The president’s legal team went to the microphones in the Senate basement to rebut the House impeachment managers’ presentation so far. They are expected to begin their formal response on the Senate floor on Saturday.
Asked how they will respond to the videos that the managers are playing showing Republicans saying abuse of power is an impeachable offense, Jay Sekulow said that they have several attorneys who will discuss “multiple schools of thought” that will explain how the president’s actions “do not reach that level.”
“We will be putting on a vigorous defense of both fact, and rebutting what they’ve said,” he told reporters. “Our job here is to defend the president, the office of the presidency and the Constitution.”
The Senate is taking its first break of the day, roughly two hours into their presentation. A reminder, House impeachment managers have three days over 24 hours to make their case. Yesterday they used just under eight hours.
Nancy Pelosi, shown with Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on Jan. 23.Zuma Press
While her impeachment managers make their case, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a world away in Israel, with a Congressional delegation. The House is on recess this week.
A spokesman with her on the trip said Mrs. Pelosi has caught the impeachment trial at various points on television. Press releases from her office are listing her meetings from the trip, and make no mention of the trial that the House she leads triggered when it approved sending the two articles of impeachment to the Senate.
On Thursday, she visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. She also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and U.S. officials and has been briefed on security threats to the region.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia speaks during the impeachment trial on Jan. 23.AP
Impeachment manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D., Texas) is outlining why President Trump could want to hurt former Vice President Joe Biden politically, and why he would involve Ukraine in doing so.
Ms. Garcia said Mr. Trump was motivated by Mr. Biden entering the Democratic presidential race last year, and then leading in polls, meaning was a leading contender to run against Mr. Trump in 2020 and had shown strength in head to head polls.
“It wasn’t until Biden began beating him in polls that he called for the investigation,” Ms. Garcia said, adding that Mr. Trump wanted to tarnish Mr. Biden. “He had the motive, he had the opportunity, and the means to commit this abuse of power.”
She alleged that Mr. Trump didn’t care about any actual corruption.
“President Trump made clear he cared only about the announcement…of the investigations, not the actual investigations,” she said.
She also tackled the subjects of the investigations Mr. Trump requested of Ukraine: that Kyiv probe Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, as well as the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked a Democratic National Committee server in the 2016 election.
She played clips from officials who said they didn’t know of any corruption by the Bidens — and that the senior Biden was a central part of international efforts to clean up corruption in Ukraine — and that there was no evidence that Ukraine hacked the DNC server.
“In short,” Ms. Garcia said, “the allegations against Vice President Biden are groundless, and so there is no comparison, none at all, between what he did and President Trump’s abuse of power.”
The move could be risky. Several Republican senators say they want to call Mr. Biden as a witness. Bringing him into the trial could strengthen their case to do that.
Lindsey Graham, shown in a television clip from 1999.AP
For an impeachment proceeding focused on President Trump, this trial couldn’t be more personal for many of the Republican senators, whose own histories are now becoming part of the Senate trial.
It was South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s turn on Thursday. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.), one of the House managers, argued that conduct needn’t violate a law in order to count as an impeachable offense. To underscore his point, he said that Mr. Graham, who was one of the House managers, or prosecutors, during the Senate trial of President Clinton, had then “flatly rejected the notion that impeachable offenses are limited to violations of established law.”
Mr. Nadler proceeded to air a clip of Mr. Graham’s arguments during the Clinton proceedings.
“What’s a high crime?” asked Mr. Graham, who then had dark hair. “How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means? It’s not very scholarly. But I think it’s the truth. I think that’s what they meant by high crimes. Doesn’t have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime.”
Mr. Graham missed his moment. He stepped out of the chamber at about 1:50 and returned at about 2 p.m. Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) smiled and tapped his chair, and looked up at reporters in the gallery who were all looking at his blank seat.
Sen. Risch of Idaho, shown at the Capitol on Tuesday.AP
When Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho) appeared to doze off during a roughly 13-hour session to establish the Senate’s trial rules, his spokeswoman explained that he was most likely listening “with his eyes closed or cast down,” which she said he does often when listening closely.
On Thursday, Mr. Risch offered a different explanation.
“I got tired and I fell asleep,” Mr. Risch said. “I’d been out there 18 hours! I’m a human being.”
