Trump Did 'Nothing Wrong,' Lawyer Says: Impeachment Update

  • In Business
  • 2020-01-21 18:50:33Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump's impeachment trial began Tuesday, making him the third president in U.S. history to face possible removal from office by the Senate. He is charged with abusing his office and obstructing the House investigation of his actions.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump Did 'Nothing Wrong,' Lawyer Says (1:45 p.m.)

Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone and lead House manager Adam Schiff began up to two hours of debate on the GOP proposal for trial rules.

Cipollone said the president's lawyers support McConnell's proposed trial rules, and he added that in the trial, "The only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong."

Schiff argued that McConnell's proposed procedural rules are "completely backwards -- trial first, then evidence."

"Although the evidence against the president is already overwhelming," senators may never know the full extent of Trump's wrongdoing, Schiff said.

McConnell made another change to his proposed rules, in addition to the one giving each side three days to present their case instead of two. The other change would allow House evidence to be made part of the record unless 51 senators vote to object, according to a Republican aide. Previously, the House record wasn't set to be automatically made part of the record.

After the debate on rules, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will offer his amendment to the rules, and there will be up to two hours of debate. McConnell said he'll then propose tabling Schumer's amendment.

McConnell Tweaks Rules on Trial Length (1:31 p.m.)

A Senate Republican leadership aide said McConnell made a last-minute change to his resolution and it now will allow three days for the defense and impeachment managers to make their 24 hours of arguments, not two. -- Laura Litvan

Trump Trial Opens in Senate With Rule Debate (1:18 p.m.)

The Senate formally opened Trump's trial, the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. Soon, senators will begin debating the rules proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to govern the process.

Before the opening of the trial, McConnell said his resolution already has enough Republican support to be adopted and said the Senate should stay in session Tuesday until members agree to it.

"This is the fair road map for our trial," McConnell said.

The demand from House Democrats for the Senate to call additional witnesses suggests that they ended their inquiry prematurely, without sufficient evidence to back up the claims against Trump, McConnell said.

The witnesses Democrats want to call were prohibited from participating in the House inquiry by the Trump administration. Some of them ignored House subpoenas, and the House impeachment investigators said they didn't want to wait for a court decision to enforce those subpoenas. -- Steven T. Dennis, Laura Litvan

Trump Must Be Ousted From Office, House Says (12:43 p.m.)

The House impeachment managers said in a reply to Trump's trial brief that if the Senate doesn't convict and remove him from office, "he will have succeeded in placing himself above the law."

"President Trump's view that he cannot be held accountable, except in an election he seeks to fix in his favor, underscores the need for the Senate to exercise its solemn constitutional duty to remove President Trump from office," the managers said.

They said Trump's defense consists of "bluster and evasion, which amount to the frightening assertion that he may commit whatever misconduct he wishes."

Saying that the president hasn't offered any witnesses or documents in his defense, the House members said, "This is not how an innocent person behaves." -- Billy House

Murkowski Open to Hearing From Hunter Biden (12:22 p.m.)

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said she's open to hearing from "anybody" as a trial witness, including possibly the unidentified whistle-blower or Joe Biden's son Hunter.

After presentations of evidence and questioning by the senators, the Senate should "make a determination if they want to hear from anybody," said Murkowski of Alaska.

A number of Republicans have said they want to call Hunter Biden as a witness. Democrats contend any information he has isn't relevant to the question of whether Trump improperly withheld U.S. funds from Ukraine to pressure that country to investigate Biden's ties to a Ukrainian energy company.

Another GOP senator, John Kennedy of Louisiana, said the Senate might hear from witnesses but they won't "make the decision until they understand the case." -- Laura Davison

Most Americans Back More Evidence, Poll Says (11:06 a.m.)

Most Americans support introducing new witnesses and new evidence in Trump's Senate impeachment trial, according to a poll from Monmouth University.

More than three in four Americans say Trump administration officials, and the president himself, should be invited to testify before the Senate. The poll found that 57% of Americans say the House impeachment managers should be able to introduce new evidence to support the two articles of impeachment.

Two other polls also show majority backing for calling witnesses. A CNN poll showed that almost seven in 10 Americans support witnesses, while a Quinnipiac poll found support for witnesses among two-thirds of Americans.

The Monmouth poll showed backing for new evidence from 87% of Democrats, 56% of independents and 24% of Republicans. Support for removing Trump from office remains split, with 49% saying he should be removed and 48% saying he should not be removed.

"The process has now moved on to the Senate and there are some new revelations, but public opinion on impeachment and Trump's overall performance has shifted only slightly," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. -- Daniel Flatley

Schiff Says Rules Would Lead to Rigged Trial (10:52 a.m.)

Lead House trial manager Adam Schiff said the procedures proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would set the stage for a coverup instead of a fair trial.

"This is not a process for a fair trial," Schiff told reporters a few hours before the trial is scheduled to begin. "This is a process for a rigged trial."

Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said the plan for House prosecutors to present 24 hours of arguments over only two days means that the sessions would go late into the night.

"There is a wealth of evidence to present here," Schiff said. "Is this about hiding the evidence from the American people with late-night sessions?"

