The fight over whether to call witnesses remains unsettled, but Sen. Lindsey Graham tried a new tactic to shut down the push from some conservatives (and perhaps Trump himself) for new testimony. Graham said that instead of calling Joe and Hunter Biden in for Trump’s trial, an outside investigator should launch a probe of them.
What’s happening Saturday?
Trump’s defense team will begin presenting their opening arguments, but it may be only a taste of what’s to come. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said they plan on delivering “coming attractions” and will speak for just three hours beginning at 10:00 a.m. They’ll continue with more of their case on Monday afternoon.
The president had tweeted earlier in the day that Saturday was called “Death Valley in T.V.” and may be pleased that more of his defense will come on a weekday.
A bicameral celebration
Rep. Adam Schiff’s closing arguments may have miffed some Senate Republicans, but they went over well with the Democrats.
After Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled the trial to a close following the California Democrat’s remarks, several senators including a couple of 2020 presidential contenders encircled Schiff, his fellow House managers and their top aides with words of praise and congratulations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren hugged Rep. Val Demings and chatted for a couple of minutes with Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Jason Crow and Jerry Nadler. Roberts, trying to exit the chamber, had to squeeze behind the group of Democrats to pass.
Sen. Robert Menendez was one of the first to connect with Schiff after he’d finished speaking, and Sens. Michael Bennett and Sherrod Brown weren’t far behind. Also spotted: Sen. Amy Klobuchar congratulating House Democratic impeachment aides Norm Eisen and Dan Goldman. — Darren Samuelsohn
Republicans livid after Schiff cites supposed threat to GOP senators
Rep. Adam Schiff read aloud an anonymous quote about what would happen to Republican senators if they voted against President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial. It did not land well.
The California Congressman, in ending the Democrats’ three-day opening salvo, was discussing the internal politics each senator must face as they consider their votes. Then he read the quote from a CBS story: That a Trump ally said “GOP senators were warned … ‘vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.'”
Several Republican senator murmured “not true” as soon as Schiff said it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) shook her head and said “not true” several times. Read the full story — Burgess Everett
Trump finds nearly unwavering loyalty from Republicans after Dem case
Senate Republicans spent three days listening to the House impeachment managers present a comprehensive case for removing President Donald Trump from office — an elaborate, multimedia narrative laying out a wide array of offenses allegedly committed to benefit the president’s personal political fortunes at the expense of the nation.
Yet few Republicans will publicly admit they’ve heard anything done by Trump that was wrong or unethical or inappropriate at all, let alone impeachable.
A small minority of GOP senators may ultimately end up mildly criticizing the president’s behavior in requesting investigations into Joe Biden and delaying military aid to Ukraine. But any expressions of disapproval are muted, or explained away as an honest mistake by a frustrated president who just wanted to fight corruption in Ukraine.
It’s a reminder of the unyielding grip Trump has on his party and the lack of a middle ground that exists for Republicans when it comes to the president. Read the full story here. — John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett
Pence won’t commit to releasing his call with Ukrainian president
Vice President Mike Pence declined to commit to declassifying his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a gaggle with reporters in Rome.
Senators have been able to view the call readout during the impeachment trial, albeit in a classified setting. Pence was asked if that call will ever be released like Trump’s two calls with Zelensky.
“Well, we’ll work with members of the Senate and cooperate in any way. I said I had no objection, but that was before we saw what a sham investigation the Democrats conducted in the House of Representatives,” Pence said. “There was no due process for this president in the House. And so we took the position that if the matter ever made its way to the Senate, that we would consider any reasonable request by the Senate, and we’ll work with the White House counsel about any reasonable requests.”
That’s not a yes. — Burgess Everett
Lindsey Graham tries to kill witness vote with outside Biden probe
Lindsey Graham is vehemently against calling in the Bidens as witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial — but he’s signaling to the president and conservatives that there are other ways to probe Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
On Friday, the South Carolina Republican stepped up his calls for an outside investigator to examine Hunter Biden’s role on the board at Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. And in turn, he’s made clear he does not believe the Senate should open the door on witnesses, a messy debate that could extend the Senate trial for weeks and call in everyone from the Bidens to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Read the full story. — Burgess Everett
‘Imminent threat’: Democrats make final case to remove Trump
President Donald Trump remains an “imminent threat to the integrity of our democracy,” the House’s top impeachment manager Adam Schiff argued Friday in an extraordinary Senate-floor appeal in which he accused Trump of embracing Russian propaganda at the expense of U.S. national security.
