Senators grilled both the House managers and the defense team on Wednesday during the first day of the question-and-answer period of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.
Senators have a total of 16 hours over two days to probe House impeachment managers as well as the White House defense team, which have had three days each to deliver their arguments.
Senators are still divided on whether to hear from witnesses.
Highlights from the impeachment trial so far
- Dershowitz says Trump pursuing quid pro quo to help re-election isn't impeachable.
- Trump defense attorney says Burisma probe in the U.S. interest.
- Nadler argues Giuliani's role proves Trump was not concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
- Former Nixon WH counsel: 'Dershowitz unimpeached Richard Nixon.'
Sen. Gardner says he will vote against calling witnesses
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., will vote against witnesses, his office confirmed Wednesday.
“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness," Gardner said in a statement released by his office. "I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”
Third question is a GOP follow-up about Bolton testimony question
The third question, from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., was aimed as a follow-up at Schiff's response to Schumer's questions about the significance of Bolton's testimony.
"To the president's counsel. Would you please respond to the arguments or assertions the House managers just made in response to the previous question?" Roberts read on behalf of Thune.
Top Democrat reveals private call with Bolton that contradicts Trump claims
Rep. Eliot Engel pushed back on President Donald Trump's claims that John Bolton didn't complain about the president's conduct toward Ukraine as the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman revealed a September call with Bolton in which the former NSA chief told him to examine the ouster of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
"President Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn't say anything about the Trump-Ukraine scandal at the time the President fired him," Engel, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "He said something to me."
Engel said that he reached out to the former national security adviser on Sept. 19 to ask if he would speak before the Foreign Affairs Committee regarding U.S. foreign policy. Engel said the two then had a call days later, on Sept. 23, when Bolton "suggested to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch."
"He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv," Engel continued.
Second question, from Schumer, is about importance of testimony from Bolton
The question, from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was directed to the House managers.
"John R. Bolton's forthcoming book states that the president wanted to continue withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine announced investigations into his top political rival and the debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. Is there any way for the Senate to render a fully informed verdict in this case without hearing the testimony of Bolton, Mulvaney and the other key eyewitnesses or without seeing the relevant documentary evidence?" Roberts stated.
Schiff, before launching into a lengthy answer, first replied, "The short answer to that is no."
First question comes from key GOP cohort of Collins, Romney and Murkowski
The first question came from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — who announced that she was asking on behalf of herself as well as two fellow Republicans, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Collins introduced her question but the question itself, directed at Trump’s defense team, was read by Chief Justice John Roberts:
“If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct, such as the pursuit of personal political advantage, rooting out corruption and the promotion of national interests, how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of Article One?"
Collins, Murkowski and Romney are among the small list of GOP senators who could vote in favor of calling witnesses in the Senate trial.
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin answered that a mixed motive — one involving both personal and public interests — "can’t possibly be an offense."
"Because it would be absurd to have the Senate trying to consider, 'Well, was it 48 percent legitimate interest and 52 percent personal, or was it the other way? Was it 53 percent and 47 percent? You can't divide it that way."
Philbin added, "If there is something that shows a possible public interest, and the president could have that possible public interest motive, that destroys their case. So once you're into mixed-motive land, it's clear that their case fails, there can't possibly be an impeachable offense at all."
Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Giuliani, tries to attend Trump impeachment trial
Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani who has said he wants to testify in the president's impeachment trial, showed up at the Senate on Wednesday attempting to gain entry.
Parnas, however, can't enter the Senate gallery because he is wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle — and no electronic devices are allowed in the Senate chamber during the trial.
Before he made his way to the Senate chamber, Parnas told reporters that if he were ever allowed to testify in the trial, he's not sure it would change the minds of Republican senators, because they live in the "cult" of "Trump world."
Parnas reiterated that he wanted to testify under oath at Trump’s trial — and that he also would like to see Trump, and other key cabinet members, testify.
Trump to senators at White House event: 'Maybe I’m just being nice to them because I want their vote'
Impeachment was clearly on President Donald Trump's mind Wednesday during a Rose Garden event celebrating the signing of the U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
In the middle of rattling off a list of senators to thank for their work on the deal, Trump noted: "Maybe I’m just being nice to them because I want their vote. Does that make sense? I don't want to leave anybody out."
