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Live coverage: Senators query impeachment managers, Trump defense

Senators are set to start a marathon question and answer session on Wednesday as President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s impeachment trial goes into the next phase. 

The Senate convened at 1 p.m., and is expected to use eight hours, not including breaks, to ask and answer questions.

Because senators are not allowed to talk, their questions are being submitted in writing to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who will read them out loud and identify who they are from. 

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Under a deal struck by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Trump announces opening of relations between Sudan and Israel Five takeaways on Iran, Russia election interference MORE (D-N.Y.), questions will alternate from Republicans and Democrats.

Roberts has requested that answers be limited to five minutes. 

The Hill will be providing live coverage of the questions and answers throughout the afternoon and evening.

— Jordain Carney

Sekulow on ceding power to Justice Roberts: “We are not willing to do that”

11:10 p.m.

Trump’s defense team shot down an idea floated by House managers to place sole authority over witness testimony and evidence in the hands of Chief Justice John Roberts.

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Earlier in the evening, lead House manager Rep. 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 (D-Calif.) challenged Trump’s lawyers to agree to be bound by Roberts’s rulings.

“We will not seek to litigate an adverse ruling. We will not seek to appeal an adverse ruling,” Schiff said. “Will the president's counsel do the same?”

As the evening came to a close, Trump’s lawyers delivered their response.

“I'll say it very clearly: We are not willing to do that,” said Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowTrump cannot block grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, court rules Now, we need the election monitors Judge denies Trump's request for a stay on subpoena for tax records MORE, Trump’s personal attorney.

The Constitution endows the Senate with the “sole” power to try impeachments, and Senate rules say a majority of senators can overrule the presiding officer on evidentiary rulings. 

Sekulow said Trump’s team would not surrender its “constitutional prerogatives,” as Schiff's proposal would require.

“With no disrespect at all to the chief justice,” Sekulow said, “that's not the constitutional design.”

– John Kruzel

Blunt earns laughter for late-night slip up 

10:49 p.m.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntPower players play chess match on COVID-19 aid GOP to Trump: Focus on policy Low-flying helicopters to measure radiation levels in DC before inauguration MORE (R-Mo.) sparked laughter from his colleagues with a slip of tongue as he was trying to send a question to Chief Justice Roberts. 
 
 
McCaskill was one of a handful of red and purple state Democrats who lost in 2018. She was replaced by GOP Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.). 

"It was a terrifying moment," Blunt added, earning laughter from his colleagues. 

McCaskill quickly weighed in on the slip up on Twitter.
 
"He’s kidding about the terrifying part. He misses me," she tweeted. 
 

– Jordain Carney

Question-and-answer session to wrap around 11 p.m

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10:15 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate is expected to wrap its work for the night around 11 p.m. 
 
That will put Wednesday's session at just under 10 hours, including breaks.  
 
– Jordain Carney

White House attorney: Information from foreign government on opponents is OK if it's 'credible'

9:55 p.m.

Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin argued that it would not be problematic to accept damaging information about a political opponent from a foreign country as long as the material was credible.

Philbin was asked whether President Trump believes foreign interference in U.S. elections is illegal, with Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsBipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning Schumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-Del.) citing the president's comments last June that he would listen if Russia or China offered dirt one of his opponents.

"Mere information is not something that would violate the campaign finance laws," Philbin said. "And if there is credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office, it's not campaign interference for credible information to be brought to light if it's credible information."

"So I think the idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake," he added, calling it a "non-sequitur."

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Trump told ABC last June that he would at least listen to information from a foreign power, and that he did not feel it was necessary in all cases to contact the FBI. The comments came just after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE had concluded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

– Brett Samuels

2020 candidates ask questions during impeachment trial

9:40 p.m.

A number of senators who are running or have dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 asked questions during the impeachment trial. 

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat do Google, banks and chicken salad have in common? Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit Biden defends his health plan from Trump attacks MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharStart focusing on veterans' health before they enlist Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Minn.) — all current candidates for the nomination — asked questions Wednesday evening.

Sanders, for instance, asked House impeachment managers why anyone should believe what Trump says; Klobuchar asked the managers why there were witnesses in the impeachment trial for Judge Thomas Porteous but not in the impeachment of President Trump.

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Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump knocks idea of a 'female socialist president' Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Watch live: Biden participates in HBCU homecoming MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.), both former candidates, also asked questions earlier during the proceedings. 