“You guys are keeping a list,” he accused the press, perhaps only partially joking. “What are there? Twenty-some of us now?”
Mr. Dershowitz, shown in a television clip from 1988.Associated Press
Like in previous days, House Democrats are using video clips to bolster their arguments.
Impeachment manager Rep. Jerrold Nadler played clips from a hearing the Judiciary Committee held last year about the articles of impeachment, pulling testimony from the four legal experts about the abuse of power.
He also included a 1998 video clip from Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor and a member of Mr. Trump’s legal team, arguing that the abuse of power is an impeachable offense even absent a statutory criminal charge.
“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime,” Mr. Dershowitz said in the clip. “If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger our liberty you don’t need a technical crime.”
In Mr. Trump’s case, Mr. Dershowitz has taken the opposite position: The conduct described in the House impeachment articles are “non-criminal actions” and thus aren’t impeachable.
Barry Black offers the opening prayer during the impeachment trial on Thursday.Associated Press
Senate Chaplain Barry Black started the impeachment trial with a prayer to set the tone of the day. He does this every day the Senate is in session, though his prayers for the trial seem focused on the fact that the senators are all present.
“Lord, help them remember that listening is often more than hearing,” he said. “It can be an empathetic attentiveness that builds bridges and unites.”
He also cautioned the senators against cynicism and urged them that when making a choice, consider “which choice will bring God the greater glory.”
Mr. Black was elected to his position in 2003, and is the first African-American and the first Seventh-day Adventist to hold the office.
Chief Justice John Roberts has opened the second day of arguments, and the sergeant-at-arms again warns lawmakers that they are “commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said the schedule will be similar to the previous day. He said there will be short breaks every two or three hours, and a 30-minute break for dinner.
Chief Justice Roberts says the Democrats have 16 hours and 42 minutes left. After they finish later this week, the Trump defense team will have 24 hours over three days to make its case.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the lead manager, lays out the plan for the day, and where it stands in the broader presentation.
“Two days ago, we made the case for documents and for witnesses in the trial. Yesterday we walked through the chronology…Today we’ll go through article one of the impeachment, the constitutional underpinnings of abuse of power and apply the facts of the president’s scheme to the law and Constitution. “
Jim Lo Scalzo/Shutterstock
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called for the dismissal of the impeachment case against the president, a day after the president’s defense team opted not to introduce a motion to dismiss.
“It’s pretty clear… with the merits and the facts of this case that it should be dismissed,” Mr. Gidley told reporters on the White House driveway. “What they have now is so flimsy it absolutely should be dismissed.”
The president’s defense team had the option to file a motion to dismiss the case early Wednesday morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) had been opposed to introducing such a motion, which was not certain to pass. The White House has also discussed filing one after Democrats make their arguments but before the defense team begins its 24 hours to present its argument.
Separately, Mr. Gidley also pushed back against criticism of Mr. Trump’s comments a day earlier, which Democrats said amounted to boasting that the White House had withheld evidence from the trial.
“We have all the material,” the president said at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “They don’t have the material.”
Mr. Gidley called the suggestion that Mr. Trump was bragging about obstructing the investigation “ridiculous.”
“What the president was clearly saying was that the evidence is all on our side,” he said.
The White House declined to turn over documents in response to subpoenas from the House and has blocked several key witnesses from testifying, among them acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. The White House’s refusal to cooperate with Congress’s inquiry forms the basis of the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.
The defense team is set to begin its arguments on Saturday. It will have 24 hours over three days to make its case. An administration official said the team plans to use “every last second.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives at the Capitol.Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) praised the work by the Democratic managers a day earlier, saying they did an “exceptional job laying out the facts of the president’s alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”
Of Republican senators, he said: “It may have planted the first seeds in their mind that, yes, perhaps the president did something very wrong here.”
In a morning press conference, he also kept up his calls for new material to be introduced. “Republicans are saying that they heard nothing new. But these Republicans voted nine times on Tuesday against amendments to ensure new witnesses and new documents to come before the Senate.”
He added: “A lot of the documents are sitting there, all compiled, all ready to go, with simply a vote of four Republicans to subpoena them.”
In particular, he cited a memo by former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Bill Taylor, which Mr. Schumer said provided a contemporaneous account of his concerns about the president’s Ukraine plans.
