Closed Trump impeachment trial — Day 1 as it happened


Live coverage of the Trump impeachment trial in the US Senate.

Trump impeachment trial kicks off

Hello and welcome to the FT’s live coverage of today’s impeachment proceedings.

The US Senate will shortly open the third impeachment trial of an American president since the founding of the republic.

Donald Trump was impeached on two charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, after he pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, one of Mr Trump’s main Democratic rivals in the 2020 election.

In the unlikely event that he is convicted – the Senate is controlled by Mr Trump’s Republican party – the president faces removal from office.

We will be bringing you the action live as it happens, along with the latest insight and analysis from FT correspondents and commentators.

How does it all work?

Wondering how the trial will play out? Or in need of a refresher on the whos, whats and wheres of the process?

The FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo and Lauren Fedor have put together this handy explainer answering a plethora of questions you might have, including:

• How will the trial proceed?
• How will the rules be determined?
• What role will the chief justice of the Supreme Court play?
• Will Trump be convicted?
• Will the trial have any impact on the 2020 elections?

For answers to these questions and more, check out Demetri and Lauren’s piece here.

Proposed rules for impeachment trial outrage Democrats

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has sparked outrage among Democrats by laying out rules for the impeachment trial that would raise the bar for introducing evidence, the FT’s Lauren Fedor writes.

Frustratingly for many Democrats, Mr McConnell has put forward a resolution that witnesses can only testify if the upper house votes that they should. This will come after closed-door depositions of the potential witnesses.

Mr McConnell also plans to give House impeachment managers and President Donald Trump’s legal team each 24 hours divided over two days for their opening arguments.

The trial could extend into the dead of night and prevent many Americans from watching it in full, as Lauren explains here.

The Senate is Republican-controlled and Mr McConnell’s resolution is expected to be approved on Tuesday.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, lashed out at Mr McConnell on Twitter, accusing him of carrying out “a cover-up” for the president.

The FT View: Trump’s impeachment is set to turn into a farce

“A one-sided Senate trial will be anything but a balanced reckoning”.

This is the view of the FT editorial board.

The most senior juror, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has admitted he will co-ordinate every step with Mr Trump.

This paper argues that holding a president to account is the US constitution’s ultimate remedy for a renegade executive. In this case, however, the system will not even make a pretence of weighing the evidence.

Mr Trump has all but been acquitted of abuses for which he is self-evidently guilty. The US mechanism of checks and balances will thus be left weaker at the end of the process than at the start.

Read the full editorial here.

Trump’s legal brief: a recap

Donald Trump’s lawyers on Monday laid out his defence in a 171-page legal brief and called for the Senate to “swiftly and roundly condemn” the impeachment charges.

The President’s legal team appears to be mounting a defence that even if all the allegations against Mr Trump are true, such pressuring of foreign governments is part of the presidency’s legitimate powers, as the FT’s Lauren Fedor explains here.

They have accused Democrats of carrying out a “dangerous perversion” of the constitution.

Trump’s top impeachment lawyer a material witness — House Democrats

House Democrats have told Donald Trump’s top impeachment lawyer he is a “material witness” in the trial and must, at the very least, disclose all evidence before the commencement of proceedings.

In a letter on Tuesday morning, House Democrats leading the case against Mr Trump informed White House counsel Pat Cipollone he was a material witness to the charges in the two articles of impeachment for which the President now faces trial.

“The ethical rules generally preclude a lawyer from acting as an advocate at a trial in which he is likely also a necessary witness”, the managers, led by Adam Schiff, wrote.

“To the extent you plan to serve as the President’s legal advocate during the Senate trial proceedings, at a minimum, 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,” they wrote.

FT Opinion: Partisanship sates Americans’ lust for belonging

Politics is increasingly likened to sport in its tribal allegiances. This is to do sport an unconscionable disservice, writes FT columnist Janan Ganesh.

The authentic fan is healthily cynical about their own team, after all. Scathing, even. Blind enthusiasm tends to be the mark of the try-hard newcomer.

No, a political party is capable of inspiring a kind of mob loyalty — a credulity — that is well beyond a mere Manchester United or New England Patriots to arouse.

The US House of Representatives illustrated this point when they voted almost exactly along party lines in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

As for the public, from whom lawmakers take their cue, surveys record almost all Democrats supporting the action and almost all Republicans opposed

Check out Janan’s full piece here.

Who has said what?

When Democrats in the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, they were guided by the advice of three top leading legal scholars who said the president had committed impeachable offences.

In turn, their advice was based on the public testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, which formed the basis of a report authored by the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees.

