Senators presented questions to Trump’s legal team and the House managers, led by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). The trial adjourned at 11 p.m. and is scheduled to resume on Jan. 30 at 1 p.m.
Trump Defense on Why Ukraine Wasn’t Alerted About Hold on Aid
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) posed a question to Trump’s legal team, asking why the administration did not notify Congress or make Ukraine or partner countries publicly aware of its decision to hold some $391 million in congressionally-approved security assistance and the steps needed to resolve the hold.
It was her first question in the trial’s question and answer phase. Sinema noted previous cases when the United States withheld aid to other countries, and that in those cases, the countries receiving the aid “knew the funds were being withheld to change behavior and further publicly stated American policy.”
Responding to Sinema’s question, Deputy Counsel to the President Pat Philbin said that the Trump administration didn’t withhold the aid to send a signal to Ukraine to take any action.
“The whole point was it wasn’t public,” he said. “The Ukrainians did not know. The Russians didn’t know. [The hold] wasn’t being done to be a signal. It was to address concerns. The president had raised concern, and he wanted time to have those concerns addressed.”
Philbin added that such concerns included the burden-sharing of aid to Ukraine, as reflected in a June 24 email that he spoke about earlier in the day. He said the email was also referred to in the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. Philbin noted that Trump also wanted to understand corruption issues in the country.
“So the hold had been in place so the president could within the U.S. Government, privately consider this information [and] not to send a signal to the outside world,” Philbin later said.
“I think that’s the best way to understand the difference in approach there.”
Alan Dershowitz Urged Senators Not to Vote for Impeachment
Nearing the adjournment of the Senate trial Wednesday night, Dershowitz urged senators not to vote for impeachment.
Dershowitz urged the senators “do not vote for impeachment, do not vote for removal”—even if the senators believed that the criteria of impeachment have been satisfied—unless they believed that there is “bipartisan, almost universal concern by the United States of America” in support of impeachment.
He said he believes such widespread support for impeaching President Trump “is not met, and the two-thirds [vote needed to impeach and convict a president] requirement really illustrates the importance the framers gave to that [two-thirds] criteria.”
Dershowitz also said if the president is to be removed based on the case presented by the House managers, “this will just be the beginning of a recurring weaponization of impeachment whenever one House is controlled by one party and the presidency is controlled by another party.”
“Do not allow impeachment to become a normalized weapon,” he later added. “Make sure it is reserved only for the most extraordinary of cases like that of Richard Nixon. This case does not meet those criteria.”
The Trump attorney asserts that the decision to impeach president Nixon was “easily accepted” by many Americans, but the same could not be said for the potential decision to impeach Trump.
Trump Defense Responds to Question Over Date of Military Aid Hold
The president’s legal team did not specifically identify the date when Trump first ordered the hold on military aid after being asked about it by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). However, Pat Philbin, deputy counsel to the president, offered evidence that showed Trump first expressed concerns over burden-sharing regarding Ukraine with NATO allies as early as June.
“I don’t think that there is evidence in the record of a specific date, but there is testimony in the record that individuals at OMB and elsewhere were aware of a hold as of July 3, and there is evidence in the record of the President’s rationales from even earlier than that time,” Philbin said.
“There is an e-mail from June 24 that’s been publicly released in response to an FOIA request, from the chief of staff down to a staffer in DOD relating on the subject line ‘POTUS follow-up,’—follow-up from a meeting with POTUS, the President of the United States concerning a question that had been asked about Ukraine assistance,” he said. “Specifically, ‘What was the funding used for? Did it go to U.S. firms? Who funded it? What did other NATO members spend to support Ukraine?’”
“So from the very beginning in June, the President had expressed his concern about burden sharing, what the other NATO members do,” Philbin said.
Sekulow: Trial Could Take ‘Months’ if Witnesses Are Called
White House counsel Jay Sekulow said he believes that if the Senate had adopted all of the 11 amendments put forward by Democrats at the start of the impeachment trial, it would take “a long time.”
