View from the gallery: Lots of cross-party talk — and cross-contamination — at Senate trial

Mitt Romney finds a loophole in the beverage rule

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks with reporters in the Senate subway before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks with reporters in the Senate subway before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 28, 2020 at 6:32pm

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York sat still at his desk as President Donald Trump’s defense team played a montage of decades-old statements from Democrats regarding Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

It ended with a clip of Schumer, then a House member, warning against the dangers of partisan impeachment. 

“You were right,” Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone told Schumer, sitting just a few feet away.

The Republican side of the chamber burst out laughing, in one of the loudest reactions from senators during Trump’s impeachment trial. Schumer stifled any reaction.

It was the seventh day in the chamber for the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, and the 100 senators had a shorter day as Trump’s team wrapped up their defense of the president.

The day’s only recess, about 15 minutes long, provided plenty of opportunity for bipartisan discussion.

Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who sit next to each other and are seen as potential key votes to call witnesses at the trial, remained seated and conversed for the first several minutes of the recess.

Meanwhile, Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine walked over to the Republican side of the chamber, where he and Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker fist-bumped. The two men may disagree on impeachment, and all things Trump, but their states’ shared interest in shipbuilding has united them throughout their careers.

Kaine then meandered toward the empty desk where Trump’s legal team sits and chatted with Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema burst into a conversation near the GOP cloakroom between Texas Republican John Cornyn and Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden to greet her former House colleague.

Sinema, sitting near her rival party’s cloakroom during the break, also chatted with Ohio Republican Rob Portman. Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan later joined the conversation.

Meanwhile, Utah Republican Mitt Romney crossed the chamber to deliver a note to Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, as Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell crossed the chamber to chat with Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn at her desk.

When the break ended and Cipollone resumed his arguments, the chamber wasn’t quite full. Senators meandered into the chamber while the White House counsel played the video montage.

Immediately after closing, McConnell huddled with Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Cipollone as senators and counsel lingered on the floor.

Sinema again made her way over near the doors to the GOP cloakroom to chat with Walden and later with Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander.

Meanwhile, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III and Collins talked near her desk before leaving the floor.

More House members, back from last week’s recess, took to the floor to watch. Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton sat along the back wall on the GOP side watching the arguments. After about 45 minutes, he was joined by New York Republican Reps. Lee Zeldin and Elise Stefanik.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee was the first non-impeachment manager House Democrat to arrive, followed by Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Joe Neguse of Colorado.

Milk, gotten

To begin the day, Romney entered the chamber a few minutes before the trial was set to resume, carrying a plastic bottle of chocolate milk, which he put on his desk.

A doorkeeper came over and said something to him. He then brought his bottle of milk into the cloakroom and eventually returned with his chocolatey treat in a glass.

Romney put the glass down on his desk and stood and chatted with some fellow GOP senators. While he was occupied, a Senate page came to slip a coaster under the chocolate milk. Romney took small sips of the chocolate milk during the beginning of the day’s arguments, seeming to savor the sweet beverage.

Fun fact: Chocolate milk has long been one of the Utah Republican’s guilty pleasures, even longer than he’s been a politician from Utah. Back in 2011, his wife Ann told Parade that he prefers low-fat Over The Moon chocolate milk.

And as the world stresses about the coronavirus epidemic, there’s already something going around in the Senate. Tuesday’s arguments from Sekulow were punctuated by coughs from both sides of the aisle, and many senators were seen mopping their noses with tissues.

Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Dianne Feinstein of California and Martha McSally of Arizona let out coughs during the first hour or so. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois were seen wiping their noses with tissues. Baldwin also has the sniffles, and had a wad of tissues in her palm.