The FT’s Lauren Fedor and Jessica Dye last month took a look at who the main witnesses are what each of them has said.

Take a look at their piece here.

Hillary Clinton slams McConnell’s rules

Hillary Clinton castigated Mitch McConnell, becoming the latest to accuse the Senate majority leader of trying to conceal the president’s misconduct.

Mrs Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 who lost to Mr Trump, said in a tweet: “The rules Sen. McConnell has proposed for the president’s impeachment trial are the equivalent of a head juror colluding with the defendant to cover up a crime.”

Mr McConnell’s resolution allows both sides 24 hours each to make their arguments but requires them to conclude this over two days. This could lead to marathon late-night sessions and raise the bar for introducing evidence. The hashtag #midnightmitch started trending on Twitter hours after his resolution was published.

Mrs Clinton, whose husband former president Bill Clinton was impeached in 1999, called on Americans to ring their senators and demand they call witnesses and allow evidence.

Republicans weigh in after McConnell lays out rules for trial

Republican congressman Mark Meadows, who was recently added to Donald Trump’s legal team, fired back at Democrats who have protested the rules of the Senate trial.

“It’s ridiculous to suggest the Senate GOP is ‘covering up’ anything if they simply try the same case House Democrats passed. Give me a break,” Mr Meadows wrote in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

He added: “Democrats had their chance. They wrongly thought their case was strong enough and passed it.”

Senator Ted Cruz said the articles of impeachment against Mr Trump “do not allege a single crime was committed—not even a speeding ticket”.

Top Democrats step up criticism of McConnell

Lauren Fedor, FT Washington correspondent

Top Democrats have been speaking in front of cameras this morning on Capitol Hill, doubling down on their criticisms of Mitch McConnell ahead of a vote later today on the Senate majority leader’s resolution that lays the ground rules for Trump’s trial.

Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee who led the House impeachment investigation and will now be the top prosecutor in the Senate, told reporters:

This is not a process for a fair trial. This is the process for a rigged trial. This is the process if you do not want the American people to see the evidence. This is a process you use if you want to hand in hand, working in concert with the president, allow the president to continue to obstruct the Congress and deny the truth to the American people.

Mr Schiff said he and the six other “impeachment managers” — Democratic congressmen and women who are acting as prosecutors — will appeal to senators to “live up to the oath they have just taken, to do impartial justice and to hold a fair trial.”

Last week, John Roberts, chief justice of the US Supreme Court, swore in 99 senators, who vowed to be fair and impartial jurors in Mr Trump’s trial. The final member of the 100-person Senate will be sworn in today, after missing last week’s proceedings for a medical emergency.

Schumer to propose amendments to McConnell’s trial rules

Lauren Fedor, FT Washington correspondent

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, told reporters he would propose a series of amendments to Mitch McConnell’s resolution when it comes before the chamber later today “on the documents we requested, the witnesses we requested, and amendments to fix the most egregious departure that McConnell made from his proposed resolution from the Clinton rules.”

Mr Schumer has led the charge for former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify in the Senate trial, after the Trump administration ordered officials not to cooperate with the House investigation.

Under Mr McConnell’s resolution, senators would debate whether to subpoena witnesses or admit fresh evidence only after four days of opening statements, i.e. next week. But Mr Schumer’s comments this morning suggest he is going to try and force the issue earlier — as soon as this afternoon.

While the Senate is controlled by Republicans, a handful of more moderate GOP legislators, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, have indicated that they could vote in favour of witnesses.

Democrats step up campaign to convince Republicans

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

With just hours to go before the trial, Democrats are pushing through with a last-minute campaign to convince a handful of Republican senators to break with their colleagues and vote with Democrats to allow new witnesses and evidence in the trial.

“We need four Republicans who are willing to stand up for what’s right, who are willing to stand up for what America wants and needs, and not simply bow down to the president,” Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday.

Brian Schatz, a Democratic senator from Hawaii, urged Democratic voters to call the Senate switchboard directly to urge the Senate to allow new witnesses and evidence in the trial.

He tweeted:

Trump in Davos as impeachment trial begins

Donald Trump will have to follow today’s proceedings from afar after making a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president does not plan to watch the impeachment trial on Tuesday. “He has a full day here in Davos, but will be briefed by staff periodically,” Ms Grisham told reporters.

Mr Trump criticised environmental “alarmists” and economic “pessimists” in his remarks in Switzerland, while cheering growth in the US economy during his tenure. He also knocked the Federal Reserve for raising rates “too fast” and lowering them “too slowly”.

For more on Mr Trump’s speech, read Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson’s story here.

