Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle

With the outcome of a Senate vote on President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE's impeachment all but completely certain to end with his acquittal, the dramatic atmosphere surrounding his trial at the Capitol is quickly fizzling. 

After two weeks of a high-octane, at times frantic, energy around the Senate — with reporters hungry for any quotes amid a crackdown on press access — Monday took a more subdued tone. 

The reasons are likely twofold: After dominating the news cycle, attention is shifting this week to the Iowa caucuses, the 2020 race and Trump's State of the Union address. 


In addition, after Friday's Senate vote against hearing new witnesses, much of the drama has been sucked out of the trial.

Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock Democrats reject short-term deal ahead of unemployment deadline MORE (R-Ind.) predicted that the 2020 fight would “quickly take over the discussions.” 

“There was so much leading up to last week’s witness fight, this almost feels like it’s anticlimactic,” Braun said.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Pelosi to require masks on House floor GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, added that “Democrat and Republicans I believe will be relieved to move on” and that the schedule for the trial this week was “locked down.” 

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Overnight Defense: Senate GOP coronavirus bill includes .4B for Pentagon | US, Australia focus on China in key meeting McConnell wants FBI money out of coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ala.), one of the 15 senators in the chamber during former President Clinton's impeachment trial, noted that Trump's trial was turning out to be less dramatic than the 1999 proceeding or a blockbuster fight in 2018 over then-Supreme Court nominee Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDavis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Kavanaugh urged Supreme Court to avoid decisions on Trump finances, abortion: report Buy the dip: Bet on Trump MORE


“I thought that there was a lot more intensity in Kavanaugh than this,” Shelby said. “I think this was a foregone conclusion.” 

Kavanaugh’s trial, roiled by allegations of sexual assault, marked a high point in tensions around the Capitol, including high-profile confrontations between protesters and Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHouse-passed spending bill would block Pebble Mine construction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding MORE (D-W.Va.) and then-Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.). 

“I don’t think this has been as stressful for members as Kavanaugh was,” Blunt said, noting that Kavanaugh was decided on a simple majority, while impeachment has the higher bar of two-thirds for conviction. 

The shift in tone was reflected both on and off the floor on Monday.  

Several Republicans — including Sens. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Senate GOP punts coronavirus package to next week Lincoln Project offers list of GOP senators who 'protect' Trump in new ad MORE (R-S.D.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLatest Trump proposal on endangered species could limit future habitat, critics say Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Barrasso nuclear bill latest GOP effort to boost uranium mining MORE (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Senate Republican — skirted through the basement and through a crowd of reporters without a question being asked of them. 


As Republicans trickled in to their caucus lunch, reporters — stuck behind press pens — largely ignored them without attempting to ask questions. 

Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoFormer VA staffer charged with giving seven patients fatal insulin doses Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE (R-W.Va.) was asked as she exited what food senators ate. Capito, still appearing to be munching, said it was "good" and kept walking. 

There were some exceptions to the laid-back atmosphere. Both Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock Overnight Energy: Official says protesters not cleared from Lafayette Square for Trump | Trump administration blasts banks refusing to fund Arctic drilling | 2019 coal production hit lowest level since 1978 MORE (R-Alaska) attracted a crowd of reporters as they walked through the basement. 

Murkowski, who voted against calling witnesses, reiterated that she had made a decision on whether to convict Trump; she did not share her decision. 

Jones, meanwhile, indicated he was still undecided but "getting there." Jones, who is up for reelection in the deeply red state of Alabama, is viewed as one of three potential Democratic swing votes. 

On the floor, Jones was spotted leaning over his desk taking notes during Monday’s closing arguments.  

Meanwhile, Manchin, viewed as a potential swing vote, sat throughout the closing arguments with a notebook open on his desk, glasses off and head resting in hand. He was spotted briefly taking notes during the White House closing argument but otherwise was in listening mode. 

Other Democrats, including Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichOVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money following Treasury delays The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time MORE (D-N.M.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors MORE (D-N.J.), sat and listened with their desks empty. Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyConnecticut senators call for Subway to ban open carry of firearms Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Gridlock mires chances of police reform deal MORE (D-Conn.) had a large binder on his desk but didn't appear to be taking notes. 

Several Republicans, including Shelby, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamNavarro: 'Don't fall for' message from TikTok lobbyists, 'puppet CEO' Graham defends Trump on TikTok, backs Microsoft purchase The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse MORE (S.C.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Ballooning Fed balance sheet sparks GOP concerns  The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Lauren Underwood says Americans face economic crisis if Senate fails to act on unemployment benefits extension; US surpasses 4 million cases, 1,000+ deaths for third straight day MORE (Okla.), similarly sat with their desks empty. Graham left the GOP lunch early and wasn’t spotted at his desk on the floor during the White House's closing arguments or the Democrats' rebuttal. 

Monday's proceeding comes the same day as the Iowa caucuses, grounding the four 2020 hopefuls in Washington for part of the day.


Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Progressives lost the battle for the Democratic Party's soul MORE (I-Vt.) leaned back in his chair, hands folded as he listened, rarely moving to take notes. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery GOP sparks backlash after excluding election funds from COVID-19 bill Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (D-Minn.) shared a look with Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Thomas Isett Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Dr. Kate Broderick Making vulnerable children a priority in the pandemic response MORE (D-Del.) after the White House played a tape of the Delaware senator talking at a White House bill signing. Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Here are top contenders to be Biden's VP Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' MORE (D-Mass.) briefly spoke with reporters before speeding out of the Capitol once the trial wrapped for the day. 

After taking the reins last week for the question-and-answer session and the fight over witnesses, senators appeared restless once again. 

Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyStimulus checks debate now focuses on size, eligibility On The Money: GDP shrinks by record amount in second quarter amid virus lockdowns | Jobless claims rise for second straight week | McConnell tees up fight on unemployment benefits GOP senators propose stimulus checks of ,000 for both adults and children MORE (R-La.) paced the sidelines of the chamber, while Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Pompeo defers to Justice on question of Trump election tweet Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election MORE (D-Va.) could be overheard jiggling his pen on his ankle. Several senators, including Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump Overnight Energy: Trump rollback of Obama mileage standards faces court challenges | Court strikes down EPA suspension of Obama greenhouse gas rule | Trump floats cutting domestic oil production MORE (R-N.D.) and Gary PetersGary Charles PetersSenators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery Trump may have power, but he still has no plan to fight the pandemic 100 Days: Democrats see clear path to Senate majority MORE (D-Mich.), stood for part of the closing arguments. 

As many as a dozen Republican senators were missing during final rebuttal from House Democrats, though that number was reduced to only a handful as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Nunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden Hillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence MORE (D-Calif.) wrapped. Some could be seen chatting in the cloakroom as House Democrats spoke on the floor.

Democrats are trying to keep pressure on Republican senators ahead of Wednesday’s votes on conviction. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMeadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program Senators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery MORE (D-N.Y.) praised Schiff, calling his closing remarks “just about the best speech I’ve ever heard.” 

"He points to our Republican colleagues and says, 'You are not him. Don't follow him down this path.' I was so moved by his speech, and I hope maybe it pierced the hardness that is put in front of so many of our Republican colleagues," he said. "Let’s hope and pray. If that didn't do it, I don't know what would."