Senators came to the Capitol Saturday expecting a quick wrap to the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, and despite a chaotic mid-day pause that threatened to drag the trial out for weeks, lawmakers were able to get on the road to be home for Valentine’s Day and a weeklong recess.
Trump’s second impeachment trial, like his first, didn’t include depositions or testimony from witnesses. The House impeachment manager’s motion in the morning to depose a witness took senators by surprise.
In a sign that senators went into Saturday’s session not expecting the managers to request witnesses, Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet told reporters he had adjusted his thermostat before he left his Washington home-away-from-home that morning.
“I always turn my heat off at the wrong moment,” he said. “You have to make this judgment about whether you’re going to make the plane or not and this morning I turned it off, or turned it down.”
After a vote in support of calling witnesses, the Senate then had to agree on subjects and parameters, a tall task for a tightly split body full of people who thought they’d get to go home.
Eventually, the chamber settled on entering a statement into the record and set aside witnesses, which could have been a weeks-long endeavor.
During closing arguments, Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen repeatedly offered spirited objections to the House impeachment managers presentation, alleging that videos shown in their presentation were not in evidence.
He first objected to a reference about a lack of contact between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the hours and days after Pence’s life was in danger on Jan. 6.
“Objection!” he shouted, just like any lawyer on TV.
Leahy quelled the interjection, saying that van der Veen would have his own chance to speak.
When House manager Madeline Dean, D-Pa., presented a video of a one-time Trump spokesperson at the Jan. 6 rally, van der Veen stood again.
“Objection! This is crooked!” he shouted, alleging that the video was not in the record.
As the impeachment managers scrambled to clarify, van der Veen threw up his hands in frustration and chatter grew louder across the chamber.
He approached the dais once again, where the parliamentary staff had inches-thick bound copies of the evidentiary record at the ready. They pointed to a screenshot of the video, in black and white, in the beige-colored book of evidence.
Trump’s lawyer argued that only the screenshot of the video, not the underlying video itself would be appropriate to be presented.
“Next time I want to start a riot, I’m hiring him,” said West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin III, chuckling at his desk.
When Sen. Mike Lee raised from his seat during closing arguments to offer a point of order, the Democratic side percolated with “no points of order” and “can we have order,” and, amid unclear instruction from the dais, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer initiated a quorum call.
“There is clearly a quorum!” the Utah Republican shouted to the nearly full chamber.
Democrats looked exasperated, gesturing at Lee and some groans were heard.
Lee marched to the Trump team’s table at the front of the chamber and slapped a booklet down on the table and began emphatically making his case, without a mask on. Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson joined the conversation.
Lee moved towards the well of the chamber, where Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz and New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand engaged him. He still wielded the booklet and went back and forth with the two Democrats. They seemed to come to a mutual understanding.
Schatz and Gillibrand turned to engage Schumer, who was leaning back in his seat. Schatz waved Raskin and chief impeachment counsel Barry Berke over. Gillibrand explained with hand gestures, as House manager David Cicilline, D-R.I., joined the huddle.
“No, that’s not what he’s objecting to,” she was heard saying.
Eventually Gillibrand exclaimed “correct!”
Berke and another lawyer took whatever explanation of Lee’s concern Gillibrand provided to the dais to talk it through with the parliamentarian.
Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley brought a copy of the Senate Manual to Schumer’s desk, pointing to a specific page. In response, Schumer gestured to the negotiations under way with Trump lawyers, Berke and clerks and parliamentarians on the dais.
Lee withdrew his point of order.
Candy crush Senate
Once one of the lengthy objections were resolved, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., seemed to be resigned that the final day of the trial would be longer than expected.
She returned from a trip to New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker’s desk with a packet of Craisins, a proud agricultural product of Massachusetts, and two packets of peanut M&Ms. She handed one of the M&M packages to Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, fueling the Connecticut Democrat up for the rest of the day, while she dipped into the dried cranberries.
The snacks on Saturday capped five days of candy drama on the Democratic side of the chamber, starting with a desperate quest by Schumer on Tuesday.
During a break in the first day of the trial, Schumer needed a chocolate fix.
With the power of the majority leader behind him, Schumer lifted Booker’s unattended desk looking for candy.
“Who has the M&Ms?” he asked no one in particular.
Booker, who keeps a vegan diet, had earlier in the day told Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen that he didn’t have candy, but did have dried cranberries in his desk.
“Kelly, Kelly, who has the M&Ms?” Schumer loudly asked Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly, who was chatting with other senators a few yards away.
Kelly, new to the Senate’s candy stashing, didn’t have a clear answer. But Schumer returned to the same section where Booker’s desk is, saying “Ben Ray, what does Ben Ray have?”
Schumer lifted the top of Sen. Ben Ray Lujan’s desk and grabbed a yellow pack of peanut M&Ms and tucked them into his pocket. Other options in the New Mexico Democrat’s stash include fun size Snickers, Kind Bars and PayDay candy bars.
Booker learned of Schumer’s hunt and came prepared to the second day of the trial.
“Trick or treat! Trick or treat!” yelped Warren, as Booker poured an entire shopping bag of candy into his desk after Tuesday’s candy hunt.
North Carolina surprise
Utah Republican Mitt Romney scooted to the GOP cloakroom before the vote, while the clerk read aloud the article of impeachment.
When Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick J. Leahy asked “Senators, how say you?” nearly every lawmaker was in their seat and silence blanketed the chamber.
When Richard J. Burr said “guilty,” the first Republican to vote for conviction, a murmuring of surprise came from the Democratic side. He was eventually joined by six of his colleagues, but not enough to reach the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
As Sen. Tim Kaine voted, he held a legal pad to his chest. He had used the pad to take notes throughout the trial. He displayed the cardboard backing, where he had written the names of the seven people who died on Jan. 6 or as a result of the events that day. The names include Capitol Police officers and a Trump supporter shot while breaking into the House.
When Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy voted, he stood up, black bag laying on top of his desk, both hands on top of it, and said “guilty.” He sat back down, but stood again a short while later. He grabbed his briefcase and after standing at the edge of the chamber for a while, he left before the vote concluded.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.