“The threat that he will continue to abuse his power and cause grave harm to the nation over the course of the next year … is not hypothetical,” Schiff argued. “Merely exposing the president’s scheme has not stopped him from continuing this destructive pattern of behavior that has brought us to this somber moment. He is who he is.”
Schiff’s appeal was part of the House’s final attempt to break Trump’s Republican firewall in the Senate, where Democrats face long odds to win GOP support for their effort to convict Trump on charges that he pressured Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals — and then tried to cover it up. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney
First day of Trump’s defense will be ‘coming attractions’
President Donald Trump’s defense team will present opening arguments for three hours starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, according to the president’s lawyer Jay Sekulow.
“Well call it a trailer, coming attractions,” Sekulow told reporters Friday. “We have three hours to put it out.”
Friday marks the last day for House Democrats’ opening arguments, with Trump’s defense starting its case Saturday. — Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett
What the Senate cameras don’t catch at the trial
To most of the nation, President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is visible only from a pair of Senate-controlled cameras, aimed solely on the speakers at the front of the room.
But reporters perched in a press gallery balcony have captured otherwise unseen moments inside the chamber, observing every fidget, cough and chuckle of the senators who face strict rules of decorum during the trial.
While it can feel like chronicling frivolous political theater at times — clocking who nodded off after lunch, chugged their glass of milk, or snuck in an Apple watch — senators’ behavior can also shed valuable insight on the moods and mindsets of the 100 people who control the president’s fate.
Here’s a look at some of the senators who are standing out among the pack. — Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona and Heather Caygle
In video, McCain makes trial appearance
The late Sen. John McCain made an appearance in the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, via video played by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
Schiff (D-Calif.) read a quote from McCain saying “we are all Ukrainians” and then played a clip of the former Arizona senator.
“Putin also sees: Here’s this beautiful and magnificent and large country called Ukraine. Suppose Ukraine, finally, after failing in 2004, gets it right: Democracy, gets rid of corruption, economy is really improving and its right there on the border with Russia. I think it makes him really nervous if there was a success in Ukraine,” McCain said in the clip, adding that Russia’s economy, by contrast, is “propped up by energy.”
McCain’s best friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), has become one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in the impeachment process and the Senate GOP is still filled with longtime friends of McCain, who died in 2018.
Graham was in the chamber and did not appear particularly emotional during the moment. — Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine
Poll: Two-thirds want Senate to call additional witnesses
Two-thirds of Americans believe the Senate should hear from additional witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial, a new survey shows, suggesting broad public support for Democratic efforts to seek further testimony from senior administration officials.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll published Friday, 66 percent of respondents want the Senate to call new witnesses, while 27 percent say the chamber should render its verdict without the extra testimony.
Those surveyed were mostly split on whether the Senate should vote to acquit or convict the president, with 49 percent saying Trump should not be removed from office and 47 percent saying he should be ousted.
The poll’s results come as Democratic lawmakers have dug in on their demands for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and others with knowledge of the Ukraine scandal to testify before the Senate.
A potential vote on calling those witnesses could take place early next week, though it remains unclear whether such a measure would attract sufficient backing from Republican senators.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted Jan. 20-23, surveying a random national sample of 1,004 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. — Quint Forgey
Senate chaplain presses for civility
Senate Chaplain Barry Black is used to giving his opening prayer to a fairly empty Senate chamber. But during the impeachment trial, his soothing tones have the vast majority of senators rapt as they sit at their desks.
As he speaks each morning, it’s one of the few times senators aren’t fidgeting, writing in their notebooks or pacing around the chamber. And on Friday, Black’s prayer was particularly notable.
