Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial

Senate Republicans forced through a resolution establishing the rules for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE’s impeachment trial in the early morning hours Wednesday, rejecting Democrats' demands for additional witnesses and documents at the outset of the proceeding.

Senators voted 53-47 on the resolution capping off hours of debate, with Trump’s legal team and House managers engaging in a heated, public back-and-forth while senators themselves debated the measure during closed-door caucus meetings.

The final vote on passage of the rules came after Democrats tried and failed to get language added to the resolution that would have included a deal at the beginning of the trial on witnesses and documents related to the delayed Ukraine aid.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE (R-Ky.) was able to hold together his caucus to table the 11 amendments offered by Democrats, effectively blocking their requests from being folded into the rules resolution.

“All of these amendments under the resolution could be dealt with at the appropriate time,” he said at multiple points of the chamber’s debate.

McConnell warned ahead of the debate that he had the votes to force through the rules, underlying the prebaked nature of the resolution on the trial process.

"The organizing resolution already has the support of the majority of the Senate. That's because it sets up a structure that is fair, evenhanded and tracks closely with past precedent that were established unanimously," McConnell said.

The day did have some surprises such as last-minute tweaks to the rules resolution after a group of senators, including GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll 51 percent want Barrett seated on Supreme Court: poll MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal MORE (Alaska) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Democrats look past Election Day in Barrett fight  MORE (Ohio), raised concerns about the effort to compress the timeline for the trial.

The two changes marked a small victory for Democrats and underscored McConnell’s narrow margin for enacting the rules. The first change gives House managers and Trump’s legal team three days, as opposed to the initial two days, to make their opening arguments, and the House evidence will automatically be included in the trial record.


“God help us if we have to listen to Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGreenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE and the House Democrats prattle on for 24 hours nonstop, but you know what, I think Senate Republicans did something wise and right and say, 'OK we’ll make a concession.' So now instead of over two days it’s over three days,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing 10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed MORE (R-Texas) told reporters, referring to the House Intelligence Committee chairman who is also an impeachment manager.

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP lawmakers gloomy, back on defense after debate fiasco Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink MORE (R-Ind.) told reporters that Republicans “tweaked in a way that made sense, and I think most of our conference would feel the same way.”

Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters on Tuesday evening that the White House was supportive of the rules resolution and the changes made by Senate Republicans.

But Democrats still forced several votes attempting to insert a deal on calling various witnesses and compelling the White House to turn over documents tied to the delayed Ukraine aid, despite McConnell declaring ahead of the debate that he had the votes to pass the rules resolution.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Trump to lift Sudan terror sponsor designation MORE (D-N.Y.) defended the string of amendment votes, arguing that they weren’t “dilatory” but focused on seeking “the truth” about the administration’s decision to delay the funding, which was eventually released in September.

“That means relevant documents. That means relevant witnesses. That’s the only way to get a fair trial. And everyone in this body knows it. Each Senate impeachment trial in our history, all 15 that were brought to completion, feature witnesses. Every single one,” Schumer said on Tuesday.

Democrats forced a handful of votes on Ukraine-related documents and communications: The first set on communications from the White House, the second on the State Department, the third on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the fourth on Pentagon documents.

They also forced votes on calling former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJohn Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' Demand for Trump-related titles sparks expected record year for political books MORE, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE, Mulvaney’s adviser Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, an OMB official. Like the motion for documents, each of the requests for a deal upfront on witnesses was tabled in a 53-47 vote.

The pledge for amendment votes had senators preparing for a long first day of the trial. Several senators were spotted at different points during the hours-long debate leaning back in their chairs; some stood during roll call votes well ahead of their names being called in an apparent attempt to stretch their legs. Others paced the back of the chamber during arguments. 

Sen. Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischWhy the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Senators blast Turkey's move to convert Hagia Sophia back into a mosque MORE (R-Idaho) at one point appeared to be asleep and was captured by a New York Times sketch artist. At other moments the Foreign Relations Committee chairman was holding up and tapping his watch as he looked to the front of the chamber at Schiff (D-Calif.). 

Senators are required to sit in their seats silently during the impeachment trial, though Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) were spotted chatting, as well as Sens. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in new 5G networks McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R-Neb.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDemocrats unveil bill to reduce police violence against people with mental illness Liberals should embrace Trump's Supreme Court nominee Romney slams Trump for refusing to denounce QAnon on national television MORE (R-S.C.), who were pointing at a colleague.

There were also moments of bipartisanship, with Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntLow-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration Bottom Line GOP vows quick confirmation of Trump's Supreme Court pick amid coronavirus turmoil MORE (R-Mo.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes Hillicon Valley: Twitter tightens rules before election | Intelligence chief briefed lawmakers on foreign influence threats | Democrats launch inquiry into Pentagon's moves on a national 5G network Senate Democrat raises concerns around Universal Health Services breach MORE (D-Va.) spotted together in the back of the chamber. Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPoll: Trump, Biden tied in Georgia McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Trump tells Fox he wants bigger relief deal as Pelosi's deadline nears MORE (R-Utah) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night MORE (D-Conn.) were also seen chatting during one of the breaks.


Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (R-N.D.) characterized the Senate as being in “unchartered territory” heading into the first day of the trial, adding that he had stocked up on coffee in preparation for the lengthy debate.

“I think we’re more likely to wear each other out than we are to learn anything new,” he said.

Though the outcome of the rules fight was largely predetermined, the back-and-forth still lasted nearly 12 hours, with House managers and Trump’s legal team making arguments for and against each amendment. Under the impeachment rules, every proposed change gets up to two hours of debate evenly divided by both sides.

McConnell, more than eight hours into the debate over the rules, tried to get Schumer to agree to stack the votes — a move that would have set them up back-to-back instead of having House managers and Trump’s team debate each amendment for up to two hours.

But Schumer rejected that move, instead making a counter offer to have some of the votes on the rules resolution on Wednesday. That would go against McConnell’s pledge to finish the debate on Tuesday and pave the way for opening arguments to start on Wednesday afternoon.

At one point on Tuesday night the two leaders hit pause on the trial to see if they could find a deal but were ultimately unsuccessful. Instead, McConnell restarted the trial and Democrats rolled on with their amendment votes.


“Sen. McConnell did not agree to that,” a spokesman for Schumer said after the brief negotiation. “What this means: For the time being, arguments and votes on Sen. Schumer’s amendments will continue.” 

One of the most heated moments of the trial came later in the night when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMarijuana stocks see boost after Harris debate comments Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court MORE (D-N.Y.), one of the impeachment managers, clashed with Trump lawyers over an amendment seeking to subpoena Bolton.

The testy exchange drew an admonishment from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.

"I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are," Roberts said.

McConnell, who appeared relieved by Roberts's efforts to diffuse the tensions, thanked the chief justice.

Later, as the GOP leader moved the Senate to a vote on the rules resolution shortly before 2 a.m., he thanked Roberts again for his "patience."

"Comes with the job," Roberts responded.