– Morgan Chalfant

House managers, Trump team clash over Justice Roberts’ role in witness fight

9:24 p.m.

The contrasting views held by House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team on Chief Justice John Roberts’s role in the fight over witnesses came into sharp focus late Wednesday.

The two sides clashed over whether Roberts is authorized to rule on executive privilege, and if the Senate always has the power to overrule Roberts with a simple majority, or only under certain circumstances. 

The Constitution appoints the chief justice to preside over presidential impeachment trials in the Senate. The rules that govern the arrangement between the Senate and Roberts say the presiding officer “may rule” on all questions of evidence.

However, the rules make clear that a single senator can appeal an evidentiary ruling, which would trigger a vote in the Senate, where a simple majority would overturn Roberts.

Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to the president said that an assertion by Trump of executive privilege, the legal doctrine that shields certain presidential communications, is beyond Roberts’s power to rule.

“On the subpoenas at the front end, that's not going to be something that's determined, with all respect, sir, by the chief justice,” Philbin said, turning to Roberts. “That's something that would have to be sorted out in the courts or by negotiation with the executive branch.” 

Lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) pushed back on that assertion. 

“Is the chief justice empowered under the senate rules to adjudicate questions of witnesses and privilege? The answer is yes,” Schiff said. “Can the chief justice make those determinations quickly? The answer is yes.”

While the Senate rules say a majority of senators can overrule the presiding officer on evidentiary rulings, Schiff suggested that Senate power also yields to that authority in some cases. He added that certain challenges by the Senate would require a supermajority to override Roberts. 

“Is the senate empowered to overturn the chief justice? Under certain circumstances,” he said. “Is the vote 50 or is the vote two-thirds? That would be something that we would have to discuss with the parliamentarian and chief justice.” 

The trial debate over Roberts’s relative power in the witness fight mirrors a similar debate being waged by legal scholars in opinion pages and legal blogs.

Experts say prior Supreme Court decisions would offer scant guidance on resolving an assertion by Trump of executive privilege, and that, procedurally speaking, the Trump impeachment trial has entered uncharted waters.

– John Kruzel

Romney asks White House lawyers when Trump first ordered hold on Ukraine aid

8:53 p.m.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWill anyone from the left realize why Trump won — again? Ratings drop to 55M for final Trump-Biden debate Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning MORE (R-Utah), who has led the push in the GOP conference for calling additional witnesses, asked White House lawyers on “what specific date did President Trump first order the hold on security assistance to Ukraine and did he explain the reason at the time.”

White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin rose to answer, thanking the Utah senator for the question.

Philbin said there wasn’t evidence in the House record of a specific date for when the hold was first ordered, but noted there was testimony that officials at the Office of Management and Budget were aware of the hold by July 3 of last year.

Philbin also noted “there is evidence in the record even earlier than that time.”

He pointed to a June 24 email that had been publicly released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Department of Defense’s chief of staff to a subordinate discussing “follow-up from a meeting with [the] president of the United States concerning a question that had been asked about Ukraine assistance.”

Philbin asserted that Trump wanted to know what Ukrainian assistance would be used for, whether it would go to U.S. firms and what other NATO members spent to support Ukraine.

— Alexander Bolton

Schiff challenges Sekulow over demand he testify

8:28 p.m.

House impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) addressed Trump attorney Jay Sekulow’s suggestion that he should be called to testify, arguing that the president’s lawyers were engaging in “distraction.”

“So, Mr. Sekulow would like me to testify. I’d like Mr. Sekulow to testify about his contacts with Mr. Parnas,” Schiff said, referring to an email produced by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas showing a contact between Sekulow and Parnas’s own attorney at the time.

Schiff said he’d also like to hear from White House counsel Pat Cipollone and from President Trump.

“I’d like to ask questions of the president and put him under oath. but we’re not here to indulge in fantasy or distraction,” Schiff said.  

Schiff went on to reiterate the need for the Senate to hear from 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 and other witnesses.

“We’re here to talk about people with pertinent and probative evidence,” Schiff said. He challenged assertions of Trump’s lawyers that calling witnesses would cause the trial to drag on for months. 

– Morgan Chalfant

Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTwo Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 MORE blocked from asking whistleblower question

7:03 p.m.

Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) attempt to ask about the whistleblower whose report helped spark the impeachment inquiry is running into a roadblock in the form of Chief Justice John Roberts.

A source confirmed that Roberts has indicated he would not read a question from Paul regarding the whistleblower at the center of the House impeachment inquiry. The question from Paul is expected to name the individual. Because Roberts is responsible for reading the questions, that would put him in the position of publicly outing the person on the Senate floor.

