Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle

With the outcome of a Senate vote on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 BraunOvernight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks Senators, bruised by impeachment, hunt for deals Plan to probe Bidens sparks GOP divisions 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 BluntCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium 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 ShelbyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds McCarthy: White House coronavirus funding request 'a little low' Schumer requesting .5 billion in emergency funding on coronavirus 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 Kavanaugh70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Justices bar Mexican parents from suing over fatal cross-border shooting of teen Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Arizona man MORE

ADVERTISEMENT

“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) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Republicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-W.Va.) and then-Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane Flake70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents McSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign 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 RoundsOvernight Defense: Pentagon policy chief resigns at Trump's request | Trump wishes official 'well in his future endeavors' | Armed Services chair warns against Africa drawdown after trip GOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' Trump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire MORE (R-S.D.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 CapitoTrump hammers Manchin over impeachment vote Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Democrat Richard Ojeda announces Senate bid after dropping out of presidential race 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 MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic 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 HeinrichSenate report says Obama officials were 'not well-postured' to respond to Russian hacking Democratic senators ask banks to prohibit funding Arctic drilling Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE (D-N.M.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats' Obama-to-Sanders shift on charter schooling This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Juan Williams: Black votes matter MORE (D-N.J.), sat and listened with their desks empty. Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Schumer: Trump coronavirus response marked by 'towering and dangerous incompetence' The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday 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 GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE (S.C.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDNC warns campaigns about cybersecurity after attempted scam Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Biden looks to shore up lead in S.C. MORE (I-Vt.) leaned back in his chair, hands folded as he listened, rarely moving to take notes. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. The Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing MORE (D-Minn.) shared a look with Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump 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 Ann WarrenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives 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 CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (R-La.) paced the sidelines of the chamber, while Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Republicans give Barr vote of confidence The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (D-Va.) could be overheard jiggling his pen on his ankle. Several senators, including Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenSenate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Bottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo MORE (R-N.D.) and Gary PetersGary Charles PetersState officials press Congress for more resources to fight cyberattacks Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle 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 SchiffHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report Trump administration freezes funding for study of hurricane barriers: report 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."