Romney sticks with Republicans on McConnell’s rules for Trump trial

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

Mitt Romney, one of the five Republican senators whose vote is considered to be in play for allowing witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, said in a statement on Tuesday he agreed with the rules set forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a blow to Democrats.

“I have made clear to my colleagues and the public that the Senate should have the opportunity to decide on witnesses following the opening arguments, as occurred in the Clinton trial,” Mr Romney said in a letter to constituents. “If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.”

Separately, the Utah senator told CNN he did not support Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s decision to call a vote on witnesses today, calling it a “mistake”.

Mr Romney told CNN he believed Mr McConnell had made only “modest” changes to the impeachment rules that governed Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment and that Democrats were overreacting. “If everything is an outrage, then nothing is an outrage.”

Lamar Alexander, another Republican senator who is considering voting for additional witnesses, also indicated he too would only consider supporting a vote for additional evidence and witnesses after opening arguments were made.

“The resolution I am supporting guarantees a vote on whether we need additional evidence at the appropriate time,” Mr Alexander said.

Majority of Americans think Trump should be asked to testify at trial – Monmouth Poll

More than three in four Americans say Donald Trump and members of his administration should be asked to appear at the Senate impeachment trial, according to a Monmouth University Poll. However, there is a “deep partisan split” over whether they should do so voluntarily, with 40 per cent saying the president ought to be “compelled” to testify.

The poll also showed a majority of Americans think House managers should be able to introduce new evidence in the trial.

“Public opinion on allowing new evidence and compelling witness testimony in the Senate trial breaks sharply along partisan lines,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “But it is interesting that solid majorities in every partisan group would like to see Trump and members of his administration at least asked to appear.”

Here are some key takeaways from the poll:
1. 64 per cent of Democrats, 39 per cent of independents, and 13 per cent of Republicans think the president should be compelled to testify.
2. 83 per cent of Democrats, 48 per cent of Independents and 21 per cent of Republicans said Trump officials should be compelled to appear.
3. 57 per cent of those surveyed said House managers should be able to present new evidence to support the articles of impeachment.

McConnell tells Senate Trump not given fair hearing in the House

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just spoken on the Senate floor, laying out the groundwork for the impeachment trial, which will kick off shortly.

Mr McConnell reiterated his defense of the ground rules he laid out for the trial on Monday night and his criticism that Democrats had not given President Donald Trump a fair hearing in the House of Representatives. He said the president had not had a chance to defend himself — an argument that has been hotly countered by Democrats who note the president’s legal team refused to mount a defense during the House impeachment inquiry.

“Our straightforward resolution will bring the clarity and fairness that everyone deserves: the president of the United States, the House of Representatives and the American people, this is the fair roadmap for our trial,” said Mr McConnell.
He repeatedly asserted that the ground rules for Mr Trump’s impeachment inquiry closely resembled those that governed Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial — a characterisation dismissed by Democrats.

Schumer offers rebuttal to McConnell’s opening statement

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, has just offered his rebuttal to Mitch McConnell’s opening remarks, arguing that the Republican Senate majority leader had twisted the rules in favour of President Donald Trump and was adamant on rushing the trial through as quickly as possible.

“The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump. It asks the Senate to rush through as fast as possible and makes getting evidence as hard as possible … In short, the McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial with little evidence in the dark of the night – literally in the dark of night,” Mr Schumer said.

The New York senator was referring to Mr McConnell’s proposed rule change that would mandate both sides to make their 24 hours of opening arguments within two calendar days. During the 1999 trial, the two sides did not have the two calendar day limit.

Democrats, including Mr Schumer have argued that the additional limit set by Mr McConnell, is designed to ensure that much of the trial takes places overnight with fewer Americans watching.

“My colleagues – the eyes of the nation, the eyes of history, the eyes of the founding fathers are upon us,” Mr Schumer concluded. “History will be our final judge. Will senators rise to the occasion?”

Emoticon The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has officially begun in the US Senate.

Democratic impeachment managers rebutt Trump’s legal case

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Just minutes before the trial was set to start, the impeachment managers – the seven House Democrats who will prosecute the case against Mr Trump – published a rebuttal to the legal case that the president made on Monday.

The White House on Monday accused the Democrats of creating a “novel” legal theory to push for the removal of Mr Trump, arguing that they had not alleged “any violation of law”, which meant that Mr Trump had not been accused of any impeachable offense.

The House managers on Tuesday dismissed the argument that abuse of power – one of two articles of impeachment against Mr Trump – did not amount to an impeachable offense.