Paul indicated to reporters after a closed-door Republican dinner that he was not backing down from trying to ask his question.

“It’s still an ongoing process; it may happen tomorrow,” the libertarian-leaning senator told reporters as he headed back to the Senate chamber.

Conservatives have used a series of questions to try to shed new information on the whistleblower, but none of the questions so far have named the individual.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, indicated that leadership had not been involved in rejecting questions, but that he did not expect the whistleblower to be named on the floor during the impeachment trial.

“I don’t think that happens, and I guess I would hope that it doesn’t,” he told reporters.

– Jordain Carney

Senate Democrats ask about applying GOP Hunter Biden criticism to overseas business dealings of Trump family

7:54 p.m.

A group of Senate Democrats asked the House impeachment managers whether they believe the standard the president’s counsel applied to the overseas business dealings of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Brad Pitt narrates Biden ad airing during World Series MORE's son Hunter Biden could also be used to scrutinize those of Trump and his family members.

“The president’s counsel has argued that Hunter Biden’s involvement in Burisma created a conflict of interest for his father, Joe Biden. President Trump, the Trump Organization and his family — including those who serve in the White House — maintain significant business interests in foreign countries and benefit from foreign payments and investments,” the senators asked in part.

They specifically aimed their question at Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpBiden pushes back on Trump: 'Crass' to go after political rival's children Lawyers for Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner threaten to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Trump slams Facebook, Twitter for limiting spread of New York Post's Biden story MORE, Trump's eldest daughter, and her husband Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBiden pushes back on Trump: 'Crass' to go after political rival's children Lawyers for Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner threaten to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Kushner friend arrested on cyberstalking charges MORE, both of whom serve in roles within the administration.

“By the standard the president’s counsel applied to Hunter Biden, should Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump’s conflicts of interests with foreign interests also come under investigation?” the senators asked.

In response, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsDisney to lay off 28,000 employees Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response MORE (D-Fla.) argued that any questions about children are distractions from the core issue at hand: the president’s conduct.

“The reason why we are here has nothing to do with anybody’s children. The reason why we are here is because the president of the United States, the 45th president used the power of his office, to try to shakedown … a foreign power to interfere into this year’s election,” Demings said.

“Let us stay focused: This doesn’t have anything to do with the president’s children or Biden’s children. This is about the president’s wrongdoing,” she concluded.

– Olivia Beavers

Dershowitz says other academics are influenced by politics after Nadler criticism

6:44 p.m.

"An impeachable offense need not be a crime, and a crime need not be an impeachable offense," Nadler said. "Two completely different tests understood that way throughout American history by all scholars — all scholars in our history — except for Mr. Dershowitz.”

Dershowitz stepped to the microphone a few minutes later to insist Nadler was "completely wrong" and went on to claim the vast majority of the academic community that opposes his viewpoint was influenced by political bias.

"If in fact President Obama or President Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Ballot initiatives in Colorado, Louisiana could restrict abortion access Trump mocks Joe Biden's drive-in rallies at North Carolina event MORE had been impeached, the weight of current scholarship would be clearly in favor of my position, because these scholars do not pass the 'shoe on the other foot' test," he said.

"These scholars are influenced by their own bias, by their own politics and their views should be taken with that in mind," he continued. "They simply do not give objective assessment of the constitutional history."

Dershowitz argued during the impeachment of former President Clinton that a technical crime was not required to impeach, a claim for which he has faced scrutiny since joining Trump’s team. He has argued during Trump's trial that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense because no crime was committed.

"Reject my argument about crime. Reject it if you choose to," Dershowitz said. "But do not reject my argument that abuse of power would destroy the impeachment criteria of the constitution."

– Brett Samuels

Dershowitz defends flip since Clinton trial

6:30 p.m.

Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump's legal team, went on defense after Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSusan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (D-W.Va.) asked what had changed since the Clinton impeachment trial to flip his position on what qualifies as "high crimes and misdemeanors."

"What happened since 1998 is that I studied more, did more research, read more documents and like any academic altered my views," Dershowitz said.

Manchin is viewed as one of three Senate Democrats who could vote to acquit Trump.

Dershowitz argued during the impeachment of former President Clinton that a technical crime was not required to impeach, a claim for which he has faced scrutiny since joining Trump’s team and arguing that the president could not be impeached without committing a crime.  

