I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 21, 2020. 13 days until the Iowa caucuses. 287 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Senate to open impeachment proceedings with debate over rules
The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins in earnest today, after senators were sworn in late last week by Chief Justice John Roberts. The first order of business? Agreeing to the package of rules that will govern how the trial is organized.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began circulating his proposed resolution on Monday. McConnell's rules package would call for a condensed trial: the House impeachment managers and Trump defense team would each be given 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments. Then senators would have 16 hours to question the two sides, followed by four hours of arguments and a vote on whether to subpoena witnesses or documents.
These rules would likely lead to a speedier trial than Bill Clinton's in 1999, when both sides had 24 hours to make their cases but could spread them out over three or four days. In another change from the 1999 trial, McConnell's rules would require a vote on whether to formally admit materials from the House impeachment inquiry as evidence, which would take place after the vote on whether to issue subpoenas.
Like the Clinton trial, the resolution calls for potential witnesses to be deposed behind closed doors before testifying in public.
The McConnell rules are expected to generate fierce opposition when they are debated by the Senate today. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted the proposed resolution as a "national disgrace" in a statement on Monday. "Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence," Schumer added. "A trial where no evidence – no existing record, no witnesses, no documents – isn’t a trial at all — It’s a cover up, and the American people will see it for exactly what it is."
The Senate is scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. After McConnell offers his rules resolution, the House managers and Trump defense team will debate the measure for two hours. Senators will not be able to speak during this period. After the time expires, Schumer is expected to offer an opposing resolution; the contours of his plan have not yet been announced, but would likely call for a vote on subpoenas of new witnesses and documents towards the beginning of the trial. The impeachment managers and the president's counsel will then debate Schumer's proposal for two hours.
According to Fox News, the Senate is then expected to move to a closed session — without members of the media, public, or opposing trial teams present — to debate the rules proposals before returning to open session to vote on them.
These votes could last into early Wednesday morning, the first of many late nights expected over the course of the trial. If McConnell's resolution is approved by the Senate — he signaled earlier this month that he will have the simple majority needed to set the rules without Democratic support — opening arguments from the House managers could begin promptly on Wednesday afternoon.
The expected tenor of today's rules debate immediately sets the Trump trial apart from the Clinton proceedings. In 1999, the trial rules were agreed to by a bipartisan vote of 100 to 0; this time, a bitter debate is expected to precede a party-lines vote, a sign of the rancor that is likely to dominate the entire duration of Trump's trial.
The House managers and White House defense team previewed their forthcoming arguments in dueling legal briefs released over the holiday weekend. The managers said "President Trump’s conduct is the Framers’ worst nightmare," urging the Senate to convict him, while the White House lawyers responded by calling Trump's impeachment "a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected."
A poll released by CNN on Monday found that 51% of Americans support the Senate voting to convict President Trump and remove him from office, while 45% oppose such a step. In addition, 69% of those polled supported the inclusion of new witnesses in the impeachment trial.
Impeachment viewing guide
What: The Senate is considering the impeachment resolution approved by the House last month, which charged President Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The charges allege that Trump "solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election," by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting to pressure the Ukrainian president to pursue investigations into Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.
Who: The trial will be presided by Chief Justice John Roberts, as dictated by the U.S. Constitution. The seven House managers — led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and including other powerful committee chairmen as well as freshman representatives — will act as the prosecution. President Trump's legal team — led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and also featuring Clinton-era independent counsels Ken Starr and Robert Ray, as well as celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz — will act as the defense. Trump's attorneys will also be advised by a group of his top House GOP allies. The 100 members of the Senate will serve as quasi-jurors during the proceedings.
When: Today's session of the Senate trial will convene at 1 p.m. and will likely continue into the early morning.
How: Viewers can tune into the impeachment trial by watching any of the cable news networks, as well as C-SPAN 2.
Book club: Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig are out with a new book, titled "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America," today. Read an excerpt
2020 Central: The New York Times editorial board broke with precedent on Sunday and announced it would endorse two Democratic presidential candidates. The editorial board endorsed Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, arguing that the two female senators represent the "most effective advocates" for the "realist" and "radical" approaches, respectively, that Democrats must choose between in the coming months. Read the endorsement
--- "Bernie Sanders hits Joe Biden on Social Security as the presidential contest grows more heated" (Washington Post)
--- "Sanders apologizes to Biden for surrogate's op-ed alleging he has a 'big corruption problem'" (CBS News)
Recommended read: "How Trump fused his business empire to the presidency (Politico)
President Donald Trump will be in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum (WEF). He will deliver remarks, participate in a reception with the International Business Council, attend a dinner with global CEOs, and hold meetings with WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Vice President Mike Pence will participate in the ceremonial swearing-in of Ian Paul Steff as the Director-General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service.
The Senate will convene at 1 p.m. to "sit as a court of Impeachment for the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, President of the United States."
The House will meet for a pro forma session.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shular v. United States and GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA.
Joe Biden will hold two community events in Iowa. Pete Buttigieg will hold four town halls with Rep. Dave Loebsack in Iowa. John Delaney will make four stops in Iowa. Tulsi Gabbard will hold a town hall in New Hampshire. Deval Patrick will deliver remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Andrew Yang will hold four town halls in Iowa.
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