“President Trump’s argument that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense is wrong—and dangerous,” said the impeachment managers, a group led by Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

“That argument would mean that, even accepting that the House’s recitation of the facts is correct — which it is — the House lacks authority to remove a president who sells out our democracy and national security in exchange for a personal political favour. The Framers of our Constitution took pains to ensure that such egregious abuses of power would be impeachable.”

Chief Justice Roberts lays out terms of trial

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

John Roberts, the chief justice of the US Supreme Court who is presiding over the trial, announced that both sides would have a total of two hours to argue the case for, or against, the resolution which outlines the rules for the trial drafted by Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky lawmaker who serves as Republican Senate majority leader.

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel and lead defence lawyer for Mr Trump, called on the 100 senators to approve the rules. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who serves as the lead House impeachment manager and who oversaw the impeachment inquiry in the House, said Democrats would “rise in opposition” to the rules.

After the opening statements, Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, will introduce amendments, which are expected to include an effort to persuade Republicans to agree to allow the calling of witnesses. Mr Schiff said that a refusal to call witnesses would make a mockery of the legal process, saying, “It is not a fair trial. It is not really a trial at all.”

As the trial began, the Trump 2020 re-election campaign emailed supporters in an effort to use the Senate proceedings as a call for donations to help the president win the White House again in the November 3 election.

Schiff opens trial by urging senators to allow witnesses to testify

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Democrat Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chairman who is managing the prosecution’s case in the Senate, has opened the trial by pressing the upper chamber to admit witnesses and documents blocked during the House investigation.

Mr Schiff said it was the senators’ duty to give the full picture of Mr Trump’s conduct and counteract public perceptions that the trial is being conducted unfairly.

“Although the evidence against the president is already overwhelming, you may never know the full scope of the president’s misconduct or those around him,” Mr Schiff said.

Democrats want to call several witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry either because they were blocked by the White House, or personally decided against appearing before Congress. They want to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, White House chief of staff.

Mr Bolton at one point described the effort to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden as a “drug deal” being cooked up by Mr Mulvaney and other Trump administration officials. Mr Mulvaney last year said during a press conference that there was a quid pro quo when the White House withheld $391m in military aid to Ukraine as a pressure tactic – before later denying making the comment.

In making his opening statement, Mr Schiff played a video recording of Mr Trump saying at one point that he would be happy to see his top officials testify, before later changing his mind. “The Senate has the opportunity to take the president up on his offer … but now the president is chancing his tune,” the California lawmaker said.

He also played a recording of Mr Trump citing Article 2 of the Constitution as the basis for the White House decision to reject subpoenas from House investigators for documents and testimony from his senior officials.

“I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” Mr Trump said in reference to Article 2, which outlines in broad terms of the powers of the presidency.

Democrats have accused Mr Trump of misinterpreting the constitution to give him more power than he possesses.

Impeachment managers given three days for opening arguments

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

In an apparent concession to Democrats, the resolution introduced at the start of the trial differed from the resolution Mr McConnell unveiled on Monday.

The adjusted resolution allocates three days for the 24 hours of opening arguments by each side, as opposed to the original two days. Democrats had argued that a two-day timeframe would result in proceedings continuing into the early hours of the morning when many Americans would be asleep.

In another concession, the adjusted resolution also said the record that the House compiled in investigating Mr Trump would be admitted as evidence. Democrats had criticised the original rules for not automatically admitting the details obtained during the months of investigation that led to the impeachment of Mr Trump in the House.

Schiff points out differences between Trump and Clinton impeachment trials

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has drawn comparisons with former president Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999. Mr McConnell had previously argued that the rules would mirror the guidelines that governed the Clinton trial. But Mr Schiff said there were major differences, including the fact that the White House had refused to provide any documents to investigators and blocked officials from testifying to Congress.

“That is not being replicated by the McConnell resolution, not in any way, not in any shape, not in any form,” he said.

While the impeachment trial of Mr Trump is only the third such proceeding in American history, it is the first time that the political party that controls the White House also controls the Senate, allowing it to set the trial rules.

Mr Schiff has now finished his remarks on Mr McConnell’s resolution. Jay Sekulow, one of the lawyers representing Mr Trump, is now outlining the White House case supporting the rules.

Senators must remain silent during trial ‘on pain of imprisonment’

Demetri Sevastopulo reports:

One of the unusual aspects of the impeachment trial is that the 100 senators – who are accustomed to having almost free rein to voice their opinions – will have to sit in silence as they fulfill their role as trial jurors. The trial is expected to be held from Mondays through Saturdays until the senators vote on whether Mr Trump is guilty.