He noted that the House had already seen 17 witnesses called upon by Democrats. “We’re talking about now additional witnesses that the managers have put forward, that Democratic leader Schumer has discussed, he’s discussed four witnesses in particular.”
“If this body were to grant witnesses, it’d say ‘yes, you get those four witnesses.’ And the White House, and the president’s counsel, gets what?” Sekulow asked.
Sekulow later said, “Here’s what I want: I want Adam Schiff, I want Hunter Biden, I want Joe Biden, I want the whistleblower. I want to also understand there may be additional people within the House Intelligence Committee that have had conversations with that whistleblower.”
“If we get anybody we want, we’ll be here for a very long time,” he added. “ The fact of the matter is, we’re not here to argue witnesses tonight, but obviously it is an undercurrent.”
Schiff, in a later response, suggested that it is the defense team who are the ones threatening to lengthen the trial process if House managers dared to call more witnesses.
“You can’t have a fair trial without witnesses, and you shouldn’t presume that when the House impeaches, the Senate trials from now on would be witness-free, would be evidence-free,” Schiff said.
Schiff also said that if Sekulow wants him to testify, then he wants Sekulow, among others, to testify.
Schiff Talks About Whistleblower
House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was asked about an alleged relationship between his staff and the whistleblower who triggered the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
“I don’t know who the whistleblower is. I haven’t met them,” Schiff told the Senate on Wednesday, adding that neither he or his staff coached the person.
Republicans, during the inquiry, contended that the whistleblower is a central figure in the impeachment push and should take the stand to testify. At the same time, Democrats have said that the person’s testimony is redundant and irrelevant. They also noted that the whistleblower’s identity should be protected against a possible reprisal.
The claim that the whistleblower coordinated with the intelligence community to scheme against the president is false, Schiff said. At the same time, he again asserted that whistleblower’s identity should be protected and noted that several senators, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have called for the whistleblower’s identity to be kept a secret.
“I am very protective of my staff as I know you are,” Schiff said. “The whistleblower did exactly what they should,” he added.
Trump Team Asks About Whistleblower
Trump’s lawyer Patrick Philbin was asked about whether the White House knew an alleged coordination effort between National Security Council (NSC) officials and the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment case.
“The only knowledge that we have … comes from public reports,” Philbin responded. “I gather there is a news report … that suggests a name for the whistleblower, suggests where he worked … at that time while detailed at the NSC staff for then Vice President Biden and that there were others who worked there. We have no knowledge of that other than what is in those public reports, and I don’t want to get into speculating.”
He said the White House doesn’t know what Schiff’s staff contact with the whistleblower has been.
More information “would seem to be relevant since the whistleblower started this entire inquiry,” Philbin said. Any possible “motivations, bias, how this was all created, could potentially be relevant.”
“We don’t know [about] the coordination” or “advice” from Schiff’s team to the whistleblower, he added.
Some Republicans in the House and Senate have said that the whistleblower should be unmasked and called in to testify.
Dershowitz: Quid Pro Quo to Help Re-Election Not Impeachable
“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Trump legal counsel Alan Dershowitz said.
“Every public official I know believes” their election “is in the public interest,” Dershowitz added.
Some GOP Senators Think They Have Votes to Block Witnesses
Several Republican senators on Wednesday claimed the Senate might vote to end the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump by the end of the week after securing enough votes from key swing-vote senators.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox News that “the president will be acquitted, and I think it will be this week, but you’ve unleashed the forces of partisan hell on future presidents if we legitimize this.”
“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told The Hill following a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday before the start of the impeachment trial.
Rounds also told the same publication that they would be able to bypass calling witnesses. “I think we’ll be OK,” he said.
“If I had to guess, no witnesses,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said. “We’ll be in a place where I think everyone is going to have their mind made up and I believe that we’ll be able to move to a verdict, and the witness question will be clear at that point,” Braun added.
Schiff Proposes Hypothetical Situation Involving Obama, Romney
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) attempted to create a hypothetical situation in which former President Barack Obama asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to investigate Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who ran against Obama in 2012.
