Trump impeachment trial live updates: Closing arguments ahead of acquittal vote originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
Senate hears closing arguments from both sides as impeachment trial nears end
A vote on President Trump’s acquittal is set for Wednesday afternoon
Democrats address GOP argument that Trump’s conduct ‘improper’ but not ‘impeachable’
Even though the trial continues, Trump has said he will go to the Capitol Tuesday to deliver his State of the Union address, as President Bill Clinton did during his 1999 trial. It wasn’t clear, though, whether he would mention his impeachment.
MORE: Trump impeachment: Here’s how the process works
Monday’s arguments come after the Senate voted 51-49 Friday to reject calling any new witnesses — a critical defeat for Democrats. Only GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney voted to hear witnesses — while two other other Republicans Democrats were hoping would join them — Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander — voted no.
On Sunday, Alexander further explained his rationale he first made in a statement Thursday night ahead of Friday vote — that while he considered the president’s conduct in the Ukraine affair “inappropriate,” it didn’t, in his view, rise to the level of an impeachable offense and that it was up to voters — not the Senate — to decide how to deal with it.
MORE: 3 things to know as Trump’s impeachment trial heads to acquittal vote Wednesday
MORE: A tumultuous year-long race to Iowa culminates in Monday’s uncertain caucuses
The ABC News team of correspondents and producers is covering every aspect of this story. Here is how the day is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.
1:51 p.m. Philbin: Impeachment ‘purely partisan’
White House deputy counsel Pat Philbin then attacks the House’s efforts to impeach the president, arguing Democrats abused their power in their impeachment effort.
“In very significant and important respects they didn’t follow the law. From the outset, they began an impeachment inquiry here without a vote from the House and therefore without lawful authority, delegated to any committees to begin an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States,” Philbin says. “That was unprecedented in our history.”
Philbin then says that a lack of a vote meant there was “no lawful authorization for the beginning of the process.”
“The Speaker of the House does not have authority by holding a press conference to delegate the sole power of impeachment from the House to a committee and the result was 23 totally unauthorized and invalid subpoenas were issued at the beginning of this impeachment inquiry,” Philbin says. “After that, the House violated every principle of due process and fundamental fairness in the way the hearings were conducted.”
Philbin says that asserting the immunity of his senior advisers is a principle asserted by every president since Nixon.
“These are principles defending the separation of powers that presidents have asserted for decades. President Trump was defending the institutional interests of the office of the presidency in asserting the same principles here,” he says.
He then criticized the House for jumping “straight to impeachment” rather than proceeding in the courts, contending that by moving to the “nuclear bomb” of its power, the House was akin to a parliamentary system where impeachment is effectively a vote of no confidence.
“This was a purely partisan political process,” he says. “It was done to finish by Christmas on a political timetable and it’s not something that this chamber should condone.”
1:10 p.m. Starr: Vote to convict would render 2016 election ”null and void’
As President Trump’s defense lawyers take their turn wraps up their arguments for why the president should be acquitted, Ken Starr calls on senators to make their decision without any outside influence but only by looking at the case laid out by the House managers – a case he described as rushed and insufficient to vote to remove a president from office.
“Finally, does what is before this court, very energetically described by the able House managers, but fairly viewed, rise to a level of high crime or misdemeanor? One so grave and so serious to bring about the profound disruption of the Article II branch? The disruption of the government?” Starr asks.
“And to tell the American people and, yes, I will say, this is the way it will be read: your vote in the last election is hereby declared null and void. And by the way, we’re not going to allow you the American people to sit in judgment on this president and his record in November. That’s neither freedom nor is it justice,” Starr argues.
He then turns to a sports analogy to argue the House’s case falls short of removal.
‘At the foundations of those authentic forms of justice is fundamental fairness. It’s playing by the rules. It’s why we don’t allow deflated footballs or stealing signs from the field. Rules are rules. They are to be followed. So I submit that a key question to be asked as you begin your deliberations, were the rules here faithfully followed? If not, if that’s your judgment, then with all due respect the prosecutors should not be rewarded,” “You didn’t follow the rules. You should have.”
In remarks citing Martin Luther King, Jr., Trump impeachment attorney Ken Starr suggests House managers didn’t “follow the rules.”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 3, 2020
Starr concedes that the House has the power of impeachment, but “that doesn’t mean that anything goes.”
“It doesn’t mean that the House cannot be called to account in the high court of impeachment for its actions in exercising that power,” Starr says.
Starr asserts that the House rushed to judgment as it crafted the two articles of impeachment, contending it didn’t have time to follow the rules or generate bipartisan support for its case in Congress or throughout the country.