He asked for senators to “strive for civility and respect” and to respect opposing viewpoints “regarding convictions and conclusions.” And he also seemed to make a plea not for senators to unload on the House managers and White House counsel.
“Give them the wisdom to distinguish between facts and opinions without lambasting the messengers,” he concluded. “We pray in your strong name. Amen.” — Burgess Everett
Dems soften tone after Nadler dust-up
The seven House Democrats tasked with prosecuting President Donald Trump in the Senate have noticeably shifted their demeanor over the last three days, carefully adopting a more deferential — and at times, outright apologetic — tone in their final attempt to convince even a single Republican of the breadth and weight of their case against the president.
GOP senators say they have noticed Democrats’ stylistic change, with the impeachment managers deploying more personal appeals to the 100 jurors who will decide Trump’s fate.
Several Republicans praised the performance of Democrats like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — who delivered an impassioned closing speech on Thursday night — even as they quickly dispelled the substance of his case. Read the full story. — Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris
Schiff has a solution on executive privilege
Rep. Adam Schiff, the House’s lead impeachment manager, has a simple solution to any concerns that an executive privilege fight over witnesses would take too long: ask Chief Justice John Roberts to step in.
Schiff made the suggestion to counter a new argument from GOP senators that calling witnesses would inordinately extend the trial, because President Donald Trump would invoke executive privilege and block witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying.
“We have a very capable justice sitting in that Senate chamber empowered by the Senate rules to decide issues of evidence and privilege,” Schiff said. “So if any of these witnesses have a colorable claim that they wish to make or the president on their behalf, we have a justice that is able to make those determinations.” — Kyle Cheney
Ron Johnson blames impeachment for harming U.S.-Ukraine ties
Sen. Ron Johnson, who played a small role in the Ukraine saga, said in an interview that the impeachment inquiry’s revelations have been counterproductive to the U.S. relationship with Ukraine.
Johnson, who traveled to Ukraine last year and also personally pressed President Donald Trump to drop his hold on the military aid to Ukraine, said that the back-channel talks between the Trump administration and Ukrainian officials never should have come out. The Wisconsin Republican concluded of the impeachment trial: “The sooner this ends the better for America.
“It never should have got exposed outside of the agencies. It just shouldn’t have. If these guys are really trying to help Ukraine, it hasn’t helped,” said Johnson, who has steadfastly defended Trump’s conduct in the saga.
“I was always convinced that once President Trump met [Ukrainian] President Zelensky, those two were going to hit it off great and now all of a sudden Ukraine would be Trump’s best friend. I’ve just always believed that. I think it’s true. So this didn’t have to be exposed,” he added. — Burgess Everett
McGahn subpoena fight flaring up
Paging the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit: Your views on impeachment are anxiously awaited.
That’s the underlying message behind the dueling legal filings that House Democrats and the Justice Department have exchanged over the last 15 or so hours while President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial continues.
Here’s a quick rundown. The House Judiciary Committee still wants to question Don McGahn under oath about what he saw as White House counsel during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, saying any information they glean can be used in the current impeachment proceedings or held over for another fight at some later date to try again. They won in federal district court to enforce their subpoena for McGahn but now the case is on appeal to the D.C. Circuit, where a three-Judge panel heard oral arguments on Jan. 3.
That brings us to last night, when House Democrats flagged to the court Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow’s recent comments during the trial that the impeachment fight should actually be taking place in court and not in Congress. That position seemingly contradicted what DOJ had been saying in the McGahn fight, namely that the courts had no role getting involved in a fight between the other two branches of government.
DOJ replied Friday afternoon pushing back on the Democrats’ interpretation Sekulow’s remarks and arguing that it’s actually the House that is engaging in an “unprecedented commingling” of using a lawsuit to back Trump’s removal from office.
A ruling could come any day now. Read the full story. — Darren Samuelsohn
GOP goes on their own media blitz
Senate Republicans are going on a messaging offensive, competing with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s media blitz.
Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of Senate leadership, held another press conference Friday to defend President Donald Trump and shoot down arguments from the House impeachment managers.
“I hope we do this every other day but not many more days,” Graham said Friday.
