Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial

Senators will hold a second day of questioning both sides in the impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT MORE on Thursday.

Senators in both parties will ask questions to the House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team. The Senate is using a total of 16 hours of floor time to ask questions. 

On Friday, the Senate is expected to hold a vote on whether to hear from witnesses at the trial. If the Senate votes against hearing from witnesses, it could move quickly to a final vote.


The Hill will be providing live coverage of Thursday's questioning. To see Wednesday's coverage, click here

Murkowski, Alexander join skeptics in questioning value of Bolton testimony 

10:32 p.m.

Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocratic lawmaker says 'assassination party' hunted for Pelosi during riot Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE (R-Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.) were among a group of Republicans who asked a question that signalled skepticism about the ultimate value of testimony from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonNSA places former GOP political operative in top lawyer position after Pentagon chief's reported order After insurrection: The national security implications McConnell won't reprise role as chief Trump defender MORE.

It would have been unremarkable if the question were issued only by conservative Republicans whose opposition to calling new witnesses in Trump’s Senate trial is all but assured.

But Murkowski and Alexander are among a handful of moderate Republicans who Democrats hope will join them in voting to subpoena Bolton and others, meaning their decision to sign onto the question could hint at doubts over the strength of the House manager's case and need for more witnesses.


The senators were joined by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP An attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation MORE (R-S.C.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham calls on Schumer to hold vote to dismiss article of impeachment against Trump Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP GOP in bind over Trump as corporate donations freeze MORE (R-Ohio), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Appeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (R-Penn.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent MORE (R-Ala.) in posing the following question to Trump’s defense team: "Assuming for argument's sake that Bolton were to testify in the light most favorable to the allegations contained in the articles of impeachment, isn't it true that the allegations still would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, and that therefore for this and other reasons his testimony would add nothing to this case?"

The question gave an opening for Trump’s defense lawyers to again outline their case and argue that even if all the facts alleged were true, the House case would still be too weak to justify convicting and removing Trump from office.  

– John Kruzel

Murkowski asks why should Bolton not testify to Senate

8:45 p.m.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked Thursday why former national security adviser John Bolton should not be called to testify during President Trump's Senate impeachment trial, noting that conflicting accounts about Trump’s decision to delay U.S. aid to Ukraine “weighs in favor” of hearing from additional witnesses. 

Murkowski, who is known for her independent streak, is considered a swing vote on whether the Senate will call in witnesses like Bolton. Her question Thursday night, during the second day of a question-and-answer session, could signal where the senator stands.

“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge. Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton,” Murkowski asked in a question posed to the White House defense team.

Murkowski noted in her question that U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Top Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland MORE and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress MORE (R-Wis.), an ally of the president, have said Trump did not withhold $391 million in aid to Ukraine as leverage to press Kyiv to open politically beneficial investigations, including one into a 2020 political rival.

She then notes that a New York Times report of Bolton’s unpublished manuscript says otherwise, noting that the report suggests the former Trump official was referring to a direct conversation the president about the aid.

– Olivia Beavers

Warren puts Justice Roberts in awkward spot with Supreme Court question


6:45 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden to tap Rohit Chopra to lead CFPB, Gensler for SEC chair: reports Biden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector MORE (D-Mass.) introduced a seemingly awkward dynamic into the impeachment proceedings when she asked if Republicans’ refusal to allow new witnesses in President Trump’s trial would diminish trust in the chief justice or the Supreme Court.

The question appeared to create discomfort for Chief Justice John Roberts, whose role as the trial’s presiding officer requires him to read senators’ queries aloud — even those raising questions about potential damage to his own legitimacy, or that of the judicial institution he has assiduously sought to shield from the political fray.

It was unclear if the question was a dig at Republican obstruction, Roberts’s unwillingness so far to take a position in the witness fight or both.

While some Democrats have floated a theory that Roberts can supersede the Senate and call witnesses at his discretion, this seems to be the minority interpretation of their respective powers. Most scholars agree that the Constitution gives the Senate ultimate say over all critical matters at trial and the ability to overrule the presiding officer.

Lead House manager Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffAngus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information Schiff says 'massive intelligence and security failure' led to Capitol breach Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration MORE (D-Calif.) is among the Democrats who have proposed that senators cede power to Roberts on the witness issue. In addressing Warren’s question, however, the congressman opted for diplomacy, declining to put added pressure on the presiding officer.


“I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the chief justice,” Schiff said. “I think the chief justice has presided admirably.”

-John Kruzel

How valuable would a Ukraine-led investigation into the Bidens be for Trump, Democrats ask

5:54 p.m.

Trump's defense team and House impeachment managers sparred over the issue of how much value Trump would place on a Ukraine-led investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFear of insider attack prompts additional FBI screening of National Guard troops: AP Iran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries MORE and his son Hunter Biden. 

