GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander called Trump's actions 'inappropriate' but says he will vote against a motion for witnesses in impeachment trial
On Thursday, the Senate will wrap up a 16-hour period of submitting written questions to prosecutors and defense lawyers in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Democrats focused their questions on the need to call more witnesses in Trump's trial, particularly the former national security adviser John Bolton. Republicans focused on trying to exonerate the president of wrongdoing and arguing against calling more witnesses. All eyes are on a few Republican senators who could be swing votes in the motion to call witnesses: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah. Scroll down to watch the trial and follow Insider's live coverage. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
On Thursday, senators will wrap up a 16-hour period of submitting written questions to the prosecution and the defense in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. The question-and-answer period comes after six marathon days of opening arguments from House impeachment managers — who act as prosecutors in the president's trial — and Trump's defense team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump's personal defense attorney Jay Sekulow. After the defense rested its case on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the 16-hour question period would be spread out over two days, and encouraged Senators to keep their questions "thoughtful" and "brief." The House of Representatives impeached Trump last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Both charges related to his efforts to coerce Ukraine into launching politically motivated investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic frontrunner, his son Hunter, and the Democratic Party as a whole. While doing so, the president withheld $391 million in vital military aid to Ukraine, as well as a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought and still hasn't gotten. During the first day of the question-and-answer, senators quizzed prosecutors and defense lawyers about the merits of impeaching Trump and whether there was a basis for his removal from office. Democratic senators focused on the unprecedented nature of a Senate impeachment trial with no witnesses and asked House managers to highlight the charges against the president. They zeroed in on the fact that Trump was not interested in corruption in Ukraine before Biden started running for office, and on the fact that over a dozen witnesses have so far testified to the president's misconduct. Republicans, meanwhile, focused on drawing hypothetical scenarios to try and prove that Biden inappropriately intervened in an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas company whose board employed Biden's son, Hunter, until last year. (There is no evidence to support the theory that the vice president improperly tried to influence the investigation.) Some Republican senators also tried to use their questions to reveal the identity of the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry. But Chief Justice John Roberts, who reviewed the questions beforehand, made it clear that he would not read aloud any question that named the individual who filed the whistleblower complaint against the president. On Thursday, Democratic senators will likely use their time to help House managers make a compelling case to call John Bolton, the former national security adviser, to testify in the trial. Republicans will likely use their time to try to exonerate the president and argue that the Senate doesn't need to call more witnesses because Congress has all the evidence it needs. Watch the trial below:
Scroll down to follow Insider's live coverage:Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, says he will vote against a motion to call witnesses.
Alexander told reporters earlier in the night that he would make his "decision after the last question tonight." Shortly after he left the US Capitol, Alexander released a statement that he would not vote for a motion to call witnesses. Alexander was viewed as a potential swing voter — one of four in the GOP who could vote with Democrats to call witnesses. In his statement he called the president's actions "inappropriate" but said that they did not rise to the bar of impeachable offenses and should be decided at the ballot box. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska, said she will announce her decision on Friday. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, releases a statement saying she'll support a motion calling witnesses.
After the trial adjourned on Thursday, Collins said she "will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents be subpoenaed." The vote will come on Friday, and according to her statement, she will join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1223091529872564225?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed. My full statement: https://t.co/VuhZv6CO5e pic.twitter.com/LhQlnvPaoc Pence aide who testified against Trump will be leaving his office earlier than planned
Jennifer Williams, a State Department official detailed to Vice President Mike Pence's office, will be leaving her position earlier than planned, CNN reported. Her detail was reportedly supposed to end in two months, but she will be leaving early next week. Williams was a firsthand witness to Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. She testified that what she heard on the call was "unusual" and that she flagged it to her superior. During the phone call, Trump deviated from the talking points that had been set by senior national security aides and instead pressured Zelensky to launch investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party as a whole. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, also heard the call and reported it to John Eisenberg, the NSC's chief lawyer. Vindman testified that Eisenberg took note of his concerns and told him not to tell anyone else about what he had heard. White House lawyers then took the unusual step of moving the transcript of the call to a top-secret, codeword NSC server typically used to house sensitive information pertaining to US national security. The White House has not yet released the full transcript of the conversation. Trump's lawyers keep pushing a bogus talking point about the impeachment process
Here's what White House counsel Pat Cipollone said: "If you feel confident in your facts then why do you design a process that completely shuts out the President? Why do you cook up the facts in a basement SCIF instead of in the light of day?" SCIF stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. Cipollone added that Democrats "locked out the President's counsel." Fact check: The House Intelligence Committee conducted the initial impeachment hearings behind closed doors to protect potentially classified information from spilling out. The committee subsequently released transcripts of all the closed-door depositions. The private hearings were also open to every Republican and Democratic member of three committees, which is approximately 100 lawmakers. Counsel for Democrats and Republicans were also allowed to participate, which they did. Trump's lawyers were later invited to attend public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. They declined every invitation. At a campaign event during his impeachment trial, Trump rails against Democrats for impeaching him after he signed 'the biggest tax cut in the history of our country' into law.
