With Sens. Patty Murray and Charles Schumer, Chris Murphy on Wednesday continued to press for witnesses, documents, at Trump impeachment trial.

Washington — Unable to change the rules of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to allow for interviewing new witnesses and the introduction of new evidence, Senate Democrats, including Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, resorted to a new strategy Wednesday.

They are appealing directly to American voters to pressure their GOP colleagues to allow witnesses later in the trial and to attempt obtain documents that have been blocked from release by the White House.

At a Wednesday morning press conference with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Murphy observed that the concerns of some GOP senators led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow Democratic House impeachment managers and Trump’s attorneys to present their case over three days instead of two.

“They know the American public is plugged in and they know the American public won’t stand for a rigged trial,” Murphy said.

McConnell’s minor changes to of the rules “didn’t unrig the trial,” Murphy said. “But what we did see yesterday was that Republicans understand their constituents are paying attention.”

Republican senators voted in lock-step Tuesday and into the early hours of Wednesday to defeat ten amendments proposed by Democrats that would alter the rules of the trial by calling witnesses such as Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton —  and forcing the Trump administration to release documents that have been withheld by the White House.

“My colleagues are now on record,” Blumenthal said. “And they will be haunted by history and perhaps by the voters because they’re on record against witnesses and documents.”

Perhaps bolstered by polls that show a majority, nearly 70 percent, of Americans support having the testimony of witnesses at the trial, Schumer vowed to continue to press for them. “The pressure will continue to build on Republican senators,” he said.

Republicans argue that the witnesses and documents should have been sought during the House impeachment inquiry, which they say was “rushed” and completed in only 48 days.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said House Democrats didn’t seek certain witnesses because they knew Trump would go to court and delay a process they wanted to expedite.

But Trump’s Justice Department has argued for months that courts don’t have a say in disputes between the White House and Congress.

And in Davos, Switzerland,  where the president was attending a international economic summit on Wednesday, Trump said he would like to have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Bolton testify in the impeachment trial, but said it could pose a national security risk.

Meanwhile, with the aid of visuals and videos of House impeachment hearings held last year, Democratic impeachment managers  began their three days of opening arguments in the trial, making their case for Trump’s removal.

Their narrative was aimed both at senators,who will act as jurors, and the American public.

“We are here today — in this hallowed chamber, undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history — because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, has acted precisely as (Alexander) Hamilton and his contemporaries had feared,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the leader of the House managers. “President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the power of his office by seeking help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home. And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.”

The Democratic House has charged Trump with two articles, abuse of power and contempt of Congress, alleging the president pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and then blocked the House from interviewing key witnesses and from access to documents.

Several Senate Democrats have considered negotiating with Republicans, allowing for the testimony of witnesses sought by Democrats in return for the testimony of witnesses Republicans want to hear from, especially Joe and Hunter Biden. But that proposal was shut down by McConnell and Schiff on Wednesday.

“This isn’t like some fantasy football trade,” Schiff said. “Trials aren’t trades for witnesses.”

And Murphy said “that’s not a conversation that’s happening between Republicans and Democrats.” He added: “We’re not in the business of trading away relevant witnesses for reelection gambits for the president.”

Blumenthal also rejected the idea of a deal, saying Senate Democrats are focused on witnesses with direct, firsthand knowledge of the president’s conduct, not Joe or Hunter Biden.

Senators use social media

After the first day of the trial Tuesday,  Murphy has kept his promise to provide constituents with a “behind the scenes” look at the impeachment trial on Twitter.

This is the third impeachment trial  in U.S. history, but the first in which senators use social media to reach constituents.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Murphy tweeted that he is sitting on the front row “so I’m right on top of the impeachment managers.”

“As it gets late, both sides start to get overly chippy and personal. I’m alarmed at how often the parties are directly addressing each other,” Murphy tweeted. “Neither the managers nor the president’s lawyers are on trial. Trump is,” he said.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, admonished House managers and the president’s lawyers after one fiery back and forth between House managers and the president’s lawyers.

“Good for Roberts for stepping in gently,” Murphy said.

But in contrast with the testy exchanges on Tuesday, House managers on Wednesday calmly laid out their case for the removal of Trump — an unlikely outcome since it would require 67 votes from Republican-dominated chamber.

“I looked across at my Republican colleagues, they were listening intently,” Blumenthal said in a video he posted on Twitter. “Very few were taking notes, but a lot of us were doing it.”

Senators are required to sit quietly in their seats for the duration of the trial, without cell phones or any electronic devices. But during the hours of presentation of the case against Trump Wednesday, some of the GOP desks were empty.

After the seven House managers finish presenting their case, the president’s lawyers will take over, most likely on Saturday.

Attorney Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s defense team, told reporters that the response to the Democrats’ case would include both a rebuttal of the charges and a defense of the president’s actions. “We will challenge aggressively the case that they’re putting forward based on what we’re hearing and we also have an affirmative case that we’re going to make as well,” he said.

After both sides present their cases, senators will have 16 hours to submit written questions to each side. After that, Democrats hope they will be able to call witnesses or subpoena documents.

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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19 Comments

  1. After all these years, they still don’t know the place for the witnesses was the House. They can do all the “slamming” they like, all they are accomplishing is to cement President Trump’s reelection. They are so out of touch with the American people. Were it not so destructive; it would be comical. Sad to see the deluge from the House seeping onto the Senate floor.

