House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, who is also the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, addressed senators on the first day of the impeachment trial. C-SPAN
House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, who is also the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, addressed senators on the first day of the impeachment trial. C-SPAN

Washington – The Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump began Tuesday with warring views of how it should proceed.

Democrats, including Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rules for conducting the trial, calling them corrupt and “rigged” to result in Trump’s acquittal before the president gives his State of the Union speech on Feb. 4.

The rules “do not allow a fair process to occur,” Murphy said.

With U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, both sides in the case debated the trial rules.

At the heart of Democratic criticisms of the rules are McConnell’s refusal to allow witnesses and documents to be presented at the trial — at least not until the very end of the proceedings.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., failed to win approval for a number of amendments that would force the consideration of new evidence in the form of documents House lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry were unable to obtain from the Trump administration.

Schumer also lost votes on amendments that would require testimony from key administration officials, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and two Office of  Management and Budget Officials, Robert Blair and Michael Duffy.

To approve any of those amendments, at least four Republicans would have had to cross a party line and vote with the Democrats.

But Republicans moved in lock-step to wield their majority in the Senate to quash every Democratic attempt to change McConnell’s rules for the the impeachment trial.

Still, with midnight approaching, Schumer said he would continue to submit amendments, brushing aside McConnell’s suggestion the amendment be “stacked” or gathered together and subject to one vote.

“We need to put Republicans on record,” Murphy said. “We may not get another chance to offer amendments to get witnesses and documents before the Senate. This may be our only chance.”

Under the majority leader’s resolution, decisions about documents and witnesses would be put off until after House managers and Trump’s lawyers make opening arguments and senators have an opportunity to ask, in writing, questions of both sides.

McConnell defended the process and said he was following the model set by former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment 21 years ago. After push back from moderate Republican senators, however, he relaxed two of his rules, agreeing to stretch the proceedings over three days instead of two and to allow House evidence to be admitted more easily into the record.

Trump lawyers says charges are bogus

The president’s legal team maintains that the two articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic-led House —  one accusing the president of abuse of power and the other of contempt of Congress — are not crimes or impeachable offenses under the U.S. Constitution.

The abuse of power charge was based on allegations that the president held up military aid to Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate or announce an investigation into Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

Democrats contend that Trump’s request for “a favor” in his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a form of extortion that jeopardized national security and misused congressionally  approved funding for a political purpose.

The contempt of Congress charge was based on the White House’s refusal to provide documents and witnesses to House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.

“Why are we here?” asked Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s defense team. “Are we here because of a phone call or because since the president was sworn into office there have been efforts to have him removed?”

Pat Cipollone, the leader of the president’s legal team, repeated an incorrect claim that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the leader of the House’s seven impeachment managers, did not allow Republicans into the closed-door impeachment depositions that were held late last year. Lawmakers of both parties attended those meetings.

Blumenthal dismissed the Trump team’s arguments.

“The Trump Team’s Constitutional concoction is legal gibberish,” Blumenthal said in a tweet. “But by the way, he did commit a crime. Bribery. It happens to be specifically named in the Constitution as an impeachable offense and is part of his corrupt abuse of power for personal gain.”

Resorting to social media

McConnell’s rules require all senators to sit at their desks for the duration of the trial, without cell phones or any other type of electronic device. But they were allowed to take written notes, and many of them have been.

For the first time in history, “in an effort to make this process as transparent as possible,”  Murphy said he will transmit his views of the historic proceedings on Twitter and Facebook .

“I want to make sure everyone in Connecticut knows what’s happening on the Senate floor,” Murphy said.

Sen. Chris Murphy took questions on Facebook before the start of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday.
Sen. Chris Murphy took questions on Facebook before the start of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday.

Just before the proceedings began, Murphy took questions about the Senate trial on Facebook.

In response to a question about how this trial compared to the Clinton impeachment trial, Murphy said they are like “apples and oranges.”

Murphy said the main difference is that Clinton cooperated, even to the point of providing his own blood, “while in this case the president is not cooperating at all.”

