UPDATE, 5:21 PM PT: More often than not, the “Q” portion of the proceedings has been a way for senators to tee up a way for either side to reiterate their talking points.
Example: A question posed to House impeachment managers by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): Given that the media has documented President Trump’s more than 16,000 lies in office, why should we be expected to believe anything he says has credibility?
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) posed a question that quoted from a line in the infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump was caught on hot mic telling host Billy Bush that “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Harris’s question, read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts, compared that remark to President Richard Nixon’s quote that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
“If the Senate fails to hold the president accountable for misconduct, how would that undermine the integrity of our system of justice?” Roberts, reading Harris’ question, asked.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager for the House, responded that “what you see if a president who identifies the state as being himself.”
UPDATE, 1:15 PM PT: In the opening hours of the impeachment trial proceedings on Thursday, one comment stood out among all the others.
It was when Alan Dershowitz, arguing for President Donald Trump’s legal team, said that “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.”
In other words, if Trump believes that his own reelection is in the public interest, his actions to further that are not impeachable.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager for the House, later seized on Dershowitz’s comment. He said that it would give presidents “carte blanche” to essentially do whatever they wanted as long as they felt that their reelection was in the public interest.
“The next president of the United States can ask for an investigation of you. They can ask for help in their next election from any foreign power, and the argument will be made, ‘Nope. Donald Trump was acquitted for doing exactly the same thing, therefore it must not be impeachable.”
During a break in the proceedings, pundits and commentators quickly weighed in on Dershowitz’s remark. On Twitter, CNN’s Jim Sciutto wrote, “This would have enormous implications for soliciting and accepting foreign help.”
At the Capitol on Wednesday was Lev Parnas, the former associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. His attorneys attended the trial, but he did not. Parnas is wearing an ankle bracelet that monitors his movements following his arrest last fall on charges of violating campaign finance laws.
But Parnas did draw a crowd as he talked to reporters, saying that he was willing to testify under oath.
PREVIOUSLY: Just as the Senate was poised to reconvene for the impeachment trial, CNN reported that the White House issued a formal threat to John Bolton over the pending publication of his book.
The news comes as Republican senators are mulling whether to call for witnesses, possibly including Bolton, in a vote that could come on Friday.
The book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is scheduled to be published on March 17. Late last month, Bolton submitted his book for vetting to the National Security Council. The New York Times reported on Sunday that in the manuscript, Bolton recounts a conversation with Trump in which the president tied aid to Ukraine to whether that country launched investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
On Wednesday, the Senate started what is likely to be two days of Q&A sessions, in which senators pose written questions to impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) started off the proceedings with a question she submitted on behalf of her and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). The question was on how the Senate should consider whether Trump abused his power if he had more than one motive for his actions. Patrick Philbin, one of the president’s attorneys, said that if there was any national interest motive, acquittal is warranted.
The next question, from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), noted the allegations made in Bolton’s book and asked how the Senate could render a verdict without hearing from him and other witnesses.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager, said that reports of Bolton’s book showed how there was a corrupt motive.
“Don’t wait for the book, don’t wait until March 17, when it is in black and white, the answer to your question,” Schiff told the Senate.
Later in the day, Trump’s legal team read the letter that was sent to Bolton’s attorney about the book, revealing that the National Security Council had concerns that it contained classified information. Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper released his response to the White House letter in which he said they “do not believe that any information could reasonably be considered classified, but given that Ambassador Bolton could be called to testify as early as next week, it is imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible.”
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