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What happened Tuesday?
President Donald Trump’s legal team wrapped up their opening arguments on Tuesday —delivering to the president the defense he wanted.
Trump’s attorneys attacked and undermined some of his favorite targets, including former FBI Director James Comey and Joe Biden, but mostly sidestepped the Democratic House managers’ arguments for Trump’s removal.
While new revelations from former national security adviser John Bolton still reverberated in Washington, Trump’s lead personal attorney Jay Sekulow urged senators not to consider Bolton’s claims linking the president directly to stalled Ukraine aid. “[Impeachment] is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,” he said on the Senate floor.
By the end of the day, Republican senators were once again pushing for a quick end to the trial. Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting cautiously optimistic that they could defeat an effort to call new witnesses on Friday, with top Republicans warning that seeking new testimony could extend the impeachment trial for weeks or even months.
What’s happening Wednesday?
The trial will reconvene at 1 p.m., and senators will have their first shot to ask questions of the impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team — and try to poke holes in each side’s arguments.
But Senate Democrats and Republicans still won’t be able to speak. They will have to write their questions down and submit them to Chief Justice John Roberts, who will then read them aloud. Senators also have to direct their inquiries to either the president’s lawyers or the House prosecutors, not both.
Trio of Dem senators considering vote to acquit Trump
A trio of moderate Senate Democrats is wrestling with whether to vote to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial — or give the president the bipartisan acquittal he’s eagerly seeking.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Doug Jones of Alabama are all undecided on whether to vote to remove the president from office and agonizing over where to land. It’s a decision that could have major ramifications for each senator’s legacy and political prospects — as well shape the broader political dynamic surrounding impeachment heading into the 2020 election.
All three senators remain undecided after hearing arguments from the impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team. But they could end up with a creative solution. Read the full story. — Burgess Everett
Trump team warns vulnerable senators: Stand strong or prepare for an endless trial
The White House is delivering a stern warning to Republican senators: Make a wrong move and your spring could be ruined by the stain of impeachment.
With the latest revelations from former national security adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s aides are trying to keep more Republicans from caving to the demands of Democrats who want witnesses in the president’s impeachment trial. Taking that step could drag proceedings out for weeks if not months due to legal fights, according to five people familiar with the situation, yet still end up with the same verdict: acquittal. Read the full story. — Anita Kumar and Meridith McGraw
Trump gets the impeachment payback he wanted
President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team knew they were likely to win — and they proceeded accordingly.
With a virtually negligible threat of conviction and removal by a Republican-controlled Senate, Trump’s legal team spent just a sliver of their 11-hour arguments rebutting the House’s charge that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his rivals.
Instead, they tailored a defense that often mirrored the president’s pre-trial demands: to exact pain and revenge against his political nemeses, all on the Senate floor. Read the full story. Read the full story. — Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney
Senators chat as they call it a wrap
Several notable groups of senators huddled on the floor after Trump’s legal team finished their opening statements.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Democrat, sat at the back of the chamber and chatted at length with Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of the few Republicans who could vote for witnesses. They were some of the last senators in the chamber, staying well after the pages had cleared the water glasses from senators’ desks.
Another moderate Democrat — Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — was seen talking to GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine at separate points. Manchin said earlier in the day that “everyone's done a good job so far.” And Murkowski and Collins, who have both expressed openness to hear additional witness testimony, stayed at their desks and engaged in hushed conversation, shielding their faces with their hands.
Collins also joined a gaggle of GOP senators who were still standing around in the chamber after the trial, including Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
After Trump’s defense team wrapped up their presentation, White House counsel Pat Cipollone walked over to the table where the Democrats’ impeachment managers were seated and shook each one of their hands — including Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).
Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had to miss yesterday’s trial because he was home with wife, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also came over and gave Nadler a pat on the back after the trial concluded for the day. — Melanie Zanona
Senate Republicans calm down after Bolton panic
Senate Republicans have regained their footing and are once again pushing for a quick end to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, newly confident they can squash the question of whether to hear new evidence.
The GOP conference emerged cautiously optimistic from a critical meeting on whether to defeat the call witnesses. The meeting marked the caucus' first gathering since Trump's defense finished its opening arguments on the Senate floor.