Murphy urged Americans to call their senators, “especially in red states” to ask them to join Democrats in voting to allow witnesses and documents at the beginning of the trial.

“We need to be jamming those phone lines,” Murphy said.

Under the changes he conceded to GOP moderates, McConnell is allowing the evidence collected by the House impeachment inquiry to be entered into the Senate record of the trial as it was during Clinton’s trial. Under the revised resolution, the evidence now will be admitted automatically unless there’s an objection, rather than be contingent on a proactive vote to admit it.

McConnell’s agreement to extend the amount of time Democrats and Republicans have to present their argument from two to three days means House Democratic managers, who will act as prosecutors in the trial, would lay out opening arguments Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while Trump’s legal team would start its opening argument Saturday.

Although moderate Republicans pressed McConnell to relax his rules, they all voted with their GOP colleagues to vote to kill Schumer’s amendments. One after another they were tabled, or rejected by votes of 53-47.

The first amendment considered by the Senate would have required subpoenaing the White House for documents relating to Trump’s decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine until that government announced an investigation of the Bidens.

“I knew it was coming, but hearing every single Republican vote against evidence was a gut punch,” Murphy tweeted.

After votes on Schumer’s amendments are completed the Senate will vote on McConnell’s resolution. Then Democratic House managers will begin their 24 hours of opening statements.

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Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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20 Comments

  1. Not sure I understand. McConnell wants no phones etc during the trial but Murphy is going to post on Soc Media – so the rules don’t apply to him?

    Also – he says there is no comparison of this trial to the Clinton impeachment but there is. I was around for the Clinton impeachment and followed it. It’s just that the tables have been reversed. During Clinton, instead of republicans calling the shots the democrats were in the Senate and eerily similar in their battles…but to Murphy that was OK i guess.

    Meanwhile – congress (House) have done nothing for the people of this country.

    1. Molly, I also followed the Clinton Impeachment and can offer the following differences: 1) The Clinton Inquiry went on for over a year with hundreds of witnesses being interviewed, from both sides. This Inquiry went on for months with less than 100 witnesses due to the fact that some GOP witnesses were not allowed to testify with others ignoring subpoenas. 2) The House members acting as prosecutors had 4 days to present their case. Now, after originally allowing 2 days to present, they have been allowed 3 days. Just 2 examples due to brevity of comments allowed. Also, how many Bills put forth by the house has McConnell let sit on his desk to die? 300? 400? Please forgive me if I call out your outright falsehood.

  2. I’d have a lot more respect for folks who would just say either:
    a) What Trump did was very wrong, but I still support him because ——-
    b) The Democrats actually have a right to think Trump violated his office, but I think ——-
    c) I support Trump even if he did shoot and murder someone on 5th Avenue
    d) I am fine with what Trump did (the Transcript) and I’d be fine if Democrat did the exact same thing
    vs all the rationalizations and justifications and just plain blanket editorial comments about Democrats are idiots

    1. I’m independent and I guess I could say the same but from a different position.

      I’d have a lot more respect for folks who would just say either:

      a) What Trump did was very wrong, but I must admit that Democrats do and have done things that are not proper either. I still support Democrats because ——-
      b) Both Democrats and Republicans have violated their offices, but I think ——-
      c) I support Biden, Clinton, and all Democrats even if they have violated their oaths, the constitution, have lied, killed and murdered to advance their own pockets
      d) I am fine with what the Media and Democrats have done for the past 3 years and I’d be fine if Republicans did the exact same thing when the next Democratic President is elected
      vs all the rationalizations and justifications and just plain blanket editorial comments that Republicans are money grubbing idiots

      1. Your a they d are all over the lot on a whole host of issues.
        Mine are about impeachment.
        Ask me a specific issue question of you wish, but this article is about impeachment.
        However, I am completely fine with your d) above.

