UPDATE, 2 AM PT: After a marathon session that lasted more than 12 hours, the Senate voted along the familiar party lines of 53-47 to set the rules for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that begins later this morning.
The long process included contentious back-and-forths between the House managers and White House lawyers and Senate democrats proposing 11 amendments all shot down by the other side of the isle. They were an attempt to subpoena documents from the White House, the departments of Justice and State, and witnesses. All were tabled by the Republican majority.
Under the rules, each side will have a total of 24 hours over three days to make their cases, and senators have 16 hours tot ask questions. Then the issue of subpoenas will be revisited.
Justice Department Says Donald Trump's Tax Returns Must Be Released To Congressional Committee
The session Wednesday begins at 1 PM ET/10 AM PT.
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UPDATE, 2:09 PM PT: NBC and ABC signed off of impeachment coverage as their stations on the East Coast went to local newscasts.
There is still a long ways to go. After the Senate voted along party lines, 53-47, to reject an effort by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to subpoena White House documents related to Ukraine, he is proposing further amendments. But it is an indication that a majority in the Senate are poised to favor Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s trial rules that delay calling witnesses or seeking documents until after opening arguments and senators’ questions.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) warned that ultimately the “truth will come out,” as witnesses “will tell their story in books and film.” That was a reference to one person that Democrats want to call — former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who is writing a memoir.
After the Senate ends a late-afternoon break, NBC will offer affiliates the chance to go back to impeachment coverage with a special report until 8 p.m. ET.
UPDATE, 1:21 PM PT: CBS returned to regular programming during a break in the impeachment proceedings — in New York that meant Dr. Phil and Judge Judy — while ABC and NBC so far are staying with it.
The broadcast networks have not committed to gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial, leaving that to their streaming entities like CBSN, ABC News Live and NBC News Now.
UPDATE, 11:14 AM PT: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweaked his plans for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, in an effort to ease concerns that the proceedings would play out well into night.
McConnell’s proposed rules for the trial now allow for each side to get three days to argue their case, rather than two. Each side would be given 24 hours, with their presentations starting on Wednesday.
McConnell also changed his resolution so the impeachment evidence gathered by the House will be admitted unless a majority of the Senate objected to it. Previously, it would have taken an affirmative vote of the Senate to admit the evidence.
Commentators found McConnell’s decision to modify the resolution significant.
“Why make this change at the last minute?” said Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday. “Because clearly there were four Republican senators, at least four, who were concerned about it, who said, ‘Why do we have to rush? Why do we have to do this until one in the morning? It makes us look bad.'”
Still, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead impeachment manager prosecuting the case, still opposed McConnell’s plan for the trial because it does not immediately spell out whether witnesses will be called or whether documents will be subpoenaed. Rather, those questions are being left until after each side lays out its case and senators have an opportunity to pose questions in writing.
Democrats want to call figures such as John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. The White House directed a number of witnesses not to testify in the House impeachment proceedings, and refused to comply with subpoenas for documents.
“One way to find out what a fair trial should look like devoid of partisan consideration is to ask yourselves how would you structure the trial if you didn’t know what your party was, and you didn’t know what the party of the president was,” Schiff said in the Senate floor. “Would it make sense to you to have the trial first and then decide on the witnesses and evidence later?”
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, one of Trump’s lead attorneys for the trial, told senators that the House had “absolutely no case.”
“We believe that once you hear those initial presentations the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong and that these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution,” he said.
Schiff did go beyond the issue at hand — the proposed rules for the trial — and gave a summary of the case against Trump. In the analysis that followed, some said that it may have been a wise move. On CBS News, Chip Reid said that he may have been mindful of the audience watching, and that at a certain point, viewers would get “impeachment fatigue.”
PREVIOUSLY: Chief Justice John Roberts opened the first full day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, in a day that is likely to be dominated by a bitter debate over the rules of the road for the proceedings.
Broadcast and cable networks preempting their schedules to cover the proceedings, but Tuesday was day expected to be devoted to debate and Senate votes over what the parameters of the trial will be, with brief glimpses of how each side plans to lay out their case.
That left it to TV talking heads to provide context and back story to the battle over process, reflecting the partisan divide in Congress.
The focal point of debate was over the question of whether the trial would feature witnesses, something that would add a new level of uncertainty to the proceedings, especially if Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, is called to testify.
On CNN, chief legal analyst said bluntly that the Senate was about to stage a “sham” of a trial, with no witnesses or evidence yet allowed.
But before the start of the proceedings at 1 p.m. ET, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vigorously defended his plan for the trial, in which the question of calling witnesses will be decided later, after opening arguments from each side.
But McConnell also blamed House Democrats for not pursuing witnesses as they conducted impeachment proceedings, even though Trump blocked a number of White House officials from testifying.
Moreover, McConnell said that the trial will give Trump’s legal team an opportunity to lay out their case.
“Here in the Senate, the president’s lawyers will finally receive a level playing field with the House Democrats, and will finally be able to president the president’s case. Finally, some fairness.”
McConnell also made last-minute changes to his trial resolution, extending the time for each side’s opening arguments to play out over three days, rather than just two. Democrats had complained that an initial plan to allow for opening arguments over just two days would mean 12-hour days that extended into the early morning hours.
Schumer had blasted the proposed rules as a plan for a “rushed trial” that would play out “in the dark of night.” He also objected that the rules don’t even guarantee that evidence gathered by the House for their impeachment proceedings could be introduced in the Senate trial.
“This resolution will go down as one of the darker moments in Senate history,” Schumer said.
Schumer also objected to new restrictions being placed on press coverage of the proceedings. Members of the media face an additional layer of security as go back and forth from the press gallery to the Senate chamber, where electronic devices are prohibited.
“I want to assure everyone in the press that I will vociferously oppose any attempt to begin the trial unless the reporters trying to enter the gallery are seated,” Schumer said.
Viewers also were in for a more restricted view than other major events. The Senate controls the cameras in the chamber, with an emphasis on wide angle shots and close ups of those who are speaking. But the cameras do not show reaction shots — meaning most of the 100 senators acting as jurors are unseen.
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