Similar to his floor remarks, he's explained he has since done research that has changed his mind on the issue.

– Jordain Carney

Trump tweets clip of Bolton as former aide features prominently in questions at Senate impeachment trial 

6:09 p.m.

President Trump on Wednesday tweeted a clip of John Bolton, then his national security adviser, giving an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Fox News last August describing the president’s calls with Ukraine’s leader as “warm and cordial.”

Bolton also said in the clip that the success of Ukraine, including its ability to maintain a free market economy free of corruption and secure the Donbas, were “high priorities” for the administration.

“GAME OVER!” Trump wrote in the tweet with the video.

 

It was unclear if Trump was watching the proceedings but the tweet indicated that the Bolton issue was on his mind Wednesday evening. 

The New York Times report about Bolton’s account of his conversations with Trump regarding Ukraine was a considerable focus of the questioning portion of the Senate trial on Wednesday.

Bolton is said to have written in a draft of his forthcoming book that Trump told him last August that he wanted to continue to suspend security assistance to Ukraine until the country helps with investigations into Democrats. Trump has denied Bolton's account as reported by the Times.

– Morgan Chalfant

House managers, Trump team spar over burden of proof

6 p.m.

House impeachment managers and President Trump's defense team sparred over what standard the House managers must meet to effectively prove their case at Trump’s impeachment trial. 

Unlike a court proceeding, a Senate impeachment trial has no established standard, which is also known as a burden of proof.

“There is no established or uniform burden of proof,” Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor, told The Hill. “In the Senate, every senator decides for himself or herself what burden applies.”

Unsurprisingly, lawyers for Trump argued for a higher standard, while House managers argued for a relatively lower threshold.

Pat Philbin, a member of Trump's legal team, said senators should borrow the standard that applies to criminal cases, which demands guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Both the “breathtaking importance” of a presidential impeachment and the Constitution’s use of phrases that hark to criminal law in describing impeachment illustrate the parallel, he said.

House manager Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenWhy prevailing wage reform matters for H-1B visas Fears grow of voter suppression in Texas Business groups start gaming out a Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.) said the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard was unreasonable, and noted that the Nixon impeachment contemplated the relatively lower “clear and convincing” standard.

Ultimately, she said, regardless of whatever standard senators choose to apply, they should abide by their oath to carry out “impartial justice.”

– John Kruzel

Democrats invoke ‘missing witness rule,’ say Trump stifled harmful evidence 

5:45 p.m.

House managers told senators to infer that the White House blocked witness and document requests because they would have illuminated evidence that undercut Trump’s defense.

A group of Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Democrats, gun control groups attack NRA for efforts to reshape judiciary Hillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems MORE (D-R.I.), asked whether the “missing witness rule," derived from the 1893 Supreme Court case Graves v. United States, should apply to Trump's refusal to comply with requests. That rule says a party’s failure to produce a witness may be interpreted as adverse to them.

“You are not only permitted but absolutely should draw an adverse inference,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said.

The question seemed calculated to give House managers a platform to recite a litany of evidence the White House refused to hand over, from the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton to notes of former acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor.

In response, Trump’s defense team said they had a valid legal rationale for not complying with Democratic requests. Deadlocks over things like privilege should not give rise to adverse inferences, they argued.

– John Kruzel

Conservatives use questions to target whistleblower 
 
5:30 p.m.
 
Conservatives used a pair of questions to try to get details about the whistleblower who helped spark the House impeachment inquiry.
 
Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeePence adviser Marty Obst tests positive for COVID-19 Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 End the American military presence in Somalia MORE (R-Utah), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Democrats play defense, GOP goes on attack after Biden oil comments Quinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas MORE (R-Texas) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Justice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform MORE (R-Mo.) asked for details on who the whistleblower might have worked with. 
 
Pat Philbin, a member of Trump's legal team, largely declined to answer the question, arguing it would be speculation, but he also knocked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). 
 
"We don't know what Manager Schiff's contact with the whistleblower has been. It is something that would seem to be relevant since the whistleblower started this entire inquiry," Philbin argued. 
 
 
Schiff noted that he was not going to "give any indication" that would lead to the whistleblower's identity being revealed. Schiff also referenced statements from senators, including Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes GOP to Trump: Focus on policy MORE (R-Iowa), about the importance of protecting whistleblowers. 
 
He then turned to batting down the allegations from Trump's team, saying he doesn't know the whistleblower. 
 