As the crowd, including a number of members of Congress, laughed, Trump referred to the largely party-line House impeachment vote, saying: "Hey, congressman, I already got your vote. ... To hell with you, I think I have to mention some senators."
Trump also referred to the work a number of senators were doing on impeachment as he called them out, saying Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was anxious to get back to the Capital to ask questions: "He’s got some beauties, I bet."
On Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Trump said, "He's saying just read the transcript."
When he got to Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., he asked, "Why are you not over there, Rick?" and added that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wasn't attending because he was holding a news conference.
As Trump handed out pens to members of Congress after signing the deal, he joked to the crowd: "See how nice I'm being to senators? I don't care about anybody else."
Toomey suggests he's in the 'nay' column on calling witnesses
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who reportedly raised possibility of trying to strike a one-for-one deal on witnesses after news of the Bolton book broke, is now sending signals that he's leaning against calling for witness testimony.
Toomey said Wednesday morning that he is “very, very skeptical” that new witnesses would change his mind on the verdict, his spokesman Steve Kelly confirmed to NBC. Toomey's remarks were reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Graham 'concerned' attacks on Bolton will only increase calls for him to testify
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that he is "concerned" that attacks on John Bolton's credibility could increase demands for him to he testify in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — a statement that came shortly after Trump ripped into Bolton on Twitter.
“The House managers’ claim that the sole reason President Trump temporarily paused the aid was purely personal and political, not public, does not withstand scrutiny," Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close Trump ally, claimed in a statement. “However, I am concerned when John Bolton’s credibility is attacked, it makes it more likely some will feel the need to call him as a witness."
Graham, who is up for re-election this year, added that if Bolton is called, “it would be important for the president and his team to call witnesses on other issues.”
In his statement, Graham said he thinks additional testimony from witnesses is "unnecessary."
“For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate and still the House case would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office," he said, referring to reports that Bolton's upcoming book contradicts a key part of the president's impeachment defense.
Graham also claimed there was "ample evidence for the president to be concerned about conflicts of interest on behalf of Hunter Biden and that Vice President Joe Biden’s failure to take appropriate action was unacceptable. This combination, in my view, undercut America’s message on reforming corruption in Ukraine."
What to watch on Wednesday
A source on the legal team says they are 'prepared” for whatever comes, with another source familiar with the thinking telling NBC News that they’re ready for a wide range of questions, including, of course, some on Bolton. The team is expecting Democrats to focus the bulk of their Q&A on trying to build the case for witnesses. Another source familiar with the matter predicts the questions on the Republican side will likely try to provide greater clarity on “areas of interest” that senators have talked about privately (our read: like, presumably, Bolton.)
The White House is largely deferring senator-wrangling to Mitch McConnell. But a source familiar with the legal team’s thinking tells NBC News that they believe the witness vote will be “close.” Another source acknowledges there’s less confidence now than before the Bolton book leak about a quick wrap-up to the trial, but still thinks there’s a strong chance they get an acquittal by the end of the week.
Giuliani associate Lev Parnas arrives, takes selfies at Capitol
Collins: Important that 'each side be able to select a witness or two'Jan. 29, 202000:28
Just catching up with the trial? Here's what you missed.
Wednesday marks a new phase of the impeachment trial, as senators turn to asking questions of the prosecution and defense. Trump's team wrapped up their arguments on Tuesday.
Here's a brief recap of the trial so far:
- Senate passes McConnell impeachment rules after nearly 13 hours of debate.
- What happened on day two: Democrats begin opening arguments.
- What happened on day three: Prosecution's presentation continues.
- What happened on day four: Democrats wrap up case.
- What happened on day five: Trump's legal team begins its defense.
- What happened on day six: Defense team's presentations continue.
- What happened on day seven: Trump's defense wraps up arguments.
- Senate moves to questions and answers on day eight.
Parnas can attend Trump's impeachment trial, but judge won't let him take off ankle monitor
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuliani's indicted associates, can attend President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — but he won't be able to take off his ankle monitor, so he most likely won't be permitted on the Senate floor.
