Impeachment news roundup: Feb. 3

House managers and Trump defense team revisit familiar themes in closing arguments

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, arrives at the Capitol on Monday before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Warren is expected to leave Washington later Monday for Iowa for the first contest in the Democratic presidential primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, arrives at the Capitol on Monday before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Warren is expected to leave Washington later Monday for Iowa for the first contest in the Democratic presidential primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 3, 2020 at 9:32am

Updated 5 p.m.

Both sides in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial delivered their closing arguments today, with Democrats defending their case — and staff members — while the president’s team repeated their allegations that the impeachment effort is just a bid to undo Trump’s election.

The trial, almost certainly headed for an acquittal, is playing out against the first vote-counting in the Democratic presidential campaign tonight and Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The court of impeachment was adjourned after the end of closing statements until 4 p.m. Wednesday when the Senate will vote on the two articles of impeachment.

“I’ve been here a long time. That’s just about the best speech I ever heard,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said of lead House impeachment manager Adam B. Schiff’s closing remarks.

The New York Democrat said he was particularly moved by Schiff pointing to Republicans and telling them they’re not Trump.

“I hope maybe it pierced some of the hardness that’s put in front of our Republican colleagues,” Schumer said.

While the court of impeachment is adjourned Monday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon, the Senate will be in regular session and senators will have the opportunity during that time to deliver floor statements explaining their positions on the two charges against Trump.

The four Democratic senators who are running for the right to face Trump in November were in the chamber for the trial this morning and were expected to immediately head to Iowa after today’s session ends for caucus results tonight. 

Here’s the latest on impeachment:

4:40 p.m. | Censure:  Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, said the Senate “was shortchanged” by the move to not hear from witnesses.

“History will judge the Senate harshly,” he said, about how the Trump impeachment trial was handled.

He called the House managers’ case against the president “strong,” and said they effectively showed “what the president did was wrong.”

“I remain undecided on how I will vote,” Manchin said.

Manchin urged the Senate to censure Trump for his actions and said he believes there is a bipartisan majority to condemn the president’s behavior.

Censuring Trump has been rejected by some Republicans, including Sen. Roy Blunt. The Missouri Republican told reporters it is “too late” for senators to censure Trump for his actions. 

2:40 p.m. | Video of Democrats: Trump’s team played a video of Democratic lawmakers talking about impeachment, with a throbbing, ominous bass pulse playing in the background. It was meant to portray the impeachment effort as political.

The video depicted clips of many Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and House manager Jerrold Nadler of New York. Later, Trump’s team played clips of Democrats supporting Trump for bills signed into law.

2:30 p.m. | Stalling business: Republicans continued to bemoan impeachment proceedings Monday for stalling the Senate’s normal schedule of business, even though it’s unclear what major legislation — if any — is ready for floor time.

“The American people want to have bipartisanship. That’s where really we get stuff done. And there’s been an opportunity cost with all these deliberations. We have not gotten stuff done that we could get done,” Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said, referencing a general bipartisan desire to lower prescription drug prices.

But Democrats and Republicans have not reached common ground on a legislative solution to address rising drug prices and don’t appear close to a compromise.

Democrats don’t foresee the president working with Democrats over the next nine months before the 2020 election to pass any landmark legislation, said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy. “It doesn’t feel like we’re setting ourselves up to pass anything big.”

“There’s no meaningful ability for [Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell to move legislation in the Senate. He’s shown so little interest in moving anything through the Senate that other than… things he absolutely has to do. I just don’t think that’s going to change,” the Connecticut Democrat said.

Murphy blamed McConnell’s disinterest in passing legislation partly on Trump’s penchant for opposing even bicameral, bipartisan bills.

Murphy said he has also been having conversations with Democratic moderates who are reportedly considering voting to acquit the president.

“I don’t know that it’s lobbying, but we’re spending a lot of time together, so you can’t help but have lots of conversations with your colleagues about the consequences of the president’s actions and the votes we’re about to take,” he said.

1:45 p.m. | Democrats invoke McCain: House manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries raised the example of the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain to appeal to the Senate to use “moral courage” to vote to convict Trump.

“The late Senator, John McCain, was an astounding man, a man of great principle, a great patriot,” Jeffries said. He referred to McCain’s five years in captivity as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, when he turned down an early release because his father was a Navy admiral.

“As you all are aware, Senator McCain was a great supporter of Ukraine, a great supporter of Europe, a great supporter of our troops,” Jeffries said. “Senator McCain understood the importance of this body, this distinguished body, and serving the public.”

Jeffries quoted McCain as saying: “Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you.”

The Ukrainians and Europeans are watching whether the Senate will be constant to the principles the United States was founded on, Jeffries told the senators.

“Doing the right thing and be constant to our principles requires a level of moral courage that is difficult but by no means impossible,” Jeffries said.

What went unspoken: McCain broke from his GOP colleagues and delivered a decisive “thumbs down” vote in 2017 on a Republican measure to repeal the 2010 health care law, a decision that drew Trump’s ire.