"I haven't met them or communicated with them in any way. The committee staff did not write the complaint or coach the whistleblower what to put in the complaint," he said. 
 
"The conspiracy theory, which I think was outlined earlier, that the whistleblower colluded with the intel committee staff to hatch an impeachment inquiry is a complete and total fiction," he said. 
 
Jordain Carney

White House counsel unable to say if Trump raised Bidens prior to Biden entering presidential race

5:10 p.m.

The White House defense team could not say in response to a question from Republican senators whether President Trump had brought up the Bidens during conversations about corruption in Ukraine prior to former Vice President Joe Biden entering the Democratic presidential race last April.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expressed doubt to donors GOP can hold Senate: report Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday Biden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday McConnell tees up Barrett nomination, setting up rare weekend session MORE (R-Alaska) – who have both indicated they are open to hearing from additional witnesses – highlighted the president's repeated comments that Ukraine has corruption issues and asked whether he had discussed Joe and Hunter Biden in that context during the first two years of his presidency.

Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin was unable to cite a specific instance where Trump indicated to other Cabinet officials or top Ukrainian officials that he was concerned about the Bidens contributing to corruption in Ukraine. He noted that conversations between Trump and his administration officials are not part of the record of the House impeachment inquiry.

Philbin said Trump discussed corruption with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in June 2017 and September 2017, but did not say whether he mentioned the Bidens in either case.

Instead, Philbin sought to justify Trump raising it with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25, 2019. He argued anti-corruption was a key cog of Zelensky's platform prior to his election, suggesting it was reasonable to raise concerns about the Bidens because of that.

The question seemed to strike at a key defense argument: That Trump discussed investigating the Bidens because he was motivated by corruption in Ukraine, not personal gain.

– Brett Samuels

Schiff picks apart White House lawyer remark on Bolton book

5:05 p.m.

House lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) used a portion of his time answering a question about pursuing additional witness and evidence to raise questions about a previous statement from White House lawyer Patrick Philbin.

Schiff said that Philbin’s answer – that no one outside the National Security Council reviewed John Bolton’s manuscript – did not answer whether “White House lawyers found out what’s in it.” 

Schiff seemed to suggest that Trump’s attorneys may have learned about the contents of the draft book at some point, even if they did not review the actual manuscript.

– Morgan Chalfant

White House lawyer says White House counsel’s office was ‘aware’ of Bolton manuscript, only NSC reviewed it 

4:35 p.m.

In response to a question from a Democrat, Patrick Philbin, a member of President Trump's defense team, said the White House's lawyers were made aware “at some point” that former security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript had been sent to the National Security Council (NSC) for prepublication security review.

Philbin reiterated that only officials working at NSC had reviewed the manuscript but didn't say whether the president's lawyers were briefed on it. The book was submitted to NSC for prepublication review at the end of December.

Philbin also called reports about the White House trying to block the publication of Bolton’s book “misinformed.”

Philbin read from a Jan. 23 letter from NSC to Bolton’s attorneys that said the book contained “significant amounts of classified information” and that the manuscript could not be published in its current form. Philbin emphasized the letter says that the NSC would work with Bolton to ensure he could “tell his story.” 

Under questioning from a GOP senator, Philbin later said that “no one” told the White House counsel’s office told the lawyers that the publication of the book would be problematic for Trump. 

– Morgan Chalfant

Senate session resumes

4:20 p.m.

The Senate has reconvened to continue its question and answer session in President Trump's impeachment trial.

Harris invokes 'Access Hollywood' tape in question to House managers

3:45 p.m.

Before the Senate took a break, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) invoked President Trump's comments on the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which he bragged about groping women, to suggest he believes he's above the law.

Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race last month, cited past comments from Trump and former President Richard Nixon in setting up a question for House managers.

She referenced Nixon's defense of his conduct after he left office that "when the president does it, that means that is not illegal'" before highlighting Trump's comments to NBC's Billy Bush in 2005 that were publicized weeks before the 2016 election.

"Before he was elected, President Trump said, 'when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,'" Harris wrote. "After he was elected, President Trump said article II of the constitution gives him 'the right to do whatever he wants as president.'"

She said the statements reflected how both Trump and Nixon believed they were above the law, and asked how it would "undermine the integrity of our system of justice" to acquit Trump.

The question set up Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to rehash the central allegations against the president and warn of the consequences of failing to hold him accountable.

"I think this is exactly the fear," he said. "I think if you look at the pattern in this president's conduct and his words, what you see is a president who identifies the state as being himself."