The three senators in the top tier of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders – Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar – will also have to remain in Washington when the trial is in session, which will severely curtail their ability to campaign in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Speaking to the Financial Times in Iowa on Sunday, Ms Klobuchar said she would try to take advantage of technology and political surrogates to make the case to voters from Washington. Some senators are also trying to work out whether they can use private jets to transport them to Iowa for whirlwind trips in between their attendance at the Senate trial.

Trump tweets: ‘Read the transcripts!’

McConnell adjusts trial schedule after Republican Collins’ criticism

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

Mitch McConnell’s office did not explain why the majority leader had changed his stance on the resolution at the last minute, but some Republican senators thought the adjustment would make for the appearance of a fairer trial.

Annie Clark, a spokesperson for Susan Collins, a moderate Republican senator, said the Maine lawmaker and some other senators had raised concerns about not following the Clinton trial model more closely.

“Senator Collins and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the House transcript in the record. Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible,” Ms Clark said. “She thinks these changes are a significant improvement.”

Ms Collins raised the concerns when senators met for lunch shortly before the trial. Ms Collins is one of a handful of Republicans that Democrats hope will side with them on issues such as allowing witnesses. Ms Collins faces a tough re-election campaign in November and is under pressure to show that the impeachment trial is fair.

Warren attacks McConnell over trial rules

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who is one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, took to Twitter to slam majority leader Mitch McConnell over the rules. It was unclear whether she tweeted herself — which would breach the trial rules — or relied on a staff member.

“Mitch McConnell knows the facts are damning for Donald Trump. To protect him, he’s pushing through a sham trial with no witnesses and no White House documents. He’s orchestrating a cover up, and trampling over the Constitution as he does it,” she tweeted.

Democrats using impeachment to prevent second term for Trump – Cipollone

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Pat Cipollone said the Democrats were trying to use impeachment to prevent Mr Trump from getting a second term in office.

“A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” Mr Cipollone, the White House counsel said. “Talk about the Framers’ [of the constitution] worst nightmare. It is a partisan impeachment that they delivered to your doorstep.”

Mr Cipollone also alleged that some of the Democratic presidential contenders were angry they were being prevented from campaigning against of the Iowa caucuses on February 3. “Some of you are upset because you should be Iowa right now.”

“They want to remove President Trump from the ballot … They don’t have the guts to say it directly,” he said. “They are asking the Senate to attack one of the most sacred rights we have as Americans – the right to choose our president, in an election year. It has never been done before. It shouldn’t be done.”

Senators to debate demand for White House documents next

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

After the prosecution and defence finished their arguments over the rules, Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, introduced an amendment to the resolution aimed at forcing the White House to hand over documents related to the Ukraine scandal. After it was introduced, the trial went into recess for 15 minutes. There are only 47 Democrats in the Senate, which means the Democrats will need support from at least four Republicans to pass any of their amendments.

Adjustment to McConnell’s resolution a last-minute change

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Changes to the resolution were written by hand into the original text, highlighting how the adjustment to the opening remarks schedule came at the last minute, according to CNN.

Mitch McConnell previously said he had enough votes to pass his original resolution. It was unclear whether he was too confident, or whether Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, changed her mind.

In addition to Ms Collins, Democrats hope to receive help during the trial from Mitt Romney, the Utah senator and former Republican presidential nominee who has at times been a vocal critic of Mr Trump.

Senators return for debate over Democrats’ demand for documents

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

We are back in session. Chief Justice John Roberts has given Mr Schiff and the Democrats one hour to argue for the amendment that Mr Schumer introduced before the recess, calling for the White House to turn over documents related to Mr Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign.

Schumer says test of impeachment rules changes will be on witnesses

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Mr Schumer responded to the changes that Mr McConnell allowed to his resolution, by saying that the real test was whether the Senate majority leader and his Republican colleagues would support an effort to allow witnesses to be called to testify.

“The public is understanding how unfair Senator McConnell’s trial rules are and Republican Senators are beginning to tell him to change them. The real test will be if they pressure Senator McConnell to allow witnesses and documents,” Mr Schumer said.

Schiff argues for Bolton, Mulvaney and Sondland testimony

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

In making the case to request documents – and allow witnesses – Mr Schiff said senators should want to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, who described the White House pressure campaign against Ukraine as a “drug deal” cooked up by Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, and Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotelier who was appointed as US ambassador to the EU after fundraising for Mr Trump.

“Do you want to hear from someone who was in the meetings … Do you want to know why it was a drug deal?” Mr Schiff said.

