In taking to the Senate floor this afternoon, White House counsel Pat Cipollone made his debut in front of the TV cameras. He’s well-known in legal circles inside the Beltway but a virtual unknown to Trump-era cable news viewers.
Wearing a dark suit and red tie, Mr. Cipollone spoke slowly and deliberately, sometimes with long pauses between words, as he repeatedly tapped the lectern with the side of his left hand as he made each point. Mr. Cipollone took less than three minutes to explain the White House’s support for the rules.
“The president has done absolutely nothing wrong, and …these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution,” Mr. Cipollone, wearing a dark suit and red tie, told senators. “There is absolutely no case.”
Mr. Cipoloone’s performance in front of the cameras will be one of the most closely watched dynamics in the coming days as the president puts a high value on the ability of his team to strongly defend him on television.
Meanwhile, the White House pushed back against a letter from House Democrats arguing that Mr. Cipollone could be compromised as the president’s attorney because he is also a “material witness” to the actions they say led to President Trump’s impeachment.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement: “The idea that the Counsel to the President has to turn over protected documents and confidential information is ludicrous, and to imply he can’t represent the President of the United States in an impeachment proceeding is completely absurd.”
– Michael C. Bender and Catherine Lucey
Glasses of ice water sat on every desk, placed by Senate pages in navy blue jackets.
Actress and liberal activist Alyssa Milano sat in the front row of the gallery and appeared to be referencing notes.
There was no typical bipartisan mingling ahead of the trial, though the two legal teams did make an effort to reach across the aisle. Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) shook hands with Pat Cipollone, the lead counsel for the president.
The Republican senators know the president’s team well. Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho) patted Mr. Cipollone on the back, an Jay Sekulow and Mr. Cipollone shared a laugh with Sen. John Cornyn (R,. Texas). Pam Bondi and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) hugged ahead of the trial.
Democratic senators talked to the House impeachment managers, especially those like Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York and Zoe Lofgren of California that have been in the House for decades.
Most senators carried notebooks or folders. Several thick binders were distributed to Demoratic senators. As the trial started, some started scribbling furiously. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) on a small notebook and Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) on what looked like a fresh notebook for the occasion.
The Republicans’ resolution has some late changes: Amid complaints from Democrats, the resolution now allows each side to make 24 hours of arguments over three days, not two. Also, the House record will automatically be part of the Senate trial, according to the details read into the record by the clerk.
Sen. Susan Collins, a centrist senator from Maine, pushed Mr. McConnell to change the rules, according to her spokeswoman. This led to Mr. McConnell changing the rules to allow opening statements for each side over three days, and to him allowing the House transcripts and documents into the record.
“Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible. She thinks these changes are a significant improvement,” said Annie Clark, Ms. Collins’s spokeswoman.
The Senate impeachment session has begun. Chief Justice John Roberts swears in the one senator — Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) — who missed the group swearing-in last week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has now officially introduced the resolution that lays out the trial’s procedures. Democrats oppose the format, and debate of up to two hours has begun on the merit’s ofMr. McConnell’s chosen procedures.
Now, Pat Cippolone, with President Trump’s defense team, is arguing in favor of the resolution proposed by the Republicans.
“We believe that once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong, and that these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution. … We respectfully ask you toadopt this resolution so that we can begin with this process. “
Next up is Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman and the lead impeachment manager for the Democrats.
In his own remarks, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said that the proposed rules were unfair, highlighting several facets: the rules don’t automatically introduce the House impeachment record into evidence; they don’t guarantee new witnesses sought by Democrats and some Republicans; and that the 24 hours allowed for each side, over two days, starting at 1 p.m., means that sessions will go until at least 1 in the morning, assuming no breaks.
He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell (R., Ky.) “wants a trial with no existing evidence and no new evidence. A trial without evidence is not a trial. It’s a cover-up.” He added that Mr. McConnell “wants to force the managers to make important parts of their case in the dark of night.”
After this comments, the Senate stands in recess.
Sen. Mitt RomneyMandel NGAN / AFP
Republican senators walking into lunch said they were fine with Sen. Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules and planned to support them.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) who has said he wants to hear witnesses in the trial, said the trial timeline doesn’t matter to him because reporters will cover it, and senators are “going to listen to it, whether we hear it in 12-hour blocks or eight-hour blocks.”