“A question to be asked: In the fast-track impeachment process in the House of Representatives, did the House majority persuade the American people? Not just partisans. Rather, did the House’s case win over the overwhelming majority of consensus of the American people?” Starr asks. “The question fairly to be asked, ‘Will I cast my vote to convict and remove the president of the United States when not a single member of the president’s party, the party of Lincoln, was persuaded at any time in the process?’”
–ABC News’ John Parkinson
12:30 p.m. Trump tweets ‘totally partisan Impeachment Hoax’
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson reports from the White House, that President Trump, who has no public events today, is tweeting about the impeachment trial.
“I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exacty that, a Hoax. Read the Transcripts, listen to what the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said (“No Pressure”). Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!” he says.
“Where’s the Whistleblower? Where’s the second Whistleblower? Where’s the Informer? Why did Corrupt politician Schiff MAKE UP my conversation with the Ukrainian President??? Why didn’t the House do its job? And sooo much more!”
I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exacty that, a Hoax. Read the Transcripts, listen to what the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said (“No Pressure”). Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2020
12:26 p.m. Schiff: Implores senators to “stand up to lawlessness and tyranny
Lead House manager Adam Schiff takes over and immediately defends his staffers who he says “have been made to endure the most vicious, false attacks to the point where they feel their lives have been put at risk.”
Rep. Adam Schiff thanks impeachment inquiry staff, saying some endured “the most vicious, false attacks to the point where they feel their lives have been put at risk.”
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 3, 2020
Schiff quotes from the late Rep. Elijah Cummings from the day the House announced its impeachment inquiry, saying, “’As elected representatives,’ he said, ‘of the American people, we speak not only for those who are here with us but of generations yet unborn. Our voices today are messages to a future we may never see. When the history books are written about this tumultuous era, I want them to show that I was among those in the House of Representatives who stood up to lawlessness and tyranny.”
“We, the managers, are not here representing ourselves alone or even just the House,” he continues. “Just as you are not here making the determination as to the president’s guilt or innocence for yourselves alone. No, you and we represent the American people, the ones at home and at work who are hoping their country will remain what it has always believed it to be, a beacon of hope, of democracy and of inspiration to those striving around the world to create their own more perfect unions.”
“For those who are standing up to lawlessness and to tyranny, Donald Trump has betrayed his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, but it’s not too late for us to honor ours, to wield our power to defend our democracy,” he says.
12:02 p.m. Jeffries: ‘clear and present danger’
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announces the Senate will take a 30-minute break after Democrats finish the first part of their closing arguments, taking about an hour and reserving the rest for rebuttal.
A few minutes earlier, House manager Hakeem Jeffries emphasizes what he says are the lasting consequences if the Senate votes to acquit the president, saying there is no dispute about the facts of the case.
“This is neither the first time that the president solicited foreign interference in his own election, nor is it the first time that the president tried to obstruct an investigation into his misconduct. But you will determine, you will determine, you will determine whether it will be his last,” Jeffries says, adding “the president continues his wrongdoing unchecked and unashamed.”
Jeffries says Trump is a “clear and present danger to our national security” and that condoning his behavior could damage U.S. relationships with other countries around the world.
Rep. Jeffries: “A president who can obstruct and thwart the impeachment power becomes unaccountable…Such a president is more likely to engage in corruption with impunity. This will become the new normal, with this president and for future generations.” https://t.co/NbEEwk7Bvr pic.twitter.com/idmupTeK2d
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 3, 2020
11:51 a.m. Inside the chamber: 2020 candidates looking impatient
ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent reports from inside the Senate chamber:
Inside the chamber, senators look like fidgety students on the last day of class.
There is a lot of activity, but not a lot of close attention being paid. Senators are shuffling papers, working on unrelated matters, reading or, in a few cases, napping.
The 2020 candidates look particularly antsy. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is moving around in her chair impatiently and constantly whispering to her seatmate, Sen Coons.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is yawning and looking around. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has her head down, writing notes on a pad in her lap, apparently working on something else.
GOP Sen. Susan Collins is still taking copious notes, perhaps working on her remarks for later in the week when she announces her position.
11:42 a.m. Democrat Doug Jones still ‘undecided’
ABC News’ Mariam Khan reports from Capitol Hill:
GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana tells reporters he’s anticipating a couple of his Democratic colleagues may vote with Republicans this Wednesday to acquit President Trump on at least one of the articles of impeachment.
“My guess would be maybe a couple, at least on the obstruction of Congress article, and maybe on both,” Braun says.
Braun adds that his Democratic colleagues who are on the fence will have a difficult decision to make politically because they come from red states where Trump has previously won landslide victories. “I think they’ve got a real difficult decision because of how heavy Trump carries particular states,” Braun says.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who briefly speaks to reporters on his way into the Capitol, says he is still “undecided” how he plans to vote on Wednesday.