1:25 p.m. | “Rules are rules”: The White House defense team implored senators to “leave it to the voters” to decide who should be president.

Pat Cipollone framed the effort to impeach and remove Trump from the White House as “an effort to overturn the results of one election and to try to interfere in the coming election that begins today in Iowa.”

The same argument was invoked last week by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee when he announced that he would not defect from Republicans and vote to hear from witnesses in the trial.

Ken Starr argued that the House impeachment managers did not meet the threshold for proving that Trump committed an impeachable offense. He said that the House Democrats were not playing by their own rules.

“You didn’t follow the rules. You should have,” Starr said. “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’re to be followed.”

12:10 p.m. | Trump rebuttal: Minutes after Democratic House managers finished their closing arguments, Trump attacked lead impeachment manager Adam B. Schiff and again criticized the House for calling for witnesses in the Senate trial.

“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!” Trump tweeted.

12:05 p.m. | “Vicious”: House managers Monday repeated their key arguments in the Senate’s impeachment trial before Schiff defended his staff, who he says have felt threatened throughout the process.

“Some of those staff, including some singled out in this chamber, have been made to endure the most vicious false attacks to the point where they feel their lives have been put at risk,” Schiff told the Senate. “The attacks on them degrade our institution.”

Schiff led the House’s impeachment inquiry before being appointed the House’s lead manager to argue their case in the Senate. Throughout the question and answer period of the trial, some Republican senators asked whether Schiff’s staff were ever in contact with the White House whistleblower, whose official complaint of misconduct by Trump sparked the impeachment inquiry.

11:18 a.m. | Agree/disagree: Asked about Sen. Lamar Alexander’s opinion that Trump’s actions at the center of the impeachment were “inappropriate,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski responded, “I would concur with his statement.”

Murkowski, one of the Republican senators who had considered voting to hear more witnesses before ultimately voting against that motion, said she has decided how she will vote on the articles but did not say what her vote would be before reporters were cut off by Capitol Police from following her up the basement escalator.

Indiana GOP Sen. Mike Braun said there is no appetite among Republicans for a censure resolution: “No. I’d say zero.”

But he does think a couple of Democrats could vote for acquittal.

“My guess would be maybe a couple at least on the obstruction of Congress article and maybe on both,” Braun said.

Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones said “I’m getting there,” when asked about his vote on the articles.

“I’m going through all my notes and I’m going through everything,” he said. “I really do want to hear the arguments and have conversations with my colleagues.”

11:11 a.m. | Tardy: The Senate reconvened the trial at 11:04 a.m., but several senators were late. At 11:01 a.m., seven senators got off the Senate subway. Two got off at 11:03 a.m., one at 11:05 a.m. and another at 11:07 a.m.

7: 30 a.m. | Bolting for Iowa: The four senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination are expected to be present for the trial today before most of them head to Iowa for caucus results tonight.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar will head west while Sen. Michael Bennet will return New Hampshire, which votes next and where he campaigned over the weekend.

Sanders tops most recent polls in Iowa ahead of tightly packed Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

7:15 a.m. | “Nightmare”: In the traditional Super Bowl presidential interview, Trump characterized the impeachment inquiry as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “worst nightmare.”

“I don’t think she wanted to do this,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “I think she really knew what was going to happen, and her worst nightmare has happened. I don’t think she’s going to be there too long, either. I think that the radical left — and she’s sort of radical left, too, by the way — but I think the radical left is going to take over.”

Trump repeated his claim that Democrats had been intent on impeaching him “from the day I came down from the escalator,” referring to the day he announced he was running for president, and said he and his family had “suffered because of all this. And many other families suffered also.”

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7 a.m. | Tightrope: On the Sunday talk shows, Republican senators tried to explain their vote against hearing more witnesses and how they’ll vote on Wednesday.

Alexander, who is not running for reelection told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he hoped Trump would learn from his “mistake” he made in pressuring Ukraine to take up investigations of political rivals.

“Did I need more evidence to conclude the president did what he did? I concluded no,” Alexander said. Hopefully [Trump] will look at this and say, ‘OK, that was a mistake, I shouldn’t have done that.’”

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who faces a competitive reelection race, said “Generally speaking, going after corruption would be the right thing to do, he did it maybe in the wrong manner,” on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She also disputed Trump’s often-repeated description of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

“Maybe not the perfect call,” she said.

6:45 a.m. | No comment: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, wouldn’t say whether the House will subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, who was one of the witnesses Democrats wanted called in the Senate, but he did say “the truth will come out” eventually.

“I don’t want to comment to this point on what our plans may or may not be with respect to John Bolton, but I will say this: whether it’s before — in testimony before the House — or it’s in his book or it’s in one form or another, the truth will come out, will continue to come out,” Schiff told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

6:30 a.m. | Not giving up: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he still wants the Senate to investigate the source of the allegations against Trump.

“The Senate Intel Committee under Richard Burr has told us that they will call the whistleblower,” Graham said on FOX News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “I want to understand how all this crap started.”

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