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 John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address 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.

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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 MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE (R-Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderReopening schools seen as vital step in pandemic recovery OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget 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 BoltonSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Bolton book sells 780,000 copies in first week, set to surpass 1M copies printed 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.

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The senators were joined by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamJaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham Hillicon Valley: Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse | Trump administration awards tech group contract to build 'virtual' wall | Advocacy groups urge Congress to ban facial recognition technologies Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (R-S.C.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Senate Democrats offer plan to extend added jobless benefits during pandemic Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls MORE (R-Ohio), Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Penn.) and Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanUS security starts in the Arctic Senate confirms nation's first African American service chief GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas 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 SondlandTop 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 Ocasio-Cortez: Republicans are prioritizing big chains in coronavirus relief  MORE and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday 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

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6:45 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low 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 SchiffDemocrats hit Trump for handling of Russian bounty allegations after White House briefing Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November Democrats face tough questions with Bolton 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.

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“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 BidenTrump hits 'radical left,' news media, China in Independence Day address Kaepernick on July Fourth: 'We reject your celebration of white supremacy' Jaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham 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.

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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 GiulianiOusted Manhattan US Attorney Berman to testify before House next week Sunday shows preview: With coronavirus cases surging, lawmakers and health officials weigh in Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down MORE.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday 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 BraunGridlock mires chances of police reform deal Pelosi says GOP 'trying to get away with murder' on police reform bill GOP senator introducing bill to scale back qualified immunity for police MORE (R-Ind.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump nominates controversial, longtime acting head of BLM as director | Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee | Massive dust storm from Africa hits Texas, Louisiana Ernst sinks vote on Trump EPA nominee Cruz urges Trump to support Israeli annexation 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 SekulowAppeals court rejects Trump effort to throw out emoluments case Supreme Court divided over fight for Trump's financial records   Meadows joins White House in crisis mode 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 DershowitzCellphones haven't stopped cops from lying — only courts can do that Moussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Frist says Manhattan Project-like initiative necessary to fight virus; WH to release plan for easing lockdowns 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 PaulRand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed GOP Arizona lawmaker says Fauci and Birx 'undermine' Trump's coronavirus response Fauci: 'We are not going in the right direction' 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