Editor’s note: Last week, the Tribune provided a day-by-day summary of the Senate impeachment trial, made possible because the U.S. Senate agreed to have the proceedings video taped and made available through a number of network and other media organizations. The Tribune’s source, C-Span, provided both video and radio coverage live throughout the proceedings. This week, we will continue to offer coverage of the proceedings. One other note, it has come to our attention that Ukraine President Volodomir Zelenskyy’s name is spelled with two y’s, not one.
Monday afternoon, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m., ET, 100 U.S. Senators returned to the Capitol building for day seven of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. Among them were Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, Republicans from Kansas.
Monday morning, Moran’s office issued an edition of the Senator’s newsletter, Kansas Common Sense, “Update regarding the impeachment trial,” which can be viewed at https://www.moran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/newsletter?id=44445A26-B2B2-4030-AE62-6457F32D40AB.
“The House failed to undertake its responsibility to collect supporting evidence, and the managers attempted to shift that responsibility to the Senate,” Moran stated in his opening paragraph. “On Saturday, the President’s lawyers delivered the beginning of their opening arguments and will finish those arguments this week.”
We could find no recent comments on the impeachment trial by Roberts, except for a Jan. 22 Kansas City Star report that quoted him,“It was tough last time… This is not pleasant. The circumstances are not pleasant by any means but you just have to persevere,” Roberts said when asked how his experience from the Clinton trial would guide his role as juror this time.
Roberts could be seen in the background of the Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Opening the hearing. He flipped through a notepad apparently covered in notes.
President Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow made opening arguments. He claimed the House’s lack of focus on July 25 transcript was due to the fact it “did not say what they needed it to say.” He once again stated the whistle-blower complaints were “deep policy concerns,” which is not a basis for impeachment. He asserted the hearing was one more attempt in a three year pattern of attempts to interfere with the president’s ability to govern, as well as to interfere with our constitutional framework.
The president’s co-counsel, Judge Kenneth Starr, gave the first round of opening arguments Monday afternoon. Previously, he led the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton investigation.
He provided history and background on impeachment and addressed the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, on a procedural basis. He made the case that the reasons the House managers gave for why they didn’t follow procedure to subpoena evidence and testimony before the trial, mainly that the matter was one of urgency and legal proceedings to enforce the subpoenaed against the threat of lawsuits would take too much time, were not valid.
First Sekulow, and then Mike Purpura recapped Saturday’s arguments about burden sharing and corruption, that Ukraine was not aware of the pause in aid, that the aid flowed on Sept. 11 without any announcement of an investigation.
Meetings were considered
He also pointed to three dates when the president suggested in the course of conversation that he would be open to a visit of some sort (April 21, May 29, July 25). No preconditions were included in those conversations.
He said the House managers failed to tell Senators that during that time, staffers were working on arranging a meeting. Scheduling conflicts and Hurricane Damien were cited as two factors that caused the White House to change plans. He asserted that the president made no attempt to downgrade any visits to Zelenskyy. A visit to the Ukraine, he said, was not the only or the most important visit Trump had to consider, and the later bi-lateral meeting in Poland carried no less weight than a visit to the White House.
There was a 15-minute break , and then Jane Raskin, Trump’s personal attorney, took the stand. The House attempted to distract the Senate from their lack of evidence against Trump by holding up his attorney Rudy Giullianni as a “shiny object,” she said.
“Senators, I urge you, don’t be distracted,” she said
Then Patrick Philbin went to the podium to discuss the laws concerning due process and the fundamentals of impeachment. The proceedings were illegal from the start because no resolution and vote was taken in the House for impeachment, he said, and there was not a resolution authorizing the subpoenas under the impeachment power.
Second, he said the House denied the president due process in the procedures they used in the hearings. He explained point by point his argument in contrast to the same argument laid out by the House.
The president should not be compelled to present evidence now because it will violate due process as set down in the Constitution, he said. The House is responsible for the investigation, and the Senate is responsible to try the case, he added.
He ticked off three different legally based ways the Trump administration acted when evidence was requested:
•Executive branch officials declined to comply with subpoenas because they were not authorized by a vote from the House.
