Sen. Blackburn slams Vindman, suggests he's unpatriotic
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., criticized Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Thursday, suggesting he was unpatriotic for testifying in the House impeachment inquiry. Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran, listened in on the Trump-Zelenskiy call in July.
He told impeachment investigators that "there was no doubt" what Trump was asking Zelenskiy for.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the president in investigating the son of a political opponent," Vindman said during his closed-door deposition last year.
Giuliani teases his podcast
It truly does seem like everyone has a podcast these days — including, apparently, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been teasing his for a little while now without a concrete launch date.
"Starting tomorrow we will begin cracking through the Swamp media’s cover-up of TOP level Democrats selling their public office, resulting in multi-millions, in Ukraine and the conspired attempt with foreign officials to 'destroy' the Trump candidacy," Giuliani claimed on Twitter Thursday evening.
House prosecutors have used Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine to underscore their point that if Trump had truly been concerned about corruption as a matter of U.S. policy, his personal lawyer wouldn't have been a central figure in running what impeachment witnesses have described as a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.
Trial resumes with Jeffries' arguments on alleged Ukraine pressure campaign
The trial resumed at 7:14 p.m.
McConnell said after consulting with Schiff they will be going until around 10:30 p.m. tonight, so they will take a short break around the midpoint.
At 7:15 p.m., Jeffries resumed arguments. He ran through the series of events surrounding Trump's July call with Zelenskiy, reading text messages and call logs that took place on the alleged diplomatic backchannel in Ukraine.
Democrats had Taylor Gourmet sandwiches for dinner (Schumer says he actually had steak and potatoes homemade by his wife), and Republicans had Carmine's Italian food.
"I was a trial judge for 6 years so I made a point of never eating a heavy meal before you go back on the bench in the afternoon,” said Texas Sen. Cornyn. "It was a mix of pasta and meatballs. It’ll be a killer."
"They’re fattening us up," said South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds.
What's Trump up to today?
What's the latest from the defense team?
Bubbling up tonight: what their opening arguments will look like starting Saturday. Behind the scenes, we continue to hear about the president’s desire to have his broader team aggressively rebut the impeachment managers’ arguments. And officials at the White House have blasted reporters with no fewer than 15 emails over the course of the day trying to make their case.
So where's the president now?
He’s on the ground in South Florida at his Doral resort, getting ready to speak with party bigwigs at the RNC winter retreat. It’d be shocking if he didn’t mention his impeachment trial tonight. Based on new reporting this morning, there’s "huge frustration" on the part of the president and his allies that the House managers still have today and tomorrow to present arguments before the defense can formally begin its rebuttal so it puts a big emphasis on messaging.
You should expect to see another full-court press from the president’s defense team during breaks, and from his allies in Congress on TV today. The strategic teams have been huddling twice daily ahead of arguments as well, and the president has been working the phones with his allies. Overall, though, multiple sources say the president has generally been pleased with his defense team’s presentations (though those only took place on Tuesday during the rules debates.)
Jeffries jokes that Congress should 'subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame' to see who voted against Jeter
There was a brief moment of levity in the chamber just before 6 p.m. as Jeffries told a short story about running into a fellow New Yorker in D.C. The man asked Jeffries if he had heard the “latest outrage.” Jeffries assumed he was speaking about something Trump had done so he asked the man to explain.
“Someone voted against Derek Jeter on his Hall of Fame ballot,” the man replied.
“Life is all about perspective,” Jeffries said. “Perhaps we can all agree to subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame.” This elicited a big round of laughter from senators on both sides of the aisle.
Weekend impeachment trial to start early, GOP senator says
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., offered more definitive guidance to the trial schedule for Saturday, when Trump's team is set to begin arguments in his defense.
Thune said proceedings are likely to begin around 9 a.m. ET, though it could be "closer to 8 than 9" or "closer to 9 than 10."
Thune said he expects arguments to wrap by early afternoon.
"I’d say noon-ish," he said, noting that giving people time to catch flights was a consideration.
Break for dinner (and cake)
The trial recessed for a "30-minute" dinner break shortly before 6:30 p.m. There is also cake for Sen. Tom Carper's birthday.
Sen. Brown says 'puppy dog' McConnell, moderate Republicans are 'in lockstep' with Trump
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, excoriated McConnell and moderate Republican senators on Thursday, saying they are doing "Trump's bidding" by excluding key witnesses from the impeachment trial.
"This is not a real trial, it’s a sham trial, if Senate Republicans — including the moderates — that they’re unwilling to have witnesses," he said. "They can blame Jerry Nadler, they can blame anyone they want, but the Republican rules, McConnell is doing Trump’s bidding."
He added: "I’m sure Trump told him to do this. McConnell is sort of like a puppy dog, follows along, and they refused to have any witnesses. How do you have a real trial without witnesses?"
Brown said he did not think any moderate Republicans would end up supporting Democrats' calls for witnesses.
"All of them are in lockstep sort of following whatever Mitch McConnell tells them, who does whatever Donald Trump tells them and we don’t have witnesses," he said. "I think that speaks for itself."
Brown said he wants to see people who were in the room with the president who can testify first-hand about what they saw. Nadler, the House Judiciary chair and one of the seven impeachment managers, has called the trial a cover-up for not having key witnesses testify.
What they're reading and other ways senators are coping with Thursday
As the trial arguments stretched through the day, so did some of the senators, while others busied themselves by catching up on their reading lists.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., read a hardcover book — “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America” by Kimberley Strassel (whom Trump recommended for the Pulitzer Prize), according to her press secretary — and earlier in the day was underlining passages. A copy of Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Case for Trump” was visible beneath it.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had several books piled up on his desk, though he was busy taking pages of notes. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, sat with a blanket on her lap.
Elsewhere in the chamber, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., stood behind his chair for about 20 minutes, while Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., rose for just a quick minute to stretch his legs. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — who had a fascinating explanation for why milk is one of two beverages allowed on the chamber floor — paced in the back of the room as he listened to Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, make the House managers’ case.
Sekulow says White House could use documents it withheld from the House last year
Sekulow, during the first break Thursday, was asked if the White House would use any of the documents the administration refused to turn over to House impeachment investigators last year in its defense.
"Look, the White House will use, and we will use, appropriate documents that will be admissible to what this record is," he said.