CNN reported that while he was at a campaign event in Michigan during the impeachment trial, Trump mentioned that he signed "the biggest tax cut in the history of our country" into law. "And what do they do? They impeach you," he said. "It's frankly a disgrace to our country." Fact check: Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, not for passing a tax cut. Bipartisan group of senators takes aim at Rudy Giuliani's role as Trump's bag man in Ukraine
A bipartisan group of senators — Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, and Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — asked a question to Trump's defense team that appeared to take aim at the president's decision to have his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, carry out his pressure campaign in Ukraine. The senators noted that the Logan Act bars any United States citizen without the authority of the State Department from communicating with any foreign government to influence that government's conduct in relation to any controversy with the US. They then asked the defense team if the president will "assure the public" that private citizens will not be directed to conduct US policy unless they've been "specifically designated" by the president and State Department to do so? Here's the Trump team's response: Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin acknowledged that the question was made in reference to Giuliani but went on to say he wanted to "make clear" that no private person was carrying out foreign policy in the Trump administration. He pointed to testimony from Kurt Volker, the US's former special envoy to Ukraine, in which Volker said he believed Giuliani was merely a "source of information" for the president, and "someone who knew about Ukraine and someone who spoke to the president." Philbin also pointed out that the Ukrainians approached Giuliani as a nexus to Trump because "he was someone who could provide information to the president." He added that Volker testified he did not believe Giuliani was carrying out Trump's policy directives but rather "indicating his views" of what he thought "would be useful" for the Ukrainians to use to convince Trump of their "anti-corruption bona fides." Regardless, Philbin said, Trump's policy is to "always abide by the laws." Fact check: It is not true that Giuliani was merely a "source of information" for Trump vis-a-vis Ukraine. More than a dozen witnesses have testified that Giuliani spearheaded the Trump administration's "irregular" foreign policy channel in Ukraine and was instrumental in engineering the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the US's ambassador to Ukraine, after he and Trump carried out a smear campaign against her. Here's what Bill Taylor, the US's former interim ambassador to Ukraine, testified (emphasis ours): "As the acting ambassador, I had authority over the regular, formal diplomatic processes, including the bulk of the U.S. effort to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion and to help it defeat corruption. My colleague, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, and our colleagues at the National Security Council (NSC) were my main points of contact in Washington in this regular channel. This channel is formally responsible for formulating and overseeing the implementation of U.S. foreign policy with respect to Ukraine, a policy that has consistently enjoyed strong, bipartisan support, both in Congress and in all administrations since Ukraine's independence from Russia in 1991." "At the same time, however, I encountered an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making with respect to Ukraine, unaccountable to Congress, a channel that included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and, as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani. I was clearly in the regular channel, but I was also in the irregular one to the extent that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland included me in certain conversations. Although this irregular channel was well-connected in Washington, it operated mostly outside of official State Department channels." Trump's team could presumably point to these comments to show Giuliani was not, in fact, engaged in official US policy, but rather a side errand for Trump's personal interests. However, that claim is undercut by testimony from Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union (emphasis ours): "The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. I have now identified certain State Department emails and messages that provide contemporaneous support for my view. These emails show that the leadership of State, NSC, and the White House were all informed about the Ukraine efforts from May 23, 2019, until the security aid was released on September 11, 2019." Fiona Hill, the National Security Council's former senior director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs, testified that it wasn't until she heard Sondland's testimony that she fully understood what was going on when she served in the White House: Sondland "was being involved in domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things had just diverged…I did say to him…I do think this is all going to blow up. And here we are." Trump's impeachment trial by the numbers (so far)
In response to a question from a group of five Republican senators, including Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, asking how many witnesses have testified in Trump's impeachment trial and how much documentary evidence has been submitted into the record, deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin laid out a few statistics:
The Senate has seen 192 video clips from 13 witnesses. Over 28,000 pages of documents — specifically, 28,578 pages — have been submitted into the record. Each side had up to 24 hours to make opening arguments. House impeachment managers used more than 21 hours of their time, while Trump's defense team used significantly less.
