from Maryland. He has been on forever playing up the Impeachment Hoax. Dems wouldn’t even give Fox their low ratings debates….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2020
As debate over whether more evidence will be allowed in the impeachment trial nears, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a fair trial.
“Trump’s lawyers argued he has a right to abuse his power as much as he wants, and Congress can do nothing about it,” she tweeted. “Congress can do something: hold a fair trial.
Trump’s lawyers argued he has a right to abuse his power as much as he wants, and Congress can do nothing about it.
Trump: “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
Congress can do something: hold a fair trial.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 28, 2020
President Trump began the day by retweeting a video of his defence and a video of Republican Senator Ted Cruz saying more witnesses were not “necessary” in the trial.
The president is set to announce his Middle East “peace plan” which he has dubbed “the deal of the century” at noon (17:00 GMT).
Republican Senator Patrick Toomey, considered an influential force in the chamber, has been talking to colleagues about a possible “one-for-one” witness swap with Democrats, the Washington Post reported.
Democrats want to hear most pressingly from former National Security Adviser John Bolton, as well as White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, White House budget office official Michael Duffey and top adviser to the White House Chief of Staff Robert Blair.
Meanwhile, Republicans have called for testimony from the whistle-blower whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry and from the Bidens.
Democrats have so far shown little appetite for such a swap.
Details in a draft of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book, in which he reportedly writes that President Trump told him he wanted to continue to withhold aid from Ukraine until they agreed to help with investigations into political rivals, have changed the dynamics in the Senate trial at a key time.
The revelation starkly contrasts the Trump defence team’s argument that no witnesses interviewed in the inquiry had first-hand information of a connection between the aid and the investigations.
With debate over whether more witnesses will be allowed in the trial likely to begin soon, Senator Mitt Romney has said it is “increasingly likely” that enough of his Republican colleagues will be willing to break ranks and vote with Democrats to subpoena Bolton.
Read more about how central Bolton has become to the trial.
Trump’s defence team will begin their second of three days of arguments on Monday. Read more about the key players in the trial here.
Seven House managers presented the case against President Trump, outlining the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment against the president passed in that chamber in December.
The impeachment trial of Trump began in earnest last week, after a ceremonial start on January 16 that saw the swearing-in of Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the proceedings, and the 100 members of the Senate.
On early Wednesday morning, 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 that day here.
The Democratic House managers then presented their arguments for three days, followed by Trump’s defence arguments on Saturday and Monday.