Earlier, in remarks on CNN, Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) characterized the Democratic presentation as akin to “Groundhog Day”—”we heard what we heard the day before and I’m expecting more of the same today, just repeating, and repeating and repeating.”
Sen. Schumer speaks to the press on Thursday morning.Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the Capitol on Thursday.Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Today, House Democrats will again press the GOP-dominated Senate to remove President Trump from office when the chamber reconvenes this afternoon in the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.
In their first day of opening arguments, House Democrats argued that Mr. Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to open investigations that could help him politically warrant his removal from office. Under the rules governing the trial, the House managers and the White House defense team each have 24 hours spread over three days to make their arguments.
The impeachment managers are expected to drill down further into the details and constitutionality of the events at the center of the two articles of impeachment the House adopted last year. One article accuses Mr. Trump of abusing his power, and the other of obstructing Congress’s investigation.
At the end of the session on Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that a “single one-page classified document” identified by the House managers for filing with the Secretary of the Senate wouldn’t be made part of the public record or printed, “but shall be made available” to senators to review in a classified setting.
A Democratic official working on the impeachment trial said the document is supplemental testimony from Jennifer Williams, assistant to Vice President Mike Pence. The House Intelligence Committee had originally received it Nov. 26.
On Tuesday night, Senate Republicans voted down an amendment that would have explicitly allowed the Senate to receive classified information into evidence. Chief Justice Roberts’ announcement Wednesday night revealed an agreement to allow classified information into the record under the Standing Rules of the Senate.
House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) appears to have mischaracterized a text message that Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, sent about their efforts to gather damaging information on Democrat Joe Biden.
In a Jan. 14 letter to the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Mr. Schiff included summaries of documents that Mr. Parnas had turned over to the House investigators including a July 3 text message in which he told Mr. Giuliani that he was traveling to Vienna and “trying to get us mr Z.”
Mr. Schiff wrote the text message indicated that Mr. Parnas “continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky,” who had been inaugurated about six weeks earlier. Mr. Parnas had sought a meeting with Mr. Zelensky for Mr. Giuliani in May, prior to the inauguration.
Subsequent text messages, which were redacted in the document released by the House but were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal in their entirety, show that Mr. Parnas days later sent Mr. Giuliani a document that appears to be a Q&A with Mykola Zlochevsky, a Ukrainian oligarch and the founder of Burisma Holdings. After sending the document, Mr. Parnas wrote: “mr Z answers my brother.”
The company is at the center of the impeachment inquiry because the president, aided by Messrs. Giuliani and Parnas, pushed Ukraine to investigate Burisma’s involvement with Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter, who sat on Burisma’s board while his father was vice president.
A Democratic official working on the impeachment trial said several sources have used “z” to describe Mr. Zelensky but didn’t dispute that “mr Z” in this instance refers to Mr. Zlochevsky. Mr. Zlochevsky has been targeted in several investigations over allegations of embezzlement, tax violations and money laundering. Mr. Zlochevsky has denied wrongdoing, and investigations into him were dropped in 2016 after a lobbying campaign by the company. Mr. Giuliani has repeatedly described him as corrupt.
The Democratic official said the involvement of Mr. Zlochevsky reveals the sweep of Mr. Giuliani and his associates’ efforts to gather information on Mr. Biden. Seeking information “from sources they now claim are corrupt … shows how transparently political their actions were in furthering President Trump’s reelection campaign,” the official said.
The trial has ended for the night. Starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, the Senate meets again to hear House managers present their arguments for why President Trump should be removed from office. The managers will present their case for eight hours.
Sen. Jim InhofeAmanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg News
Let’s check in on the Senate’s five octogenarians, as the clock once heads toward 10 p.m. Ahead of the trial, nearly all of these senators told WSJ that it would be hard for them to stay alert during the expected long hours. Sen. Chuck Grassley is known for going to bed early—and waking up early for a run.
At roughly 9 p.m., here’s what they were doing:
Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, 83, was missing for a bit around 8:45 p.m., but returned at about 9 p.m. and joined his fellow Kansan, Sen. Jerry Moran, at the back wall.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, 85, was kneading his hands.
Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, 85, appeared to be studying papers at his desk.
Mr. Grassley of Iowa, 86, sat in his desk in the front row next to Sen. Cory Gardner.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 86, is missing. A spokesman for Ms. Feinstein said she left a little early because she was feeling unwell. She will be back tomorrow.