– Brett Samuels

Senate takes 20 minute break 

3:40 p.m.
 
Senators are taking their first break in what is expected to be up to eight hours of questions. 
 
The break comes more than two hours into the questions with more than two dozen questions asked. 
 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the break would only last twenty minutes. The Senate frequently lets its breaks go long.
 
– Jordain Carney
 

Trump attorney says chief justice shouldn’t be able to rule on executive privilege 

3:40 p.m.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow pushed back on the idea from Democrats that Chief Justice John Roberts could rule on claims of executive privilege if witnesses are called in the trial, saying it would be a “historic step.”

The president’s attorney also argued it would only be fair for Trump to be able to call his own witnesses if the Senate calls witnesses recommended by House impeachment managers. 

He raised the possibility of Republicans calling Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) – the lead impeachment manager who presided over the fact-finding phase of the inquiry as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee – as a witness, comparing it to how independent counsel Kenneth Starr testified in Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage Trump expected to bring Hunter Biden's former business partner to debate Davis: On eve of tonight's debate — we've seen this moment in history before MORE’s impeachment inquiry.

– Morgan Chalfant

Lofgren cites Republican witness testimony in arguing impeachment case doesn't need criminal allegation

 
3:35 p.m. 
 
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) cited testimony from a Republican witness to argue that the House managers’ allegations rose to the level of an impeachable offense and that crimes are not required in order to impeach and remove a president from office.

Lofgren referenced testimony from the Republican witness during the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings, law professor and opinion contributor to The Hill Jonathan Turley, who argued that non-criminal abuse of power could form the basis for a case for impeachment.

At the time of his testimony Turley said that he believed it was too early for the House to impeach Trump.

Lofgren sought to contest the argument put forth by Trump’s legal team that Democrats’ impeachment case is invalid because the articles do not contain an allegation of a crime.

She said that a president could “deface a Post Office box” and it would constitute a violation of law, but would be a laughable basis for impeachment. She argued the framers of the Constitution were worried about abuse of power by presidents at the time of writing it. 
 
– Morgan Chalfant
 
Romney emerges as hypothetical in impeachment questions  
 
3:25 p.m.
 
As senators and House managers crafted hypothetical situations to explain their views of President Trump's actions, they turned to a member of the audience: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). 
 
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) first raised the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, when asking senators to imagine that then-President Obama asked for an investigation into Romney. 
 
"I want you to do an investigation into Mitt Romney, and I want you to announce that you found dirt on Mitt Romney. If you're willing to do that, quid pro quo, I won't give Ukraine the money they need to fight you on the front line," Schiff asked the Senate to imagine Obama asking former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. 
 
 
 
If Obama had evidence, under Schiff's hypothetical, "that Mitt Romney's son was being paid $1 million per year by a corrupt Russian company and Mitt Romney had acted to benefit that company, would Obama have authority to ask that the potential corruption be investigated?" the two senators asked.
 
Republicans have seized on former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden's work on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, and Joe Biden's push for the dismissal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin because of concerns he was overlooking corruption in his own office.

There's no evidence that Joe Biden was acting with his son's interests in mind, the former vice president has denied doing so and the GOP claims have been debunked by fact checkers.
 
Schiff responded that the "hypothetical was a bit off." 
 
– Jordain Carney

Trump lawyer says Senate risks weakening executive privilege

3:15 p.m.

Trump’s defense team said executive privilege could be “forever weakened” if the Senate were to decide such issues at the president's impeachment trial, rather than leaving it to the courts to resolve.  

Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to the president, responded to a question from Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden MORE (R-Texas) about the risks of senators setting a new precedent in Trump’s proceedings.

Some Senate Republicans have warned that efforts to subpoena testimony would likely draw an assertion of executive privilege by the president and trigger a protracted court battle. But other GOP senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), have expressed concerns that it may fall to the Senate to decide privilege questions. 

Philbin warned that senators voting to compel testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton over Trump’s privilege assertion could harm national security and set a dangerous precedent.

Bolton possesses “all of the nations secrets” from his time in the Trump administration, and thus may be entitled to a valid claim of “absolute immunity” from testimony under law, Philbin argued.

He said forcing Bolton's testimony would undermine executive privilege, the legal doctrine that shields certain presidential communications, in part to encourage candor between high-ranking executive branch officials.

A ruling by the Senate could see this privilege “forever weakened,” Philbin said, making it so that a president couldn’t have confidence that his communications “won’t end up on the front page of the Washington Post.” 