“Many Americans work 12-hour days,” said Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) said of the longer days, noting a late evening on the East Coast is primetime for the West Coast. “It just depends on where you are at.”
Other Republican lawmakers said they wanted the trial to move along speedily and anticipated the president would be acquitted.
“I’m ready to vote today” to acquit the president, said Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), carrying a thick accordion folder that he said contained the briefs from Democrats and the president’s legal team.
Sen. Mitch McConnellCNN
In comments on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) says his resolution on the rules of the trial “sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded and tracks closely with past precedents that were established unanimously. ”
- “First, the senate will hear an opening presentation from the house managers.”
- “Second, we will hear from the president’s counsel.”
- “Third, senators will be able to seek further information by posing written questions to either side through the chief justice.”
- “Fourth, with all that information in hand, the Senate will consider whether we feel any additional evidence or witnesses are necessary to evaluate whether the house case has cleared or failed to clear the high bar of overcoming the presumption of innocence and undoing a democratic election.”
The Senate opens the impeachment trial of President Trump in earnest Tuesday. Our Congress and White House teams are following the developments.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said he plans to offer several amendments to the plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). The amendments are intended to change the structure of the trial, but they are almost sure to fail, given they would need Republican support to pass — and GOP senators are united behind Mr. McConnell’s current resolution.
Mr. Schumer didn’t say how many amendments he would offer, but said they would relate to allowing witnesses and documents into the trial.
“We’re not going to try to be dilatory and have 100 amendments just to delay things,” he said.
One such amendment could be to change the debate so it’s not happening late into the night. Mr. Schumer accused Mr. McConnell of pushing “the arguments into the wee hours of the night so the American people won’t see them.”
Under the current rules, Democrats and Republicans both have 24 hours to present their arguments — but must use it up in two calendar days, setting the stage for very late evenings.
Each amendment could get up to two hours of debate, between the House impeachment managers and the president’s legal team. Senators cannot participate in the debate without moving toward a closed session.
Republicans counter that Democrats rushed through their impeachment investigation in the House and that Democrats should have negotiated with Mr. McConnell before the trial. Bipartisan talks to determine a trial structure fell apart.
“It sounds to me they’re in a state of panic and they realize that what they did through the partisan impeachment inquiry that was rushed in order to meet the Christmas deadline by Nancy Pelosi is not up to the standard necessary to convict and remove a president of the United States,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) on Fox News on Tuesday.
Staff members carry boxes of binders to the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The Senate’s organizing resolution allots 24 hours to the prosecution and 24 hours to the defense for opening arguments, provided that each side stays within a two-day time period, opening the door to long nights. A question-and-answer period, in which senators direct questions to the prosecution or defense through Chief Justice John Roberts, is expected to last 16 hours—the same as during President Bill Clinton’s trial. Senatre Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has cited it as a model.
A group of moderate Republicans negotiated a provision that will require a vote on whether to then request additional witnesses or documents. Senate Democrats want to hear fresh testimony and request new documentation at the outset and are expected to try to amend the trial rules to demand such information at the trial’s start. Democrats need four Republicans to win any votes, assuming all Democrats stick together. It would take two-thirds of the Senate to convict Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump has said he would probably try to block attempts to call John Bolton, his former national security adviser who was familiar with the dealings with Ukraine. On Twitter on Monday, Mr. Trump again objected to attempts by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s Democratic leader, to seek additional witnesses and documents for the trial.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) arriving for the first day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump on Capitol Hill.PHOTO: JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS
Welcome to our live analysis of the Senate impeachment trial. The Senate will open the trial of President Trump in earnest Tuesday afternoon by taking up a measure laying out rules for the proceeding.
The Democratic-led House impeached Mr. Trump on charges that he obstructed Congress and abused the power of his office by asking Ukraine to announce investigations benefiting him politically. Mr. Trump has maintained that he did nothing wrong and has dismissed the House’s investigation as a partisan effort to keep him from running for re-election.
His legal team has argued that the charges include no violations of law, which aren’t necessary for an offense to be impeachable but which his lawyers say have accompanied previous presidential impeachments. His lawyers have also said that Mr. Trump was acting in the national interest.