The question from a group of Senate Democrats led to grappling over how Trump’s Ukraine dealings are seen through the lens of campaign finance law, which makes it a crime to solicit a foreign national to give a U.S. political campaign anything of value.


Pat Philbin, a member of Trump's defense team, noted that the Justice Department (DOJ) last fall found that Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had not violated campaign finance law.

"Relying on established procedures set forth in the Justice Manual, the Department’s Criminal Division reviewed the official record of the call and determined, based on the facts and applicable law, that there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted," DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement issued in September.

Most illegal foreign contributions take the form of money, a clear “thing of value.” But legal experts are split over whether foreign "information" that a campaign considered valuable could be the basis of a campaign finance violation.

Lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Trump would find it “immensely valuable” for Ukraine to have announced an investigation into Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son.

Republicans have long sought a probe into a 2016 episode in which then-Vice President Biden helped to orchestrate the ouster of Ukraine’s top prosecutor while his son Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that was linked to corruption allegations.

At the time, Joe Biden's effort to remove the prosecutor was in line with the official U.S. anti-corruption stance in Ukraine. The move was also backed by Western leaders and major international institutions, as well as Ukrainian government watchdog groups who saw the prosecutor as corrupt.

“You can darn well expect that if Trump had gotten this information he’d be out there every day saying Ukraine was investigating Joe Biden’s campaign,” Schiff said.

– John Kruzel

Pence ‘hopeful’ for swift outcome of impeachment trial

5:40 p.m.

Vice President Pence told reporters in Iowa that he was “very impressed” with the president’s legal team in the impeachment trial and that he is “hopeful for a quick outcome.”

Pence said he hoped the proceedings would end “soon.”

When asked if voters were better off not hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial, Pence pointed to the fact that the American people have heard from 17 witnesses who testified during the House impeachment inquiry and that there was a transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president at the center of the impeachment case.

“I think it would be good for the country for the Senate to vote, to acquit and move on,” Pence said.

Pence also reiterated that he “never” heard Trump tie military aid to an investigation into the Biden family.

– Morgan Chalfant

Schiff suggests limiting impeachment witness depositions to one week
4:50 p.m.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that closed-door depositions for potential impeachment witnesses could be limited to one week. 
"I will make an offer to opposing counsel, who says this will stretch on indefinitely if you decide to have a single witness. Let's cabin the depositions to one week," Schiff said from the Senate floor. "I think we can. I think we should. I think we must." 
The offer appeared to be an effort to counter one of the main arguments from Trump's legal team and Senate Republicans: That opening the door to witnesses will drag out the trial for weeks and months.
Trump's legal team has warned repeatedly during the two-day question-and-answer session that allowing new witnesses would be a legally fraught, time consuming effort that would not change the outcome of the trial where 67 votes are needed to convict Trump. 
Pat Philbin, a member of Trump's legal team, warned senators on Wednesday that if former national security adviser John Bolton was 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." 
The Senate will vote on Friday on whether or not to allow witnesses and documents as part of the trial. Democrats will need to win over four Republican senators in order to call witnesses. 
– Jordain Carney

First bipartisan question centers on Giuliani role in Ukraine 

4:40 p.m.

Day two of the question and answer phase drew the first question from a bipartisan group of senators, who asked about the Ukraine-related dealings of President Trump’s private attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiOfficials brace for second Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Rove: Chances of conviction rise if Giuliani represents Trump in Senate impeachment trial MORE.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) asked Trump’s defense team to reconcile Giuliani’s conduct on Trump’s behalf with the Logan Act, an 18th century law that prohibits private American citizens from representing the U.S. before foreign governments. 

Collins and Murkowski are among a small slate of moderate Senate Republicans who Democrats hope will vote in favor of allowing new witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial.

During the House's impeachment inquiry, Giuliani was described by multiple witnesses as running a kind of "shadow diplomacy" in Ukraine that diverged from official U.S. foreign policy aims.

Pat Philbin, a member of Trump's legal team, pushed back against those claims Thursday, saying Giuliani had not engaged in policy on behalf of the U.S. abroad.

As evidence, Philbin cited the House testimony of former diplomat Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, who said he understood Giuliani to be “a source of information for the president and someone who knew about Ukraine and someone who spoke to the president.”

Lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) accused the defense team of contradicting itself about Giuliani's role. He said Trump’s lawyers previously maintained that Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, which included looking into the Bidens’ activities there, had been done to advance Trump’s anti-corruption policy goals.

“They have now acknowledged the person in charge of this was not conducting policy,” Schiff said. “That is a startling admission.”