In addition to the press conferences, Republican senators like Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas have spoken to reporters in the Senate basement during breaks from the trial to counteract the Democratic messaging. — Marianne LeVine
Schumer says subpoenaing witnesses won’t draw out trial
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) dismissed claims from Senate Republicans that issuing subpoenas for witnesses would only prolong the Senate impeachment trial, calling it a “very flimsy excuse.”
During a Friday press conference, Schumer said Democrats warned Republicans at the start of the trial that deciding on witnesses after opening arguments would draw out the process. But he also denied that the subpoenas would cause much additional delay.
“If subpoenas are issued from the Senate by definition the subpoenas will be bipartisan and they will be signed by the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court,” Schumer said.
He added that former national security adviser John Bolton, one of the witnesses Democrats want to hear from, is no longer with the executive branch and is willing to testify if subpoenaed. — Marianne LeVine
Democrats launch last bid to break Trump’s impeachment firewall
House Democrats are preparing to rest their impeachment case Friday after one last attempt to soften President Donald Trump’s Republican firewall against his removal from office.
But so far, despite the lofty rhetoric of the House’s lead impeachment prosecutor Rep. Adam Schiff and the wealth of evidence they’ve presented, that wall hasn’t shown many cracks.
As they have for two days, Democrats will toggle between exhaustive recitations of the evidence and appeals to senators’ consciences — saving their loftiest and most potent arguments for the primetime audience.
They’ll also make one last plea for Senate Republicans to call witnesses in the trial, most prominently acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. Other witnesses have described both as central players with firsthand knowledge of the events at the heart of the Ukraine scandal. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney
Cruz told Trump lawyers to focus defense on substance over process
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Friday joined a chorus of Republicans who’ve weighed in on what they’d like to hear from President Donald Trump’s legal team when they begin to lay out their defense on Saturday.
Cruz told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he spent “a fair amount of time” after the trial ended Thursday describing his ideal defense to Trump’s team. “Focus on substance more and process less,” Cruz advised, echoing the private hopes of some of his colleagues.
While he asserted that there were plenty of process concerns Trump’s defense could — and thus far, have, nearly exclusively — focus on, Cruz said the president’s defenders should center their opening argument on describing “why president Trump is innocent, and the reason he is innocent.” He also told Hewitt he urged Trump’s team to remain levelheaded — “to be calm, to be matter of fact, not to be emotional, not to be histrionic.” — Caitlin Oprysko
Coronavirus briefing: ‘We can still do our job’ during impeachment trial
Senators will file into the chamber at 1 p.m. Friday to hear the last hours of House impeachment managers’ opening arguments in their case against President Donald Trump.
But first, all 100 senators are invited to a bipartisan briefing at 10:30 a.m. on the coronavirus, a deadly respiratory illness that was first found in China and has now been linked to at least one patient in the U.S.
“Senators want to know what we should know about it and what we should do about it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who helped organize the briefing as chairman of the Senate panel that oversees public health issues.
“It’s an example that we can still do our job while we’re impeaching the president,” Alexander added.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and State Department will be on hand to brief senators.
Chinese officials are restricting travel for millions of its citizens and considering shuttering some tourist attractions after at least 26 people in the country have died from the virus, according to the latest updates provided Friday. — Heather Caygle
Trump complains about his legal team’s ‘Death Valley’ impeachment time slot
President Donald Trump, flashing the fixation of a former reality television showman, lamented Friday that his impeachment defense team was being forced to present its case during the “Death Valley” of broadcast time slots.
“After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.,” Trump wrote on Twitter. Read the full story. — Quint Forgey
What Republicans want to hear from Trump’s lawyers
Senate Republicans are all but ready to acquit President Donald Trump and end the Senate impeachment trial.
But they still don’t want the president’s defense team to phone it in.
Privately, some Republicans hope that Trump’s legal defenders mount a substantive defense on the merits of the case instead of generalities about Democrats trying to overturn the 2016 election or broad claims that Trump did “absolutely nothing wrong” — as they did on the first day of the trial. Read the full story. — Marianne LeVine