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said that in any ordinary court trial, both sides would be allowed to present all their evidence, while in Trump's trial the Senate will decide whether to hear witnesses at all.

"Do the Republican senators want to be complicit in the coverup of the president?" Nadler said, adding that the president's defenders are "afraid of what the witnesses will say." -- Billy House

House Team Says Cipollone Is 'Fact Witness' (9:25 a.m.)

The House impeachment managers on Tuesday declared in a letter that Trump's lead defense lawyer in his Senate impeachment trial is himself a "fact witness" who must turn over evidence, and whose trial involvement raises ethical questions.

The seven managers argued evidence gathered as part of the impeachment inquiry in the House indicates that White House counsel Pat Cipollone witnessed numerous critical events related to the president's actions, and remains deeply involved in actions implementing Trump's alleged directive to obstruct the House's impeachment inquiry.

"You must disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge that will be at issue in connection with evidence you present or arguments you make in your role as the president's legal advocate so that the Senate and chief justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases," they wrote.

"These risks are so serious that they can require a lawyer's disqualification," the managers added. Most importantly "when one individual assumes the role of both advocate and witness it may so blur the line between argument and evidence that the [factfinder's] ability to find facts is undermined."

The characterization by the House managers of Cipollone as a "fact witness"appears to be designed, in part, to deflect some Republican calls for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to appear as a witness to testify about any of his or his committee's first-hand dealings with the whistle-blower who initially brought Trump's Ukraine dealings to the attention of Congress. -- Billy House

Pelosi Says McConnell Lied About Trial Rules (8:43 a.m.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the American public now knows why Mitch McConnell has been "hiding his resolution" for rules in the impeachment trial.

"The Senate GOP Leader has chosen a cover-up for the President, rather than honor his oath to the Constitution," Pelosi said in her first statement on McConnell's resolution, which was made public Monday.

Calling McConnell's rules a "plan for a dark of night impeachment trial," Pelosi slammed his plan to bar admitting the House record into evidence in the Senate trial and said the proposal doesn't adhere to the rules used during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton.

"The public now knows why Leader McConnell has been hiding his resolution: the Clinton comparison was a lie," Pelosi said. "Clearly and sadly, Leader McConnell has misled the American people. For weeks, he has insisted that he will adhere to the rules used during the Clinton impeachment trial and that 'fair is fair' -- but his proposal rejects the need for witnesses and documents during the trial itself."

In contrast, she said the Clinton trial included deposed witnesses and the President provided more than 90,000 documents.

Schumer to Push Votes on Witnesses, Evidence (8:05 a.m.)

Senate Democrats will force votes on the ability to call witnesses and include documents in the impeachment trial, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

"We will have votes on witnesses, we will have votes on documents and we will have some votes to try and undo some of the most egregious things" that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out in his rules for the chamber's handling of impeachment, Schumer told MSNBC.

McConnell's impeachment resolution, released Monday, gives House managers and Trump's defense 24 hours of floor time each to make their arguments, but it limits them to just two days each, instead of the three allowed in Bill Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial.

Neither side will be allowed to call witnesses or seek documents under the proposed rules unless a majority of the Senate votes to allow such motions after the opening phase of the trial, which includes up to 16 hours of senators' questions. The trial is set to begin Tuesday and the rules need to be approved by a majority of the Senate.

McConnell's approach creates a trial that is "rushed" and "rigged," Schumer said in the interview. "We can have votes before this awful resolution -- this resolution that I have called a national disgrace -- is enacted." -- Kathleen Miller

Trump's Historic Senate Trial Begins Today (6 a.m.)

The Senate trial is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Washington time, and the first day will be spent debating Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's proposed rules for the proceedings, followed by a series of public votes on many expected Democratic amendments.

The rules for the impeachment trial that McConnell is proposing would allow just two calendar days and 24 floor hours each for the House and Trump's defense to make their case, a compressed schedule that accelerates the timetable for a trial Republicans intend to end in a quick acquittal.

Neither side will be allowed to call witnesses or seek documents unless a majority of the Senate votes to allow such motions after the opening phase of the trial. The proposed rules resolution wouldn't prevent Trump's team from swiftly moving to dismiss the case, though many GOP senators have said they at least want to hear arguments.

Democrats have said they plan to offer numerous amendments, including proposals to subpoena witnesses and documents Trump has blocked from Congress. -- Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

McConnell Plans Compressed Timeline for Trump Impeachment Trial

Trump Impeachment Defense Remains Work in Progress Near Trial

Key Events

Trump chose celebrity lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, both seasoned by some of the most high-profile legal cases of the past half century, to join his legal team.The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats' impeachment report is here. Here is House Democrats' web page containing documents related to the impeachment trial.Gordon Sondland's transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker's transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent's testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper's transcript is here; Christopher Anderson's is here and Catherine Croft's is here. Jennifer Williams' transcript is here and Timothy Morrison's is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy's is here.

--With assistance from Laura Davison, Billy House, Anna Edgerton, Kathleen Miller, Daniel Flatley and Emily Wilkins.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at;Steven T. Dennis in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at, Laurie Asséo, Elizabeth Wasserman

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