Can Trump do whatever he wants abroad because he’s president?

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

One of the core issues in the trial is going to be whether Mr Trump had the authority as president to do what he did with regard to Ukraine. His defence team argues that he has the authority and did not commit any crime.

But the Democrats are arguing that the president abused his office by trying to get a foreign country to take action that would amount to interfering in the US political process. Mr Schiff told the senators that agreeing with the defence on that issue would set a dangerous precedent.

“Then you have to say that every future president can come into office and do the same thing,” he said.

After concluding, Mr Schiff handed over to Zoe Lofgren, a California congresswoman who is one of the seven Democratic House impeachment managers.

Lofgren compares Trump impeachment to Clinton and Nixon

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Ms Lofgren argued that the fact that Mr Trump had refused to hand over documents and blocked his officials from testifying in the Ukraine investigation was a dramatic difference from the trials of both Bill Clinton and also Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached.

“Not a single president has categorically refused to cooperate with an impeachment investigation,” she said.

She added that even Richard Nixon, who resigned instead of facing an impeachment trial in the Senate, provided investigators with more than 30 transcripts and notes from meetings.

What have we learned so far in impeachment?

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

We’re more than two hours into the Senate impeachment trial which kicked off at 1pm in Washington. Here is what happened so far.

• Mitch McConnell made two significant last-minute changes to the trial proceedings. First, he changed it so the opening arguments would take place over the course of three days instead of two. (Democrats had argued that the earlier rushed schedule meant that many American viewers would be asleep during the proceedings.) Second, Mr McConnell allowed for evidence from the House impeachment inquiry to be submitted to the record automatically — as opposed to held up for a vote — another area where he had been criticised for deviating from the 1999 impeachment trial rules.

• One of the reasons made for Mr McConnell’s changes? Susan Collins. The Republican senator from Maine who faces a tough reelection race in November pushed Mr McConnell to make those changes to the resolution, her office confirmed, noting that Ms Collins wanted the trial to “follow the Clinton model as much as possible” and saw these changes as “a significant improvement”.

• Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee and one of the House impeachment managers, will likely try to use Mr Trump’s own words to bolster Democrats’ arguments for impeachment. In his opening statement, Mr Schiff played two video clips: one in which the president claimed he would be happy for White House officials to testify in the impeachment hearing, and another in which Mr Trump claimed the Constitution gave him “the right to do whatever I want as president”. Mr Schiff also reiterated Democrats’ demand for new witnesses to testify in the trial.

• Meanwhile, two lawyers for the president — Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone — used their opening statements to argue that Democrats were pushing for Mr Trump’s conviction for “partisan” purposes, while declining to weigh in on the actual charges levied against Mr Trump. Mr Cipollone also went after Mr Schiff directly, incorrectly claiming that the California congressman had not allowed Republicans to take part in closed-door impeachment depositions.

Ted Cruz appears to tweet: ‘Come and take it’

Update: A representative for Mr Cruz said he did not have his phone with him.

In a light hearted moment Texas senator Ted Cruz’s social media account channeled his state’s defiant battle cry tweeting: “come and take it” with an image of a mobile device, after it appeared he had breached rules of decorum requiring senators to sit in silence and stow their electronic devices during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Mr Cruz’s account addressed Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff in a tweet saying President Trump is “invoking Constitutional privilege is not obstruction of Congress” adding “if it were, nearly every president would have committed impeachable conduct”.

The tweet prompted twitter users to ponder whether someone else had access to Mr Cruz’s social media account or whether he had indeed failed to keep silent “on pain of imprisonment”.

Mr Cruz wasn’t the only senator caught violating the rules. Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren tweeted during the proceedings calling on Senate Republicans to stop helping Mr Trump obstructing justice. Moreover, a number of senators tried to circumvent the rules by donning Apple watches.

Schiff, Lofgren ask why Trump did not invoke ‘executive privilege’

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Adam Schiff, and now Zoe Lofgren, are asking why Donald Trump did not invoke “executive privilege” to justify not giving Congress documents.

Mr Schiff said the White House did not want to invoke the privilege because it would involve providing justification for individual documents that would entail revealing the existence of documents.

Ms Lofgren told the senators: “The White House is concealing documents involving documents by key officials.”

Lofgren argues the John Bolton’s notes are relevant to trial

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief and Lauren Fedor, US political correspondent

Zoe Lofgren returned to the subject of John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser who was present when officials discussed the campaign to persuade Ukraine’s president to find dirt on the family of former vice-president Joe Biden as a condition for a White House meeting with Mr Trump.