“I’m getting there,” he says. “I really do want to hear the arguments and some conversations from colleagues.”
11:32 a.m. Democrats note Nixon, Clinton apologized
ABC News’ Allison Pecorin reports from outside the Senate chamber:
As members filed into the chamber for closing arguments, Democrats said President Trump will further divide Congress if he fails to apologetically address his alleged wrongdoing in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening.
“I think the president’s style and approach to this is going to make it more divisive,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Conn., said, “After the Nixon impeachment process, after the Clinton impeachment process, both of them made public apologies to the nation, to Congress and to the country for what they have put the country through. I do not expect that tomorrow night from President Trump.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve never seen President Trump take responsibility for any of his misstatements or anything else he’s done wrong. He is not one who takes responsibility,” Sen. Leahy said. “Was that too subtle?” he said.
Republican members were not keen on commenting on what they hope to hear from Trump’s speech.
“I learned early on this president, his instincts are pretty good in spite of the fact nobody agrees with them,” Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said. “So, I would not advise him either way.”
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., ignored questions of whether the Senate ought to hear some sort of apology from the president.
11:21 a.m. House manger Crow says senators ‘have a duty to perform’
Rep. Jason Crow starts off the House managers closing arguments in favor of convicting President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
Crow argues the Senate’s role in an impeachment trial is to think about the charges impartially and that they should not consider the arguments in defense of the president that while his behavior was inappropriate, it doesn’t rise to the level that warrants removal from office.
“Today you have a duty to perform. With fidelity, not without a sense of surrounding dangers, but also not without hope. I submit to you on behalf of the house of representatives that your duty demands that you convict President Trump,” Crow says.
ABC News’ Trish Turner reports Crow invokes former Sen. Daniel Webster’s famous words in an 1850 floor speech, “The Seventh of March Address,” when he put his faith in the Senate as a body of moderation.
The 3 ½ hour speech – ironically, though – is believed by some to have been his demise in abolition-minded New England – because Webster argued for the Compromise of 1850 which would keep slavery where it was already legal and not to worry about extending it to the West.
Crow raised the specter of the Republican party sticking with Richard Nixon, a popular conservative president, through Watergate – to its peril, saying, “Ultimately as Goldwater would tell Nixon, quote, there are only so many lies you can take and now there have been one too many.”
House manager Val Demings takes over to argue that the president’s behavior represents an ongoing threat going into the 2020 election.
“As I stand here today delivering the House’s closing argument, President Trump’s constitutional crimes, his crimes against the American people and the nation, remain in progress,” she says, before reviewing some of the details of the Democrats’ case against Trump.
11:08 a.m. Trial resumes with Democrats arguing first, Roberts sounds sick
The Senate trial resumes with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding — but with a very noticeably hoarse voice.
ABC’s News’ John Parkinson reports from Capitol Hill:
The House impeachment managers met again this morning, strategizing before their closing arguments in the Senate trial. I spotted Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Sylvia Garcia in the Capitol this morning, where a dozen U.S. Capitol Police officers are staged outside the meeting room.
A Democratic aide to one of the impeachment managers signaled part of the Democrats’ closing argument could emphasize Senate Republicans are party to “a cover-up” by voting against new witnesses. The aide feared that banner headlines on Thursday morning will read that Trump was exonerated.
Democrats are also dejected by the constitutional chaos and precedent that results from a failure to remove Trump from office, but the aide indicated GOP senators will now have to defend their record on the campaign trail, as Mitch McConnell works to defend his majority this fall.
With the Senate on a glide path to acquit President Trump at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Democrats, nevertheless, are resigned to a disappointing outcome. While there is still a small chance the Senate could censure President Trump, the aide told me that any symbolic consolidation fails to reassure Democrats after Republicans voted to block new witnesses from being called in the upper chamber’s trial on Friday.
While Democrats continue to question Trump’s competence, banking on hope that the president screws up again in the future doesn’t provide any reassurance either, because Democrats don’t trust that anyone would reliably enforce the Constitution. After the special counsel’s Russia investigation failed to provide Democrats with enough ammunition to go after the president, they felt they had a slam dunk with the whistleblower’s account of Trump’s missteps on Ukraine – actions that even Republicans have called “inappropriate.”
The bottom line: Democrats say they are astonished that Republicans are letting Trump “get away with it.”
10:10 a.m. Van Hollen: ‘Green light to abuse his power’
The Senate has given Trump a “green light to abuse his power,” Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen said on CNN Monday morning. “The verdict on the U.S. Senate is “guilty — of dereliction of duty,” he said.