  3. I would prefer that the Senate dismiss these dubious charges, and (along with the House of Representatives) work on things which would actually improve the life of U.S. citizens – lower prescription drug prices, improve the nation’s infrastructure, close the porous southern border, etc.

    1. I agree. It would be nice if we actually could address real issues vs. Chaos every stinking day. But can you explain why you think these charges are “dubious”?

  4. Whenever I have to go for jury duty I never get picked. As soon as they ask the question “if the defendant chooses not to take the stand in his defense, would you hold it against him”. I always sincerely answer “yes”. Then when lawyer or judge asks “even if you are instructed not to”. I answer “yes, I have a problem with a person choosing not to testify in order to advocate for himself”. The House investigation witnesses and the transcript itself paint a very bad picture for Trump. And all the subpoenas Trump folks did not honor in obstruction. Now no witnesses in Senate trial surely. This is as corrupt as it gets.

    1. Umm, actually, there were no subpoena’s issued by the House as they had not voted to vest themselves with that power because it was so “urgent” that they act. And then wait for 33 days. Sorry, all President’s have asserted Executive Privilege, including Obama.

      Two questions:
      1) Did Ukraine get lethal military aid within the timeframe for it be delivered? (Obama wouldn’t give them lethal aid, by the way), and
      2) Did Ukraine open an investigation into Biden?

      The answer to #1 is yes, and the answer to #2 is no.

      1. They subpoenaed DOCUMENTS from mulvaney, pompeo,Giuliani etc. And they refused to hand over.
        I agree, they should have subpoenaed the people too, even though they would refuse. And tie up with all legal appeals until the cows came home.regarding your 2 questions, they have no relevance as to why Trump was impeached.

      2. They were not subpoenas. They were requests for information. The Congress cannot subpoena protected Executive Branch anything or anyone without the Judicial Branch making a determination as to whether Executive Privilege can be waived.

        Since the House was in such a hurry to impeach him (starting before he was sworn in), they couldn’t be bothered with the details of the legal system in the US.

        Of course the “imminent danger” Trump posed then had to wait for 33 days before being delivered to the Senate, along with 200 commemorative pens (paid for by taxpayers) due to the “urgency” of the situation.

        But nice try. See y’all in 2024.

      3. They were legal subpoenas for documents from pompeo (9/27) , Giuliani (9/30), Miliband (10/4), as per (10/7), Rick Perry (10/10).
        Pence was a request, not a subpoena.
        Thank God Fiona Hill, Gordon Sondland, Marie Yovanovitch, George Kent, William Taylor, Alexander Vindman and Timothy Morrison head the courage and love of country and integrity.

      4. The House never voted in full to conduct a formal impeachment inquiry – Pelosi announced it. Had they voted in full and gone the Courts to establish the legality of a Congressional subpoena on the Executive, thereby waiving Executive Privilege, that would have been enforceable.

        But they were in too much of a hurry for that. And then waited 33 days.

        Btw, the President can fire anyone in the Executive Branch, including Ambassadors, for any reason.

      5. All the subpoenas were prior to the House vote. And the House never went to court to compel enforcement (they’d likely lose, but they didn’t try) because Trump was “an imminent danger”. That could wait over a month to send the Articles to the Senate.

        Two facts:

        Aid was not held up past the statutory time for delivery.

        There was neither an announcement of an investigation nor an actual investigations into the Biden’s by Ukraine.

        So – a “thought crime”.

    2. Ever hear the phrase “I did not have s__ with that woman”? And yet the stained dress was displayed on national television and the intern openly told what happened. Gee how funny it was that the Senate turned a blind eye to that national disgrace. How would that go today if the initial following the name were a R instead of an D? This is all politics and nothing more. It is doing nothing for the country but polarizing people. The Congress has done nothing for us their entire term this time around. Nothing… People have to calm down and we have to rethink the 2 party political system and stop people (and their families) who win from becoming instant millionaires as a result.

      1. You might think lying about having sex in the White House is worse than withholding military aid unless country digs up dirt on your political opponent but I sure dont

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