As support, Philbin cited the Supreme Court case involving President Nixon’s privilege claim over the Watergate tapes. 

While that case did recognize executive privilege, it saw the justices unanimously rule that a president cannot withhold important evidence from an ongoing criminal investigation, and did not address some of the novel separation of powers question raised in Trump’s impeachment.

– John Kruzel

Trump's team warns president has 'long list' of witnesses if Bolton called
 
3 p.m.
 
Patrick Philbin, a member of President Trump's legal team, warned impeachment would be "grave" for the Senate if Republicans agree to call new witnesses on Friday.  
 
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety MORE (R-Ohio) asked Trump's team to "address the implications of allowing the House to present an incomplete case to the Senate and request the Senate to seek testimony from additional witnesses." 
 
Portman's questions comes as the Senate is set to vote Friday on whether to allow witnesses. Democrats want to hear from four individuals, none of whom testified during the House process, including former national security adviser John Bolton. 
 
"All of the regular business of this body will be slowed down, hindered, prevented, while that goes on," Philbin said. 
 
He added that if Bolton is called, Trump would also try to call a "long list" of witnesses. 
 
"It's not a question of a lot of people talking right now about John Bolton," he said. "The president would have the opportunity to call his witness, just as a matter of fundamental fairness." 
 
"It would mean this would drag on for months and prevent this chamber from getting its business done," Philbin added. 
 
– Jordain Carney
 

Dershowitz: Quid pro quo not inherently illegal

2:20 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked if it matters whether there was a quid pro quo in President Trump's dealings with Ukraine, and if quid pro quos are frequently used in foreign policy. Democrats have argued Trump's decision to delay Ukraine aid constituted a quid pro quo.

Trump defense team member Alan Dershowitz, an opinion contributor for The Hill, argued that a quid pro quo would only be illegal if the behavior involved was in itself illegal.

"The only thing that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were in some way illegal," Dershowitz said.

Dershowitz added that Democrats were trying to "psychoanalyze" Trump, but "everybody has mixed motives."

"For it to be impeachable you would have to discern that he or she made a decision solely ... on the corrupt motives. And it cannot be a corrupt motive if you have a mixed motive," he continued. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) countered that Democrats had shown Trump acted with a "corrupt motive." 

– Jordain Carney

Kennedy poses question on executive privilege to both sides

2:15 p.m.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) became the first senator in the question and answer phase of the Senate trial to ask both sides to respond to a question when he asked about executive privilege.

The Republican senator asked: “Why did the House of Representatives not challenge President Trump’s claims of executive privilege and/or immunity during the House impeachment proceedings?”

Both sides split the five minute response time equally.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesA tearful lesson of 2016: Polls don't matter if people don't vote Overnight Health Care: House Democrats slam pharma CEOs for price hikes driven by revenue, executive bonuses | Ex-FDA employees express worries to Congress over politicization of vaccines | Fauci said his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump Top House Democrat: Parties 'much closer' to a COVID deal 'than we've ever been' MORE (D-N.Y.) offered the response for the House impeachment managers, arguing that Trump did not actually assert executive privilege, he asserted “blanket defiance” during their impeachment inquiry.

“There was no juris prudence that was cited to justify the notion of blanket defiance. There has been no case law to justice the doctrine of absolute immunity. In fact, every single court that has considered any presidential claim of absolute immunity such as the one asserted by the White House has rejected it out of hand,” Jeffries argued.

Patrick Philbin, a lawyer on the White House defense team, then argued that Jeffries’s claim is “simply incorrect.”

Philbin argued that the House subpoenas, because they were not authorized by a full House vote, were invalid.

Additionally, he argued that the White House "asserted the doctrine of absolute immunity for senior advisers to the president, which has been asserted by every president by the 1970s,” noting that Democrats chose not to challenge that in court.

– Olivia Beavers

Shaheen: Must impeachment articles allege a crime?

2:11 p.m.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Justice indicts two members of ISIS 'Beatles' cell ISIS militants expected to be sent to US for prosecution: report MORE (D-N.H.) asked House managers to address a central argument advanced by President Trump’s defense team: that impeachment articles must allege statutory crimes.

In a speech Monday, defense team lawyer Alan Dershowitz cited numerous legal authorities, some dating as far back as common law England, to argue that concepts like “abuse of power” that don’t appear in a criminal codebook cannot be the basis for impeachment. 