– John Kruzel

GOP senators: Can president ask foreign government to probe political rival?
3:40 p.m.
A group of Republican senators, including Susan Collins (Maine), asked if there were instances when it would be appropriate for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen, including a political rival, who was not under investigation in the United States. 
The question appeared to be a reference to President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump asked him to help "look into" former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 
"It would be hard for me to contemplate circumstances where that would be appropriate," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said. 
He added that there could be a "legitimate way" for the Justice Department to ask a foreign government to investigate U.S. citizens.
Pat Philbin, a member of Trump's legal team, argued that there was "loose talk" on the July 25th phone call but that Trump "didn't ask President Zelensky specifically for an investigation."   
He added that it could be appropriate for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen if the individual had potentially violated that country's law and there was a "national interest" in the case. 
– Jordain Carney 

Defense attorney rattles off Trump's accomplishments to counter House arguments 

3:17 p.m.

Attorney Eric Herschmann, a member of the president's legal team, spent several minutes responding to a question from GOP senators with what amounted to a campaign ad for President Trump in order to argue the president does not have corrupt motives.

Sens. Mike BraunMichael BraunTop Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win Congress affirms Biden win after rioters terrorize Capitol Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote MORE (R-Ind.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development MORE (R-Wyo.) asked the defense to respond to accusations from House managers that Trump must be removed from office because he does not have the best interests of Americans in mind.

In a move certain to please the president, Herschmann, who has delivered a few brief but fiery presentations thus far, went on to recite a laundry list of accomplishments during the years of the Trump administration.

"What’s really going on is that he’s a threat to them and he’s an immediate, legitimate threat to them and he’s an immediate, legitimate threat to their candidates," Herschmann said.

He cited Trump's new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, investments in the military, low unemployment rates, criminal justice reform and other statistics and policies. 

"If all that is solely ... for [Trump's] personal and political gain and not in the best interest of the American people, then I say, God bless him, keep doing it," Herschmann declared.

– Brett Samuels

Dems ask: Who is paying Rudy Giuliani?

2:37 p.m.

A group of Senate Democrats used a question to take aim at Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, and ask who is paying for his legal fees and travel expenses.

Giuliani indicated last year that he is working pro bono for Trump and specified that the president does not cover his travel abroad.

"The short answer to the question is I don't know who is paying Rudy Giuliani's fees," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in response to the question, describing Giuliani's work as a "corrupt political errand."

He added that Giuliani's work in Ukraine was "normalizing lawlessness of the kind that Rudy Giuliani was engaged in."

“I don’t know who is directly paying the freight for it — but I can tell you the whole country is paying the freight for it," Schiff said.

Giuliani has said that he's traveled to Ukraine in an effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden. 

Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowTrump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates Dershowitz says he'd defend Trump again in impeachment trial Trump attorney Jay Sekulow refutes claims of Pence authority over electors MORE, a member of Trump's legal team, instead of answering the question asked by Democrats used it as an opening to knock the Bidens.

– Jordain Carney

Schiff: Have we learned nothing since Watergate?

1:55 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House impeachment manager, took a jab at President Trump's defense during Thursday's session of the Senate impeachment trial.

"Watergate is now 40-50 years behind us. Have we learned nothing in the last half-century? … It seems like we are back to where we were," Schiff said.

The House manager was referring to a controversial argument made by Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzSunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US In calling out Trump, Nikki Haley warns of a more sinister threat Walls close in on Trump in final days MORE, a member of Trump's defense team and an opinion contributor for The Hill, on Wednesday that a president may engage in a quid pro quo as long as the president believes it serves the national interest and no part of the conduct is illegal. He also said seeking to win an election, if a president believes that to be in the country's interest, is not necessarily corrupt.

Schiff called the argument "astonishing" and said, "What we have seen over the last couple days is a descent into constitutional madness."

He said that the theory was reminiscent of the Watergate scandal that forced former President Nixon to resign. Nixon at the time argued that if a president does commit an illegal act, then it isn't illegal because he's the president. 

"We're right back to where we were a half-century ago," Schiff said. "And I would argue that we are in a worse place ... That argument if the president said 'it can’t be illegal' failed and Richard Nixon was forced to resign. But that argument may succeed here."

– Marty Johnson

Roberts rejects question from Paul on whistleblower

1:20 p.m.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts refused to read a question submitted by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' MORE (R-Ky.).

Paul submitted the second question of Thursday’s session.

Paul and Roberts have been battling over the question, which was expected to be about the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

A Senate page brought the question from Paul to Roberts, who appeared to pause to read it.

"The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted,” Roberts said. 

Roberts then sat the slip of paper with Paul's question aside and the Senate moved on to the next question. 

Paul argued in a brief press conference after the floor drama that his question "made no reference to any whistleblower" and that Roberts' decision was an "incorrect finding." 

But Paul then read his question, which names both a staff member for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the individual who has been reported in conservative media as the possible whistleblower, and asks about their contacts. 

– Jordain Carney