    1. Ok, I’ll explain it again. The Impeachment Inquiry can be likened to a grand jury hearing on whether or not to indict an individual for breaking the law. The prosecution (the House) presents just enough of its’ case to allow the jury to decide on whether to indict (to issue the Articles of Impeachment). If indicted, the individual then stands trial (although a majority of cases are settled in plea deals, which is not an option in the case of Impeachment). In this case, the Articles are forwarded to the Senate for trial. This is the time where both sides present evidence, either inculpatory or exculpatory, to the jury (the Senate). In any trial, if relevant, new evidence is discovered during the trial, it is presented. If witnesses and/or evidence is not allowed, there is no trial.

      1. Ella,
        Well put.
        And his or her “so out of touch with the American people” comment is so out of touch with the American people. Polls this week (see my sources above) say 72% of Americans want witnesses. And 51% say they want Trump removed from office.

      2. I’m not buying it. I remember similar polls that had hillary in a landslide. How accurate was that? What is unfolding before our eyes is crystal clear. Those not consumed with hate and resentment are saying ……….enough already. Trying to remove a President from office, when he has done nothing wrong and Nadler admitting that President Trump must be removed because the American People should not be the ones making that decision & cannot be trusted to do so at the ballot box, speaks volumes. One question I have after listening to actual FACTS today is………”why didn’t the dem “managers” tell us the “whole story.” Their own “witnesses” shot down the dems case when listened to in their entirety and not the cherry picked, snippets, and out of context, incomplete soundbites. For shame for shame.

      3. Hillary was a bad candidate. Yet she beat Trump by 2.9 million votes. Add the 8 million votes cast for folks other than Hillary or Trump, so 11 million folks didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. Add the major flip in House in 2018 elections. It will be interesting to see this November. Minority groups overwhelming not for Trump. Women in volume not for Trump. College educated folks not for Trump. Folks who read and make effort to become issue knowledgeable not for Trump. People who know number one issue in America is healthcare not for Trump. (Who had, has no plan other than repeal, who then blamed Paul Ryan, who had presidency and House and Senate from 2016-2018 and turns out after all their cloudiness Repubs had no plan). Time for Electoral college to be scrapped. When we had 13 states and no country West of Appalachian Mountains it made sense.

      4. Well Ella I appreciate your explanation again, bless your heart, and James you can quote your polls till the cows come home. I’d say just sit back and see what happens next. Because I have a sense it IS NOT what your’e hoping for.

  2. They had their opportunity to have witnesses. It is not the responsibility of the Senate to accommodate their failures

  3. Even though a criminal offense is not required for impeachment (many legal scholars have said so, including Dershowitz and A.G. Barr), I see this process as equivalent to a criminal proceeding, to wit: in a criminal case, the police investigate and a prosecutor decides whether to bring charges. In an impeachment, the House investigates and decides whether to bring charges. In both cases, if charges are brought, there is a trial. In a trial, there are witnesses and evidence and both sides make their case. In a criminal case, the trial is in a court. In an impeachment, the trial is in the Senate. Since the day the House impeached Trump, new evidence has come to light (the GAO report that Trump’s administration did, in fact, break federal law in withholding Ukraine aid) and witnesses who would not testify in the House have become willing to testify in the Senate trial (Bolton). The Senate must do the right thing and hold an actual trial, with evidence and relevant witnesses. To do otherwise is wrong.

  4. Murphy and Blumenthal protest too much. We don’t need their faces in the news every day. They do not represent all of CT!

  5. I notice every witness they want, is a person that falls under the executive privilege’s law. This law is part of the constitution where as the two articles, that was pushed into the senate do not meet either high crimes or misdemeanors. Apparently, our two senators do not read the constitution or the interpret the constitution different than the supreme court.

    1. If what Trump did does not meet high crimes and misdemeanors nothing does/ever will. Might as well throw the constitution in the garbage. I wish Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson and Adam’s were here. And in the Senate.

    2. The charges do, indeed, meet the criteria in the Constitution, and many Constitutional scholars have said so. A criminal offense is not required. Who said so? Many legal experts, including such well-known names as Lindsey Graham, Alan Dershowitz and A.G. William Barr. And Executive Privilege does NOT apply to people; it applies to specific documents and/or specific issues and/or specific discussions.

  6. 72% of the American people want to see.hear witnesses in this Senate trial.
    51% of American people want Trump impeached AND removed from office.
    This info from various polls.
    This is Not “fake news”.
    The House went Democrat in 2018.
    The House is not 50 guys, 2 from each state, no matter big or small state, and much more representative of entire country population.

    1. Hi James, in the interest of fostering deeper discussion, can you provide specific citations for that polling data?

      1. ReutersIpods poll released Wednesday January and Vox and Ssrs .also NPRPBS NEWSHOUR Marist polls. All released this week.

  7. If Obama had done this I would be just as strongly for impeachment. Hypocrisy is such an ugly human trait. This impeachment has bought out the most ugly hypocrisy I have personally ever witnessed in my lifetime.

  8. The truth and all documents are going to come out on all this someday in not so distant future. AND on a whole-lot-more “stuff” on Trump shenanigans since President.
    You know, it took 4 long years before folks finally called Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s out. Bizarrely, so many folks enabled and tolerated his behaviours for way too long.

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