Check out the rundown from Day 2 of the questions and answers offered by the Senate. — Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney
At-risk Republicans push for swift end to Senate trial
The pressure to end the debate in the president’s impeachment trial is coming from a closely-watched contingent: Senate Republicans up for re-election in battleground states.
While Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said she favors hearing more evidence and witnesses —– which would lengthen the trial — the majority of Republican senators up in 2020 are urging the Senate to wrap it up.
“We’ve had 17 witnesses, from the House,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in an interview. “We do hear from people back home but they’re like, ‘get this over with.’ That’s what I’m hearing, is that we really need to wrap this up and get the American people’s business done.”
The senators’ comments illustrate they’re not caving to pressure from Democrats who argue that public opinion polling supports their calls for witnesses. Their resistance to bringing in additional witnesses and documents highlight they’d rather spend their time talking about issues other than the present’s impeachment trial. A vote for witnesses is also viewed as a break with Trump and could alienate his base. Read the full story. — Marianne LeVine
John Roberts rejects Rand Paul
Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read aloud a question from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that identified the alleged whistleblower who first raised concerns with investigators that President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
“The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” Roberts said after appearing to read the question to himself.
The chamber was silent, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whispering to an aide, standing up and appearing like he would speak. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) then asked her question and McConnell sat down.
But Paul was not done. The Kentucky senator then gave a contentious news conference in which he read his question, which named a person referred to in conservative media as the possible whistleblower and an acquaintance who works for the House Intelligence Committee. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney, Burgess Everett and Andrew Desiderio
Burr backs Trump lawyer claim on foreign dirt
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said on Thursday he has “no problem” with a White House lawyer’s argument that American politicians can accept damaging information on their opponents from a foreign country — a proposal that shocked Democrats.
White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin told senators during Wednesday’s session of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that it was a “mistake” to believe that any information about a political opponent that originates from a foreign country amounts to improper interference in a U.S. election
“I have no problem with what Philbin said,” Burr told reporters. Read the full story. — Andrew Desiderio, Kyle Cheney, and John Bresnahan
Democrats seek to undermine Trump acquittal
President Donald Trump hasn’t been acquitted in the Senate trial yet, but Democratic leaders are already testing out their post-impeachment spin.
“He will not be acquitted,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared to reporters during her weekly press conference on Thursday.
“You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation and all of that,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) added. “Does the president know right from wrong? I don’t think so.”
The argument — that Trump cannot be truly exonerated without a fair trial in the Senate — is clearly an attempt to undermine the White House’s victory lap after the president is acquitted, possibly as soon as Friday. Read the full story. — Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris
Schumer: Some of the ‘best questions’ came from Republicans
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday highlighted questions asked of President Donald Trump’s lawyers from a trio of Republicans, arguing that their inquiries only bolster the Democrat’s case for additional witnesses and documents.
The three Republican senators — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — have indicated they’re open to Democratic calls to subpoena former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.
“Some of the best questions actually came from Republicans,” Schumer said. “Simple factual questions and the president’s counsel unable to answer them — wow. You know who could help them answer those questions? Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton.”
Democrats need four Republicans to join them for a vote to subpoena witnesses to pass. But so far, a fourth Republican remains elusive. — Marianne LeVine
Dershowitz attempts to clarify controversial argument about presidential powers
Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump, on Thursday claimed the media twisted his words when he made the controversial legal argument that a president could engage in a quid pro quo for personal political benefit as long as the president believes his or her reelection is in the public interest.
In a series of a dozen tweets, the former Harvard law professor and prominent criminal defense attorney claimed that “CNN, MSNBC and some other media willfully distorted my answers” from Wednesday’s Senate impeachment trial proceedings, when lawmakers began posing questions to the White House defense team and the House impeachment managers. Read the full story. — Quint Forgey
Crow hammers Dershowitz over presidential powers argument
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), one of the House impeachment managers, lambasted arguments advanced by the president’s defense team during Wednesday’s question-and-answer session — singling out a particular legal theory promoted by President Donald Trump’s attorney Alan Dershowitz as “a very dangerous hole to go down.”
“Yesterday was a really astounding day, frankly, in what we heard come out of the president’s counsel,” Crow told the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday.
“I mean, they’re making completely contradictory arguments in the same breath. Saying that the process wasn’t fair, but that if we went through a fair process, it would take too long. Saying that we should issue subpoenas, but then saying that we don’t have constitutional authority to issue subpoenas,” the congressman continued.
Crow then homed in on Dershowitz’s remarks before the Senate regarding his expansive view of executive power, when the former Harvard law professor controversially asserted that a president could engage in a quid pro quo for personal political benefit as long as it was in service of winning reelection.
“Maybe the most astounding thing came out of Mr. Dershowitz, where he said an elected official always thinks they’re acting in the best interest of their constituents or the country, and then presumptively that means that they never are doing anything bad — that they can do whatever they want to do because they believe that they’re doing the right thing,” Crow said. “I mean, that is just a very dangerous hole to go down.” — Quint Forgey
Conservative group runs ad pressing Romney to reject witnesses
FreedomWorks is running a full-page ad against Sen. Mitt Romney to put new pressure on the Utah Republican to vote against witnesses.
The conservative group is running the ad online and in print in the Salt Lake Tribune. It seems unlikely to work; Romney is the most committed senator to hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton, whose unpublished book reportedly links Trump more directly with Ukraine aid freeze. — Burgess Everett
How Trump’s impeachment created two Democratic superstars
The House Democratic Caucus has long been dominated by a gaggle of also-rans: men and women who, while good enough for Congress, proved to be underwhelming on the larger stage of national politics.
Sitting shoulder to shoulder on the Senate floor as they argue for the president’s removal from office, two men — Adam Schiff of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York — have been catapulted to the front of the nation’s consciousness, to the top of the Democratic Party and have become the fulcrum for speculation about a host of prominent positions both in the House and beyond. Read the full story. — Jake Sherman and Heather Caygle
Trump allies see witness-swap scheme as impeachment messaging coup
President Donald Trump’s allies are relishing the political benefits of a plot to offer an equal number of impeachment witnesses for both parties, even though it likely won’t go anywhere.
But that’s the point.
Republican strategists are viewing the offer as a potent tool in the PR war around the president’s impeachment trial. In their eyes, the proposal defangs a Democratic argument that Republicans are shutting down witnesses without actually having to call witnesses. It could give the appearance of fairness, they said, while also energizing the Trump base eager to at least imagine the president’s foes — like Joe Biden — taking the witness stand. Read the full story. — Anita Kumar