Philbin pointed to the numbers and said, "At this point there has been a lot put on here in terms of a trial. You've seen the witnesses in the clips, all of the most relevant parts, you've seen the documents put up in excerpts on the screens." Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann mentions the border wall as a defense against impeachment
In response to a question from a Republican senator, which asked whether Trump has "the best interest of America and its citizens in mind," defense attorney Eric Herschmann rattled off a list of the president's accomplishments. He said Trump is only an "immediate, legitimate threat" to Democrats "because the election is only eight months away." (Fact check: It's nine months away.) Herschmann went on to praise Trump for:
Replacing NAFTA with USMCA Overseeing the assassinations of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iran's top military general Qassem Soleimani Job creation and a low unemployment rate Cutting illegal border crossings down and building 100 miles of the wall along the US's southern border with Mexico
Fact check: It's unclear where Herschmann was going with this, or why the president's defense team was using his impeachment trial to make a political pitch for his reelection. But The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported that she heard from several Trump advisers who said Herschmann is making a play for Trump's chief of staff. House impeachment manager Adam Schiff: 'The Constitution is not a suicide pact'
"The Constitution is not a suicide pact," the lead House impeachment manager, Adam Schiff, said after detailing President Trump's repeated efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into pursuing the investigations he wanted. "It does not require us to surrender our common sense. Our common sense, as well as our morality, tells us what the president did was wrong. When a president sacrifices the national security interests of the country, it's not only wrong but it's dangerous. When a president says … he will continue to do it if left in office, it is dangerous. The framers provided a remedy, and we urge you to use it." Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon uses Mike Pompeo's own words against him
Here's what Wyden asked the House managers: "The [US] intelligence community is prohibited from requesting a foreign entity target an American citizen when the intelligence community is itself prohibited from doing so." He then referenced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's own words from a 2017 Senate confirmation hearing when he was tapped to head up the CIA. At the time, Pompeo said, "It is not lawful to outsource that which we cannot do." Wyden's question continued, "So when President Trump asked a foreign country to investigate an American and the US government had not established a legal predicate to do so, how is that not an abuse of power?" Here's what Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the lead impeachment manager, said in response: "It is absolutely an abuse of power. And what's more, if you believe that a president can essentially engage in any corrupt activity as long as he believes that it will assist his reelection campaign and that campaign is in the public interest, then what's to stop a president from tasking his intelligence agencies to do political investigations? What's to stop him from tasking the Justice Department? If he can come up with some credible or incredible claim that his opponent deserves to be investigated, their argument would lead you to the conclusion that he has every right to do that." "But you're absolutely right. If Secretary Pompeo was correct and you can't use your own intelligence agencies, you sure shouldn't be able to use the Russian ones, or the Ukrainian ones." Pat Cipollone calls impeachment "domestic election interference" even though impeachment is in the Constitution
In response to a question from several Republican Senators as to whether they should reject Trump's impeachment based on its "partisan nature," White House counsel Pat Cipollone mischaracterized the nature of impeachment itself. Cipollone argued that impeachment in an election year is tantamount to "canceling an election" and "ripping up" Americans' ballots. The merits of the impeachment case aside, Trump's lawyers have frequently argued throughout the trial that Senators should acquit Trump because removing him would "overturn" a fair election and the will of the voters. "We've never been in a situation where we have the impeachment of a president in an election year, with the goal of removing the president from office," Cipollone argued. "That is the most massive election interference we've ever witnessed." Fact check:
Impeachment is a specific constitutional remedy for removing a president who has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, treason, or bribery. Impeachment and conviction do not, in fact, overturn an election or constitute malicious interference. If Trump were removed from office, his Vice President and 2016 running mate Mike Pence would become president, not 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or the third-in-line to the constitution, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Chief Justice John Roberts declines to read aloud a question from a Republican senator from Kentucky
Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the impeachment trial, refused to read aloud a question from a senator from Kentucky. "The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted," Roberts said. It's unclear which senator — Rand Paul or Mitch McConnell — submitted the question. But on Wednesday, Roberts refused to read out a question that Paul submitted because it reportedly named the whistleblower who first reported Trump's alleged misconduct toward Ukraine. Roberts told the Senate this week that he would not read out any questions that tried to out the whistleblower or which contained significant identifying information about the individual, who belongs to the US intelligence community.