Schiff said: “See how you feel about this scenario: President Obama says on an open mic to Medvedev… ‘I know you don’t want to use this because they’re killing your people. I want you to do an investigation of Mitt Romney, and I want you to announce that you found dirt on Mitt Romney. If you’re willing to do that, quid pro quo, I won’t give Ukraine the money they need to fight you on the front line.'”
“Do any of us have any question that Barack Obama would be impeached for that kind of misconduct?” Schiff asked.
Trump’s Team: Trial Will Last Months If Witnesses Called
White House deputy counsel Pat Philbin responded to a question about whether witnesses should be called.
House managers and Senate Democrats have called for several witnesses.
“For this institution, the real question is what is the precedent that is going to be set for what is an acceptable way for the house of representatives to bring impeachment of a president of the United States to this chamber, and can it be done in a hurried partisan fashion?” Philbin said on the Senate floor.
The Senate would then be “paralyzed for months on end” should the Senate vote on certain witnesses, Philbin said. “The structure of the Constitution—an impeachment is simply an accusation and, as in most systems where there is simply an accusation being made, the House does not have to adhere to the same standard that is used in the Senate,” he remarked.
3 Key GOP Senators Ask Question
Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney submitted the first question to the White House legal defense team.
“If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct, such as the pursuit of personal political advantage, rooting out corruption and the promotion of national interests, how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of article one?” they asked.
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin responded: “If there is any possibility … if there is something that shows a possible public interest, and the President could have that possible public interest motive, that destroys their case. So once you’re into mixed-motive land, it’s clear that their case fails.”
GOP Senator: ‘Momentum’ to End Trial
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the Senate’s GOP leadership, said there is “momentum” among senators to end the impeachment trial.
“The momentum in the conference clearly is to just ending this,” he told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s trial. “We’ve had 17 witnesses already in the House … The American public isn’t paying attention anymore.”
Barrasso also made a note of reports on a forthcoming memoir from former national security adviser John Bolton.
“Even if everything in the book is true, it doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment,” he maintained.
Romney Wants to Hear from Bolton
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) reiterated that he would like to hear from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton after a report from The New York Times claimed his upcoming book would include a claim that the president told him there was a link between military aid to Ukraine and investigations.
“I would like to hear from Mr. Bolton,” he told CNN. “I believe he may have answers to questions that I’d like to have evidence on. As a for instance, I’d like to know at the time the president decided not to immediately provide military aid to Ukraine, what was the reason he explained at that point. In addition, I’d like to know a little later on, was there any effort on the part of the President that aid was being held up or for whatever reason. So these are questions to relate to important issues that I’d like to get the answers to.”
“I’m going to let the defense and the prosecution decide which they want to call as a witness or witnesses, but John Bolton is one of those I’d like to hear,” he added.
Trump has strongly denied the report’s claims, writing on Twitter on Wednesday: “If I listened to [Bolton], we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book.”
Feinstein Disputes Report
Longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pushed back against reports saying she would vote to acquit Trump.
“The LA Times misunderstood what I said today. Before the trial, I said I’d keep an open mind. Now that both sides made their cases, it’s clear the president’s actions were wrong,” Feinstein stated, referring to a report from the Los Angeles Times.
The LA Times misunderstood what I said today. Before the trial I said I’d keep an open mind. Now that both sides made their cases, it’s clear the president’s actions were wrong. He withheld vital foreign assistance for personal political gain. That can’t be allowed to stand.
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) January 28, 2020
The Los Angeles Times wrote: “Feinstein suggests she is leaning toward acquitting Trump in the impeachment trial.” The article was widely circulated before Feinstein issued a statement on social media disputing the report.
Democrat Senator: Hunter Biden Is Relevant
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday morning he believes Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son who is also a central impeachment figure, could be a “relevant witness” in the impeachment trial.
“I think so I really do. I don’t have a problem there because this is why we are where we are,” Manchin said when he was asked on MSNBC”s “Morning Joe” about Hunter Biden being a relevant witness.
He added: “Now I think he can clear himself, what I know and what I’ve heard, but being afraid to put anyone that might have pertinent information is wrong, no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”
Manchin has bucked his party before. In 2018, he voted to approve the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.