The California congresswoman stressed that Mr Bolton was known as a “voracious notetaker” and argued his notes were relevant to the trial. Mr Bolton – who insists he resigned even though Mr Trump said he was fired – is writing a book about the Trump administration that, people who know the foreign policy hawk, believe could damage Mr Trump.

Ms Lofgren said White House documents would provide much more detail about why Mr Trump withheld $391m in military aid for Ukraine that was approved by Congress to help the country protect itself from Russian aggression.

The Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan congressional watchdog, last week concluded that the White House had broken the law when it decided to hold back the military aid to Ukraine.

Ms Lofgren wrapped up with an argument on the “urgency” of receiving the documents, saying: “The Senate should act on this subpoena now, at the outset of the trial…waiting to resolve these threshold matters would undercut the process of a genuine, credible trial.”

White House lawyer says Democrats’ push for new documents is ‘stunning’ admission they were not prepared for trial

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

White House lawyer Patrick Philbin claimed the amendment is a “stunning” admission that House Democrats are ill prepared for the trial. Accusing Democrats of asking the Senate to “do their job for them”, Mr Philbin, said: “[Democrats] did not take the measures to pursue these documents in the House proceedings.”

Mr Philbin wrapped up his argument with an attack on Adam Schiff, and turned the leading House manager’s argument on him, paraphrasing the congressman by saying: “At one point, [Mr Schiff] said if you allow only one side to present evidence, the outcome will be pre-determined. That is exactly what happened in the House.”

Mr Philbin went on to revive Mr Trump and Republicans’ arguments that the House probe was one-sided, saying: “They locked the president and his lawyers out…for [Mr Schiff] to lecture this body now on what a fair process would be takes some gall.”

Emoticon Senate rejects Democrats’ bid to subpoena White House documents

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

The Senate has voted along party lines to reject an effort by Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, to issue a subpoena for White House documents related to Donald Trump’s pressure campaign on the Ukrainian government.

The Senate vote was 53-47, with none of the moderate Republicans that Democrats hoped would break ranks voting with Mr Schumer. Mr Schumer has now introduced a second amendment, which would subpoena Ukraine-related documents from the State Department. The second measure is also likely to fail along party lines, but only after each side is given up to an hour to make their case.

Mr Schumer’s amendment would have forced the White House to turn over emails, memos and other documents related to efforts by Mr Trump and his aides to coerce Kyiv into investigating the president’s political rivals — documents that the White House refused to turn over during the House investigation.

The State Department documents were also withheld by the Trump administration from House’s impeachment proceedings.

Collins would ‘likely’ support calling witnesses but only after opening arguments

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

Senator Susan Collins, one of the Republican moderates who is being watched closely for signs she might break from her party, said she would “likely” support a motion to call witnesses at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial but only after opening arguments from both sides — as called for under Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed trial schedule.

She said: “It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999,” when the Senate held an impeachment trial for then-President Bill Clinton.

She said she would vote to reject “any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses” before hearing from House Democrats and Mr Trump’s team.

Any decisions Ms Collins makes are likely to be seen through a political lens: like Mr Trump, she is up for re-election later this year.

Democrats begin arguments to subpoena documents from state department

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

And we’re back after another short recess.

Val Demings is now leading arguments for House Democrats in favour of subpoeaning Ukraine-related documents from the state department.

“As a career law enforcement officer, I have never seen anyone take such extreme steps to hide evidence allegedly providing his innocence. And I do not find that here today. The President is engaged in this cover up because he is guilty, and he knows it,” she said.

Ms Demings, a congresswoman from Florida, is the only member of the House prosecution team who is not a lawyer — but she does have more than three decades of experience in law enforcement. Before she was elected to Congress in 2016, Ms Demings was the first female police chief of the Orlando Police Department.

Democrats seeking WhatsApp messages, emails and diplomatic cables

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

Ms Demings is now running through four categories of documents that she says are being held by the state department at the direction of the president — and Democrats want to be turned over to the Senate. They include WhatsApps and other text messages, emails, diplomatic cables and notes taken by diplomats.

The documents relate to people like Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU who memorably testified in last year’s House investigation saying “everyone was in the loop” about Mr Trump’s desires to get his Ukrainian counterpart to announce investigations into the Bidens.

Democrats target diplomatic cable from acting ambassador to Ukraine

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

Democrats are also keen to obtain a diplomatic cable prepared by Bill Taylor, a career diplomat who was acting US ambassador to Ukraine after Marie Yovanovitch’s ousting, and sent to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

Like Mr Sondland, Mr Taylor also testified to the House impeachment inquiry.