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Democrats are having a field day after Trump's lawyers accidentally made the strongest case to call witnesses in his impeachment trial
President Donald Trump's defense team repeatedly argued on Saturday that there isn't enough evidence to impeach...President Donald Trump's defense team repeatedly argued on Saturday that there isn't enough evidence to impeach him because Congress hasn't heard from any witnesses who had "direct contact" with the president. Democratic lawmakers seized on those statements, saying they underscore the need to call more firsthand witnesses in Trump's trial. Moreover, while Trump's lawyers complain of not hearing testimony from direct witnesses, the defense could easily solve that problem by retracting Trump's sweeping directive barring all executive branch officials across six agencies from cooperating with Congress' impeachment inquiry. "The president's counsel did something that they did not intend: they made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents," Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said after opening arguments on Saturday. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump's defense team consistently drilled down on one key point as it began opening arguments in his impeachment trial on Saturday: the evidence against Trump is limited, at best, and he can't be impeached because the public hasn't heard direct evidence of his misconduct from him or anyone close to him. The remarks came as Republicans and Democrats in the Senate fight over whether to call new witnesses in the president's trial. Democrats argue that while they have more than enough to impeach Trump, they still haven't heard from senior executive branch officials closest to the president who could shed more light on his efforts to pressure Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election. Republicans, meanwhile, say that if the evidence against Trump is as overwhelming as House Democrats say it is, the Senate doesn't need to call new witnesses. But on Saturday, Trump's lawyers seemed to bolster Democrats' case by repeatedly claiming that they hadn't heard from a single witness who had "direct contact" with the president. Although their statements were misleading (Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union, was in frequent touch with Trump and testified to Congress that the president engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine), Democratic lawmakers noted that the comments underscored the need to hear from more firsthand witnesses. It's worth noting, too, that though the president's lawyers complain of not hearing testimony from witnesses who spoke to Trump directly, the defense team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone could easily solve that problem by retracting Trump's sweeping directive last year barring all executive branch officials across six agencies from cooperating with the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry. Multiple senior administration officials in the president's inner circle — like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former national security adviser John Bolton — cited Cipollone's command, which he issued at the president's direction, as the reason they would not testify or provide relevant documents. Bolton, who was at the center of a number of episodes investigated in the inquiry, has since said that he will testify if the Senate decides to subpoena him. "Now, the first point that I would like to make is that the president's counsel did something that they did not intend: They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents," said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. "They kept saying there are no eyewitness accounts, but there are people who have eyewitness accounts, the very four witnesses and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for," he said. "But there are people who do know. Mick Mulvaney knows. In all likelihood, Mr. [Robert] Blair, [an aide to Mulvaney], knows. Mr. Bolton may know. 'Why shouldn't we have witnesses and documents here?' I thought." Sen. Joe Manchin of Virginia, who is widely considered a Democratic swing vote because he represents a deep-red state, told CNN he thought Trump's team did a "good job" of "making me think about things." He added, "One thing that stuck in my mind is they said there isn't a witness they have had so far that had direct contact with the president. I'd love to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton." Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut echoed that point, telling MSNBC that Trump's lawyers "repeatedly said that we have heard limited evidence from individuals who talked directly to the president, who were ordered by the president to engage in this scheme." "Of course, the reason for that is because the White House won't let us hear" from those people, he added. "So if what's missing ... is direct evidence of what the president told the people who work for him, there's a way to solve for that. I hope we don't have to get leaked audio of the president directing orders in this corruption scheme in order to prove our case." He was referring to a bombshell report from ABC News this week which said the outlet had obtained an audio tape from 2018 where Trump is heard ordering the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, who at the time the US's ambassador to Ukraine. The president demanded she be removed after his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, colluded with a controversial op-ed columnist and two Ukrainian associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to plant negative stories about Yovanovitch in the press accusing her of anti-Trump bias. "Get rid of her!" Trump is heard saying in the recording. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it." Parnas' attorney, Joseph Bondy, said Fruman created the original recording and gave Parnas a copy. Bondy turned the copy over to the House Intelligence Committee. Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Lev Parnas recorded President Trump ordering the firing of Marie Yovanovitch. In fact, Igor Fruman created the recording and gave Parnas a copy. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.SEE ALSO: Day 1 of the Trump defense team's opening arguments in his impeachment trial was a masterclass in disinformation Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