Attorney Joseph Bondy asked U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken of New York for a modification to Parnas' bail conditions, including the removal of his GPS monitoring device, because it wouldn't be permitted in the Senate Gallery. The proposal was for Parnas to travel from New York to Washington on Wednesday and attend the trial from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Manchin says he thinks Hunter Biden is a relevant witness
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday that he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden is a relevant witness in the impeachment trial.
"You know, I think so. I really do," Manchin said. "I don't have a problem there because this is why we are where we are. Now I think that he can clear himself of what I know and what I’ve heard."
"But being afraid to put anybody that might have pertinent information is wrong no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican," he continued.
The Mountaineer State senator added that if Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, agreed that the younger Biden is "pertinent," Manchin would vote to call him.
Sen. Manchin: I think Hunter Biden is a relevant witnessJan. 29, 202008:00
Manchin's state overwhelmingly voted in favor of Trump in 2016 and then reelected Manchin in 2018.
Democrats have contended that Hunter Biden is not a relevant witness to Trump's impeachment trial, since he has no direct knowledge of what Trump was charged with — abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
Manchin said he favors approving witnesses in the case, and Republicans have said they will seek to bring witnesses like the Bidens and the whistleblower forth if witness testimony is approved.
Trump rages at Bolton, says former adviser would have caused 'World War Six'
President Donald Trump berated his former national security adviser John Bolton on Wednesday, bashing his former top aide after the aide reportedly contradicted a key element of the president's impeachment defense in an upcoming book.
Trump suggested that if Bolton, a conservative war hawk, were still in the White House, the U.S. "would be in World War Six by now."
Those comments came hours after another tweet in which Trump asked: "Why didn't John Bolton complain about this 'nonsense' a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated. He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!"
Bolton asserts he was not fired.
Exclusive: Dutch Trump superfan who claimed he surveilled Ambassador Yovanovitch told people he was DEA
The Dutch man who claimed to have Marie Yovanovitch under surveillance when she was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine has been masquerading as a U.S. federal law enforcement officer and told people he was starting a tech company that could track movements electronically, according to interviews and documents obtained by NBC News.
And despite saying he had "no connection" to Ukraine, the man, Anthony de Caluwe, was romantically involved with a Ukrainian woman, who returns regularly to her home country, at the same time in early 2019 that he sent text messages about Yovanovitch's purported whereabouts in Kyiv, according to two people who know de Caluwe and photographs obtained by NBC News.
In battle over Bolton testimony, does Mitch McConnell have the votes?Jan. 29, 202005:16
Here’s what you need to know about the Q&A phase of impeachment
WASHINGTON — It's question time for the Senate in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.
The move to the new phase of the trial Wednesday comes after Trump's legal team finished up its opening argumentsTuesday and ahead of a decision on whether to hear from witnesses. It also gives Republican senators who've complained about the lead House manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a chance to force him to answer their questions.
Here's what we know about how the question-and-answer session will work.
ANALYSIS: Trump defense team makes compelling case for Bolton testimony
DES MOINES, Iowa — President Donald Trump's defense lawyers rested with more of a whimper than a bang Tuesday — resigned, perhaps, to the possibility that their boss's time in the crucible of a Senate impeachment trial will not come to an immediate end.
Trump's lawyers even appeared to undermine their own assertions that former national security adviser John Bolton, whose forthcoming book reportedly corroborates the allegation that the president tied U.S. aid for Ukraine to political investigations, should not testify.
Trump nightmare: Rebelling ex-aides testify at trialJan. 29, 202004:53
Trump accuses Democrats of 'deranged partisan crusades' as impeachment trial heats up
President Donald Trump doubled down his attacks against Democrats and his impeachment trial at a New Jersey campaign rally Tuesday night, accusing them of pursuing "deranged partisan crusades" and reminding supporters of the importance of winning back the House of Representatives in November.
"The congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades," Trump said, speaking at the Wildwoods Convention Center by the New Jersey shore.
"Americans of all political beliefs are sick and tired of the radical, rage-filled left socialists,” Trump continued. "Really, the Democrat Party is the socialist party and maybe worse. Voters are making a mass exodus from that party and we are welcoming them to the Republican Party with wide open arms."