He told House investigators that, with the encouragement of then-national security adviser John Bolton, he sent a cable to Mr Pompeo outlining his concerns about the US withholding military aid to Ukraine.

Gear up for a late night on Capitol Hill

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

Pat Cipollone spoke briefly for the president, before handing off to Jay Sekulow, another White House lawyer.

Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer’s office has just announced that they will introduce a third amendment, calling for the Senate to subpoena certain Office of Management and Budget documents and records. That likely means at least another two hours of debate — and a late night on Capitol Hill.

The Government Accountability Office watchdog said last week that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is a branch of the White House, had broken the law by withholding military aid — that had already been approved by Congress — from Ukraine.

Emoticon Senate votes down second effort by Democrats to subpoena Trump documents

The Senate has again voted on party lines, 53-47, to reject Democrats’ efforts to subpoena Trump administration documents, this time turning down an amendment by Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, to compel state department documents.

Mr Schumer has now proposed his third amendment to subpoena documents from the Office of Management and Budget — and we can expect another two hours of debate on this new effort.

Democrats launch third attempt to subpoena Trump documents

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

Democrats are having a third go at trying to subpoena Ukraine-related documents, this time from the Office of Management and Budget. Jason Crow, a “freshman” first-term congressman from Colorado, is now making the case on the Senate floor.

Mr Crow, a former US Army Ranger who served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, is arguing that the withholding of $391m in military aid from Kyiv damaged not only the Ukrainians, but also US national security.

Drawing upon his own military experience, Mr Crow told senators: “When we talk about troops not getting the equipment that they need when they need it, it’s personal to me.” He said the OMB played a central role in carrying out Donald Trump’s desires to freeze the aid — and has “key documents that President Trump has refused to turn over to Congress”.

Third time unlucky

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

Here we go again.

The Senate has voted once again on party lines against Mr Schumer’s amendment to subpoena documents from the OMB relating to the withholding of US military aid from Ukraine. For those keeping track at home, this is the third attempt by the Senate minority leader to subpoena documents that has failed today.

Mr Schumer has now introduced a fourth amendment — to subpoena acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify. Mr Mulvaney is also the director of the OMB and seen as a central figure in the impeachment probe.

The Senate has taken a 30-minute break for dinner, but we can expect the chamber to reconvene at 8pm local time for up to another two hours of arguments on this amendment.

At this stage, the proceedings are likely to go late into the night — while Mr Schumer has not said he will introduce further amendments, he has previously said that the Senate should hear testimony from at least four individuals, including Mr Mulvaney and former US national security adviser John Bolton.

Dems allege ‘cover up’ as Senate blocks 3 attempts to subpoena records

Lauren Fedor, Washington correspondent

With day one of the impeachment trial stretching into its eighth hour — and counting — it is clear that with every motion that fails on party lines, Democrats are keen to hammer home their argument that President Trump engaged in a cover-up — and that their Republican colleagues are complicit.

It is not a new argument — House speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly accused the president of covering up his actions — but it has quickly become a refrain among House managers, Democratic senators, presidential candidates and the Democratic National Committee.

Val Demings, one of the managers, said on the Senate floor earlier: “The president is engaged in the cover up because he is guilty, and he knows it.” Mr Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, said:

Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democrats vying for the party’s presidential nomination, tweeted:

And her comments were echoes by fellow presidential hopeful Tom Steyer:

Senate reconvenes to debate issuing subpoena for Mick Mulvaney

As the Trump impeachment hearing enters its ninth hour, Hakeem Jeffries, a House Democrat from New York who is serving as one of the trial’s prosecutors, has wrapped up his arguments for issuing a subpoena for Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff who was involved in some of the decision-making around the Ukraine pressure campaign.

Mike Purpura, the deputy White House counsel, took up the initial defence, arguing the time to subpoena witnesses was during the House investigation. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, also weighed in, repeating his argument that the need to call witnesses shows that Democrats do not have a sufficient impeachment case as it now stands.

And on it goes: Schumer to offer another measure to subpoena Trump documents

A spokesman for Chuck Schumer has just announced that after a vote on a subpoena for Mick Mulvaney, the Democratic leader will introduce an amendment seeing to force the Pentagon to hand over documents related to the Ukraine pressure campaign.

That means there will soon be a debate on a fifth amendment, potentially sending the trial’s first day close to midnight.

Emoticon Senate votes along party lines yet again to block Mulvaney subpoena

For the fourth time this evening, the Senate voted 53-47 to reject a subpoena sought by Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader. This one was intended to compel Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, to appear as a witness in the impeachment trial.