“The consensus is: That we’ve heard enough. And it’s time to go to a final judgment vote,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 leader. “We’ve all heard enough and the articles don’t rise to the level of impeachable offenses.” Read the full story. — John Bresnahan, Marianne LeVine, Heather Caygle, and Burgess Everett
Sekulow says impeachment isn’t a game of ‘unsourced manuscripts’
President Donald Trump’s lead personal attorney Jay Sekulow made another veiled appeal to senators on Tuesday to not consider John Bolton’s book as they decide whether to call witnesses in the Senate’s impeachment trial.
“[Impeachment] is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,” Sekulow said on the final day of the Trump team’s opening arguments. He dismissed the issue as “politics” and said the Senate should be “above that fray.”
Bolton’s book — in which he reportedly writes that Trump conditioned military aid for Ukraine on his desired investigations — has been the subject of an intense debate among Senate Republicans, who have almost unanimously opposed bringing in new witnesses.
GOP Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, who could likely vote in favor of additional witnesses, predicted a sea change on Monday after details of Bolton’s book were made public, but it remains unclear if Democrats can win over the necessary four Republicans to call witnesses. Read the full story here. — Andrew Desiderio
Dershowitz hits back at Warren
President Donald Trump’s legal defender Alan Dershowitz hit back at Sen. Elizabeth Warren after the Massachusetts Democrat criticized his trial argument as “contrary to both law & fact” on Twitter.
Dershowitz shot back on the social media platform that “Warren doesn’t understand the law,” adding that the senator mischaracterized what he said about mixed motives when trying to prove impeachable offenses. He argued on Monday that a president cannot be impeached for the allegations made by the House, which he called vague.
“If Warren knew anything about criminal law she would understand the distinction between motives – which are not elements of crime—and intent, which is. It’s the responsibility of presidential candidates to have a better understanding of the law,” Dershowitz added in his series of Twitter posts.
During Dershowitz’s remarks Monday Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had a Senate page pass a note to Warren. Asked afterward about the note, Whitehouse said sarcastically, “I was just remarking about how proud a day it was for Harvard Law School.”– Jesse Naranjo and Darren Samuelsohn
John Kelly: "I believe John Bolton"
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly says that if media accounts of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book are accurate, then he trusts the explosive claims made by his former colleague tying Trump to the Ukraine scandal.
“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” Kelly told a crowd in Sarasota, Fla., speaking as part of the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture series.
“John’s an honest guy,” Kellly added, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “He’s a man of integrity and great character, so we’ll see what happens.”
Kelly also endorsed bringing Bolton in to testify at the trial.
“I think if there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt ... I think they should be heard,” he 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.” — Quint Forgey
House Dems flag Ken Starr remarks in Mueller case
House Democrats are seizing on remarks Ken Starr made Monday during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to back up their court fight to see Robert Mueller’s grand jury secrets.
A two-page letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals from the House counsel sent Tuesday urges a three-judge panel to weigh what Starr, a personal attorney for Trump, had argued Monday in the Senate: That senators don’t sit as jurors — rather the Senate in the context of an impeachment trial was indeed a “court.”
That position stands in contrast to what the Justice Department has argued when describing the Senate as a “legislative chamber” rather than a court in its fight against Democrats’ attempts to immediately be allowed access to the blacked-out redactions in Mueller’s final report. The former special counsel was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Arguing the Senate impeachment trial is a judicial proceeding could strengthen Democrats hand in seeking Mueller’s material.
“Because DOJ’s position in this case cannot be reconciled with President’s position in the impeachment, DOJ may wish to withdraw its argument that a Senate impeachment trial does not qualify as a judicial proceeding,” House counsel Doug Letter wrote to the D.C. Circuit, which is expected to rule any day in the Mueller case.
House Democrats made only a glancing reference to the Mueller probe when bringing articles of impeachment against Trump over his attempts to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations into his political rivals. Even so, Letter has argued in court that the Mueller grand jury case could still yield new information to back up the Democrats in the Senate impeachment trial or in drafting additional articles of impeachment against Trump.
A senior DOJ official called the House letter “bewildering” and a “destruction of the barrier between the courts and the political process that [Supreme Court Associate] Justice [David] Souter long ago recognized would seriously threaten the independence of our apolitical judiciary."
The official also noted that even though the Senate is called a “court” in an impeachment proceeding it’s not the same thing as a “judicial proceeding” under the specific rule that governs the release of grand jury information. — Darren Samuelsohn
Schumer warns GOP that damning Trump info could come out
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) continued Tuesday to pressure Senate Republicans to vote for witnesses and documents in the wake of new John Bolton revelations, warning that damaging information about President Donald Trump would eventually come out.