House manager Rep. Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaTexas social workers drop nondiscrimination rules for LGBTQ, disabilities Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Texas Democrat proposes legislation requiring masks in federal facilities MORE (D-Texas), responding to Shaheen’s question, rebutted this claim.

“The simple answer is that a president can be impeached without a statutory crime being committed,” she said. 

Garcia said a preponderance of scholarly research says a crime need not be alleged — and Dershowitz himself conceded his was a minority view among legal scholars.

The Framers intended impeachment to encompass a “full spectrum” of presidential misconduct, Garcia said, adding that the Constitution’s reference to high crimes and misdemeanors applied broadly to injuries done to society by public officeholders. 

Garcia said this principle was recognized in the impeachments of Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

– John Kruzel

Markey fact-checks Trump’s claim that House Dems never sought Bolton testimony  

1:55 p.m.

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOcasio-Cortez says having Green New Deal would have helped handle COVID-19 pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push expansion of offshore wind, block offshore drilling with ocean energy bill | Poll: Two-thirds of voters support Biden climate plan | Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes Biden plan lags Green New Deal in fighting emissions from homes MORE (D-Mass.) asked House managers to fact-check President Trump’s claim that House Democrats never sought testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton during the impeachment’s investigative phase.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House manager, said impeachment investigators did in fact ask Bolton to testify and were rebuffed. Schiff’s account is backed up by contemporaneous reports. 

Congressional investigators sought testimony from Bolton and his deputy Charles Kupperman, the latter of whom sued, asking a court whether he should abide by a congressional subpoena or White House guidance not to comply, Schiff said.

Schiff said that Bolton’s attorney, who also represents Kupperman, said, “You serve us with a subpoena [for Bolton] and we’ll sue you too.”

Schiff noted an inconsistency in the administration’s legal position on the issue of whether the courts are the proper forum to determine the enforceability of witness subpoenas.

Trump and his Republican allies have criticized House Democrats for not pressing their case for Bolton’s testimony in the courts.

But Schiff noted that the administration’s legal position in a case over access to former White House counsel Don McGahn’s testimony is that courts lack the power to referee subpoena fights between Congress and the White House.

– John Kruzel

Managers play clips of Trump's defense while arguing for Bolton testimony

1:45 p.m. 

House Democratic impeachment managers played video of Trump’s lawyers speaking earlier in the trial in order to make an argument for the need to call former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness.

In response to a question from Senate Democrats about calling witnesses, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) — the lead impeachment manager — urged senators not to wait for the publication of Bolton’s book in order to hear what he has to say about the Ukraine affair if they have any question about Trump’s motive in asking Kyiv for investigations. 

“There’s no way to have a fair trial without witnesses,” Schiff said. 

“If you have any question at all, you need to hear from his former national security adviser,” Schiff continued. “Don’t wait for the book.”

Schiff then played video of White House counsel Pat Cipollone arguing on the Senate floor that Democrats should have given the senators all of the “facts” in the case.   

Schiff also played clips of deputy counsel Michael Purpura arguing there was no firsthand information provided in the case that supported Democrats’ claim Trump tied the investigations to security aid to Ukraine.

He did so to point out that Bolton could provide that information, while maintaining that the managers collected sufficient evidence to show Trump acted with corrupt motive.

White House lawyer Patrick Philbin was then asked to respond. He noted that the House did not subpoena Bolton — the lower chamber asked him to testify but he refused on instructions from the White House — and insisted that calling witnesses would set a bad precedent.

“And to insist now that this body will become the investigative body, that this body will have to do all the discovery, and that this institution will be effectively paralyzed for months on end because it has to sit as a court of impeachment … that should not be the precedent that is set here,” Philbin said. 

– Morgan Chalfant

Moderates ask Trump's team how to decipher Trump's motives
 
1:30 p.m.
 
The first question came from a group of crucial Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah). 
 
Collins submitted the question for the trio, asking, if Trump had more than one motive for his decision to hold up the aid to Ukraine then "how should the Senate consider more than one motive" in regard to the first impeachment article. 
 
Trump's legal team responded that if senators believe Trump had more than one motive "it's clear that [Democrats'] case fails."
 
"Once you're into mixed motive land, it's clear that their case fails. There can't possibly be an impeachable offense at all," Patrick Philbin, a lawyer for Trump's team said. 
 
"All elected officials, to some extent, have in mind how their conduct, how their decisions, their policy decision will affect the next election," he continued. 
 
— Jordain Carney