• 50 years of precedent – Presidential senior advisers are considered the alter-egos of the president himself, so Compelling them to testify is tantamount to compelling the president to do so himself.
• The Supreme Court of the United States recognizes Executive privilege is fundamental to the operation of government, and is rooted in the separation of powers.
Philbin’s closing argument spoke to the precedent that this case sets and how it will affect the future.
Sekulow returned to the podium to break down the topic of corruption in Ukraine, particularly as it relates to Burisma, a natural gas holding company headed by Mykola Zlochevsky.
Pam Bondi, the president’s counsel, focused her spotlight on Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The House has to prove there is no basis for the President to raise concern over the issue, she said. But numerous media reports dating back to 2014 questioned Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma and the potential for the appearance of conflict of interest as it related to his father, then the Vice President of the United States.
While she stopped short of actually accusing either of Biden’s of corruption, she went right to the line and continued for the next half-hour, outlining a timeline beginning in 2014, just days before Hunter joined Burisma’s board of directors, all the way up to April, 2019, when he announced he would step down from the board. The timeline included references to then Vice President Joe Biden’s anti-corruption involvement from 2015 through 2017, which she hinted was questionable because he threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine until the Prosecutor General Shokin was fired. Shokin, she added, claimed to be investigating Burisma’s board president Zlochevsky.
Bondi also made a link between the Obama-Biden administration and former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified the administration prepped her on how to answer questions concerning Hunter Biden’s association with Burisma. A July 22, 2019, Washington Post article critical of Hunter’s association with Bursima and how it could affect his father’s campaign was also cited. Three days later, the Trump /Zelenskyy phone call was made.
“You’ve heard from the House managers, they do not believe there was any concern to raise here, and that all of this was baseless,” she said. “All that we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue, and that is enough.”
Next, counsel Eric Herschmann, questioned the validity of the House’s argument that the need to move forward with impeachment was due to urgent concerns for national security, holding it up against the backdrop of the House’s decision to first recess for the holidays before delivering the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Sekulow and Philbin were the first to continue opening arguments on their third and final day. No new information was provided, though there were a few remarks referring to a report that former national security advisor John Bolton, whom the House hopes to call as a witness if it is allowed to, is writing a book that may contain information to back up the claim that Trump conditioned the flow of Ukraine aid to the announcement of an investigation of Biden during the July 25 phone call.
Following a brief break, Pat Cipollone returned, to make concluding arguments. A total of less than two hours of the more than 15 hours available were expended.
During the break on Day 8
- CSPAN reporters interviewed U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham who said he feels he has enough evidence himself, but he predicted there would be 51 Republican votes to call Hunter and Joe Biden as witnesses. He stated he would be willing to subpoena Bolton’s book for Senators to read themselves, and that if the people want witnesses there would be a lot of witnesses called.
- Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), it was reported, spoke while holding up their hands to their mouths with each other briefly during the first break, and then Collins went over to
- Nadler who was once again present after being absent Monday. His wife was undergoing cancer treatment for pancreatic cancer back at home.
- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) are also being eyed for signs they may cross over with Democrats.
Cippolone urged the Senate to reject the articles of impeachment because they fall short of impeachable offenses.
“All you need is the Constitution and your common sense,” he said. “These articles of impeachment fall short and are dangerous.”
Video clips from the Clinton impeachment trial in 1996 of the then president’s counsel, Jerry Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Bob Menendez and Chuck Schumer, arguing against impeachment. These clips, in contrast to their current roles as House impeachement managers, helped to underscore his point. He made an impassioned plea for the Senate to reject the articles of impeachment and put the Constitution above partisanship.
After the conclusion of the opening remarks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel announced he had reached an agreement with the minority leader concerning the rules for questioning: The 16-hour question and answer period will start on Wednesday. Questions will alternate between the majority and minority sides for up to 8 hours during that session and the same for Thursday. Questions should be in writing, and should be thoughtful and take into consideration the time it will take to respond.
Chief Justice John Roberts said he would follow Chief Judge Renquist’s guidelines from the Clinton impeachment trial that limited answers to 5 minutes or less.
According to CSpan reports, Republicans were asked to meet with Senate Majority Leader McConnel following adjournment in order to get everyone on the same page for the next phase.