"If you vote with the White House to suppress and cover up evidence, the odds are strong that the truth — the truth — will eventually come out,” Schumer warned. "In a few weeks or a few months, do my Republican colleagues want to pick up the paper and read that one of the witnesses they blocked had crucial information about the president's misconduct?”
Schumer also panned any talk of bringing in Hunter Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, as a witness in the impeachment trial. Republicans have floated the idea of a witness deal, whereby Democrats could subpoena former Trump national security adviser Bolton and Republicans could bring in Hunter Biden. The president’s defense has raised questions about his role on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was vice president. There’s no evidence of any wrongdoing by Joe Biden.
“Hunter Biden has nothing to do with the facts of this trial,” Schumer said. “President Trump is so obsessed with Joe Biden and Hunter Biden that he's willing to risk our elections and our national security to go after him. And now, the president and his lawyers are willing to risk the solemnity, and purpose of an impeachment trial to go after him.” — Marianne LeVine
Trump’s request for investigation ‘rattled’ Ukraine
The administration of Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky was in fact “rattled” by President Donald Trump’s requests to investigate his Democratic rivals, a former senior aide to Zelensky told The Daily Beast.
Oleksandr Danylyuk, who left Zelensky’s team in September, told the Daily Beast in an interview published Tuesday that Trump’s administration’s posture toward Ukraine “set an uncomfortable background” for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. It was in part, he said, why he left Zelensky’s orbit in September.
Danylyuk’s contention undercuts a core claim of Trump’s impeachment defense: that Ukrainians didn’t feel pressure from Trump. — Kyle Cheney
Senators brace for the unknown as Trump impeachment defense wraps
A sense of uncertainty hung over the Capitol Tuesday as President Donald Trump’s impeachment finale arrived.
It’s the last uninterrupted chance for his lawyers to persuade senators to summarily reject the House’s case for his removal — without the drama that would result from demanding new evidence. But it arrived amid a creeping anxiety that new revelations, like the one late Sunday from former national security adviser John Bolton that exploded a core premise of Trump’s defense, could be in store. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney and Jesse Naranjo
Lindsey Graham supports plan to let senators view Bolton’s manuscript
Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday backed a potential option to break the impeachment trial stalemate over John Bolton's new book: make it available to lawmakers — but keep it secret.
"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," Graham tweeted.
It's unclear whether Bolton's publisher would agree to such an arrangement or whether that would be an acceptable alternative to senators who want to call Bolton to testify. — Kyle Cheney
Cory Gardner avoids elevator moment
Sen. Cory Gardner, who is up for reelection this fall in Colorado, made sure to avoid any ridicule on social media on Tuesday morning.
Asked a question on witnesses, the GOP senator noted the last time he answered he was mocked for allowing the Senate elevator doors to close before he gave a complete answer.
"Last time I got in elevator, one of you guys filmed me and really made fun of. So I'm going to stand here and answer that question. And just ask that you don't film me!" Gardner said with a laugh.
As to whether he will vote to hear from new witnesses, Gardner was noncommittal: "We're in the middle of the trial. I'll continue to listen to the arguments put forward." — Burgess Everett
Senate eyes short trial day before Q and A session
Senators, House managers and President Donald Trump's defense are weighing a shorter day on Tuesday and taking a brief hiatus before the question and answer period begins.
The president's defense is expected to make a presentation of just two to three hours on Tuesday, and the Senate may then break for the day and return Wednesday for the start of the 16 hour question and answer sessions, according to three people familiar with trial planning. That would likely set up the critical vote on witnesses for Friday after two days of senators' questions. — Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan and Darren Samuelsohn
Biden says Ernst 'spilled the beans' with caucus comments amid impeachment fight
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Monday evening said Sen. Joni Ernst had “spilled the beans” after the Iowa Republican suggested that the Senate impeachment debate surrounding the former vice president could hinder his performance in her state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next week.
“Iowa caucus-goers take note,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “Joni Ernst just spilled the beans. She and Donald Trump are scared to death I’ll be the nominee. On Feb. 3rd, let’s make their day.”
During their second day of oral arguments Monday, President Donald Trump’s legal defense team in his Senate impeachment trial argued that Biden, not their client, should be investigated for corruption or abuse of power.
“Iowa caucuses, folks, Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening,” Ernst told reporters in the Capitol. “And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus-goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point? Not certain about that.” Read the full story. — Quint Forgey