Trump's lawyers confirm their impeachment playbook is to argue the charges are 'constitutionally invalid' and should be tossed
President Donald Trump's legal team said the articles of impeachment against him are "deficient" in a...President Donald Trump's legal team said the articles of impeachment against him are "deficient" in a fiery response ahead of his trial in the Senate. Speaking ahead of a formal defense filing, sources working with Trump's legal team told reporters in a briefing that the charges should be tossed out because they are "frivolous and dangerous and "constitutionally invalid." Trump's defense is hobbled, however, by the slew of documentary evidence, witness testimony, and even the president's own statements, that support the impeachment charges. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump's legal team filed a response to charges accusing him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress on Monday, saying the articles of impeachment are "deficient" and should be thrown out. Speaking ahead of the filing, sources working with Trump's legal team said during a background briefing on Monday that the charges are "frivolous and dangerous," and that they fail to cite any legal violations. The sources did not say whether they would ask for a motion to dismiss the charges, but did say the case should be rejected, arguing that the "articles of impeachment are deficient on their face." The 110-page legal briefing was filed to the Senate on Monday and pushed back on House Democrats' allegations that Trump abused his power. At the center of the impeachment inquiry are Trump's efforts to strongarm Ukraine's government into pursuing investigations that would politically benefit him, while withholding vital military aid and a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought. The president's pressure campaign also included forcing the abrupt ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, formerly the US's ambassador to Ukraine, because she stood in the way of Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as they worked to get the Ukrainian government to dig up or manufacture political dirt against former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a 2020 Democratic frontrunner. Trump's actions first came to light in an anonymous whistleblower's complaint that a US intelligence official filed in August. The complaint detailed a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky during which the US president repeatedly pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to work with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate the Bidens, as well as a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Democrats. But a string of public testimony from career, nonpartisan government officials since then revealed that the phone call was just one data point in a months-long effort to bully Ukraine into caving to Trump's demands. The contents of the whistleblower complaint were corroborated by a White House memo summarizing the July 25 phone call, and Trump himself said several times — in public — that he wanted Ukraine to probe the Bidens. Moreover, Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union, testified to Congress that "everyone," including senior officials like former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and more, was in the loop on what Trump was doing. Additional reporting and documents since the House impeached Trump in December revealed that there was widespread concern across lower levels of the government, including in the State Department and the Pentagon, about the legality of the president's actions. Monday's filing comes after Trump's legal team filed another short document over the weekend calling the articles of impeachment "constitutionally invalid." The more comprehensive filing on Monday expanded on that claim, but sources working with Trump's legal team declined to lay out the specifics during the briefing. Trump will be represented at trial by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, and other attorneys expected to take part include Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Serene Raskin, Eric Herschmann and Robert Ray. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to allot 24 hours per side to statements in the trial, which must be confined into two working days, according to NBC News. Read more: Trump's Russia adviser was escorted from the White House after 2 months on the job, as part of a mysterious security probe Trump reportedly picked his impeachment defense team based on how well he thinks they can perform on TV The White House called the Democrats' impeachment case against Trump a 'dangerous attack' in its first formal response Trump's defense team in his Senate impeachment trial will include Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, has yet to explain why he ordered...Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, has yet to explain why he ordered a freeze in nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine for three months this summer. That key question hangs over the House impeachment hearings.