In her presentation to senators, Rep. Zoe Lofgren laid out what the House investigators do not have, referencing communications that witnesses said they had made, and told the senators “there’s no reason” they can’t ask for them.
“You should subpoena them,” she said.
Despite staying in the chamber until about 2 a.m. on the first day of the trial and again facing a late hour Wednesday, most senators are in the gallery and paying attention. When Ms. Lofgren referenced a document that was placed on a screen, the senators looked to the screen or at printouts that have been handed to them so they can follow along.
There are a handful of empty seats on each side, as some senators take breaks in the cloakroom or stand along the back wall.
The debate over whether to subpoena documents for the Senate’s impeachment trial has largely been an abstraction. In the closing stretch of Wednesday’s arguments, Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) offered an example of the sort of records that have been caught in the fight between Congress and the Trump White House.
Mr. Schiff said that contemporaneous notes document the substance of a Sept. 7 phone call between President Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. In that call, Mr. Trump had allegedly said that there was no quid pro quo in which security aid was contingent on Kyiv opening investigations, but that Ukraine’s president had to announce investigations and had to want to do it.
“There’s a written record of what President Trump told Ambassador Sondland right after that call,” said Mr. Schiff. He added that the notes were written by a White House official, Tim Morrison, to whom Mr. Sondland described the conversation.
“Would you like to see that written record? It’s called Mr. Morrison’s notes. It’s right there for the asking.”
Rep. Adam Schiff just referenced a story by The Wall Street Journal last year that showed a Republican senator did have concerns about the aid to Ukraine being tied to an investigation desired by President Trump and his allies.
Sen. Ron Johnson told WSJ that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had described to him a quid pro quo involving a commitment by Kyiv to probe matters related to U.S. elections and the status of nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine that the president had ordered to be held up in July.
Alarmed by that information, Mr. Johnson, who supports aid to Ukraine and is the chairman of a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the region, said he raised the issue with Mr. Trump the next day, Aug. 31, in a phone call, days before the senator was to meet with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the call, Mr. Trump flatly rejected the notion that he directed aides to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on a new probe by Kyiv, Mr. Johnson said.
Dana Verkouteren/Associated Press
The Senate has reconvened and Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, is back at the lectern.
Over the break, several senators–both Republicans and Democrats–praised Mr. Schiff on his presentation thus far. Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.) called him “eloquent.”
Democrats have about 2.5 hours left in their time today. We expect them to use all of it, which would put the trial ending just before 10 p.m.
Mr. Schiff so far is reviewing text messages from officials that he says show a link to Ukraine announcing investigations and a White House meeting between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Ukrainians wanted the meeting and Mr. Trump wanted the investigations.
Senators can see the text messages on screens on each side of the chamber.
The senators are taking a 30-minute dinner break. We know the Republicans are eating Mexican food from Qdoba. Democrats are eating from Roti Modern Mediterranean, a Democratic aide said.
At about 6:20 p.m., police tackled a white-haired man outside the public gallery entrance on the third floor of the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol.
The man had briefly gotten through the balcony doors before he started shouting. Chief Justice John Roberts asked him to be removed.
After his removal, about four or five police officers wrestled with the man on the floor outside the chamber while he shouted, “You’re hurting me!” and “Dismiss the charges! Dismiss the charges against President Trump!”
He also shouted the words, “Abortion” and “Schumer” before police wrangled him into cuffs and walked him out.
“It scared the bejesus out of us,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.). “Because we didn’t see it coming…There are a lot of crazies out there. But it is disruptive when it happens. And I think our security does a good job.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) said the senators were all quizzing each other about whether one of their offices might have given the man the gallery pass needed for the public to access the balcony.
It’s clear senators are starting to get antsy after hours of opening statements from House managers on Wednesday, following a marathon session the previous day that lasted until nearly 2 a.m.
Shortly before the Senate trial was due to break for dinner at about 5:45 p.m., a handful of senators had left their desks to stand or even stretch their legs a bit.
Several seats were empty, their occupants having retreated to the cloakrooms or standing in the back of the chamber.
And senators generally are playing loose with the “no talking” rules now.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) could be seen talking animatedly to his neighbor Sen. Roger Wicker (R, Miss.). Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.) even wandered over to the Democratic side for a friendly chat with Sens. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.).