DemDaily: Wrestling With The Rules. Trial Day One

July 22, 2020

The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump began yesterday, beginning with the debate over the organizing resolution that determines the rules of the trial.

The trial follows the December 18, 2019 impeachment of President Trump by the US House of Representatives, on Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The leadership of the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate have since been at an impasse over how the Senate trial would proceed, including whether subpoenas should be issued for witnesses and evidence documents.

 (Wayne Partlow/AP)

The initially proposed rules for the trial, released Monday night by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would have limited opening arguments to 24 hours for each side, over a two-day schedule. The timeframe would have forced key Democratic testimony past midnight -- when most Americans would not be watching.

After an uproar from the Democrats, and negative feedback from some of his own GOP Senators, however, McConnell added a handwritten amendment to add a third day for opening arguments.

He also reversed course on barring all evidence gathered by the House impeachment investigation from being entered into the Senate record. It will now be admitted automatically, rather than subject to vote.

But the perceived compromise was far from the Democrats' idea of a fair trial, as reflected in forceful opening statements by McConnell and Schumer.

The proceedings quickly turned to the hands of the House Managers, led by House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D), and the President's attorneys, led by Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow. Each side was given an hour of statements for each individual amendment.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed a total of 11 amendments, including ones to issue subpeonas for witnesses and for documents from the White House, the State Department, the Office of Management & Budget and the Department of Defense. Also included were amendments to issue subpeonas to acting White House Chief of Staff Nick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, and to OMB Officials Robert Blair and Robert Duffy, among others

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (Erin Schaff/NYT)

House Managers presented a case for each of Schumer's amendments, reviewing in detail related evidence against Trump in the process. They frequently used video'd witness testimony from the House hearings that serve as the foundation of the impeachment articles.

After the close of passionate arguments by both Managers and Trump's legal team on each amendment, McConnell methodically and successfully moved to table, or set aside, each one. In almost every case his motion was approved by a 53 to 47 vote along party lines.

Republican Senator Susan Collins (ME) broke with Republicans on Schumer's tenth amendment to allow each side 24 hours to respond to the trial motions, which failed.

There had been some expectation that some of the other 4-5 moderate Republicans facing reelection in swing states might vote with the Democrats on some of the amendments, but all fell in line under GOP leadership.

The "debate" is limited to statements from the House Managers and the President's lawyers. If it is deemed necessary to open the proceedings to comments from Senators from "the floor," then it would be conducted in a closed-door session. Thoughout the proceedings Senators are banned from holding or using cell phone, ipads or electronics, "on pain of of imprisonment." Even coffee is prohibited.

House Manager Hakeem Jeffries: Trump has "ignored 71 requests by the House for relevant requests" and "blocked twelve witnesses from testifying" (Senate TV)

At approximately 9:20pm ET McConnell proposed that any remaining Democratic amendments be "stacked," or grouped for quick subsequent votes, without interim testimony or presentation of evidence. Schumer immediately rejected the motion.

Just after 1:00am, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is acting as presiding judge, admonished House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and leading Trump lawyers Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow after a particularly heated exchange, reminding them they "are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body."

An hour later McConnell's final organizing resolution on the trial rules passed -- along party lines, 53-47.

Next Up
The trial continues today, Wednesday, January 22nd at 1:00pm ET.

DemList will keep you informed.


DemDaily: In Defense of the Constitution. The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump 12/18/19

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: NBCNews, CNN, Washington Post, C-Span

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