McConnell gives ground on schedule for Senate impeachment trial — live


Chief Justice Roberts lays out terms of trial

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

John Roberts, the chief justice of the US Supreme Court who is presiding over the trial, announced that both sides would have a total of two hours to argue the case for, or against, the resolution which outlines the rules for the trial drafted by Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky lawmaker who serves as Republican Senate majority leader.

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel and lead defence lawyer for Mr Trump, called on the 100 senators to approve the rules. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who serves as the lead House impeachment manager and who oversaw the impeachment inquiry in the House, said Democrats would “rise in opposition” to the rules.

After the opening statements, Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, will introduce amendments, which are expected to include an effort to persuade Republicans to agree to allow the calling of witnesses. Mr Schiff said that a refusal to call witnesses would make a mockery of the legal process, saying, “It is not a fair trial. It is not really a trial at all.”

As the trial began, the Trump 2020 re-election campaign emailed supporters in an effort to use the Senate proceedings as a call for donations to help the president win the White House again in the November 3 election.

Democratic impeachment managers rebutt Trump’s legal case

Demetri Sevastopulo, Washington bureau chief

Just minutes before the trial was set to start, the impeachment managers – the seven House Democrats who will prosecute the case against Mr Trump – published a rebuttal to the legal case that the president made on Monday.

The White House on Monday accused the Democrats of creating a “novel” legal theory to push for the removal of Mr Trump, arguing that they had not alleged “any violation of law”, which meant that Mr Trump had not been accused of any impeachable offense.

The House managers on Tuesday dismissed the argument that abuse of power – one of two articles of impeachment against Mr Trump – did not amount to an impeachable offense.

“President Trump’s argument that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense is wrong—and dangerous,” said the impeachment managers, a group led by Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

“That argument would mean that, even accepting that the House’s recitation of the facts is correct — which it is — the House lacks authority to remove a president who sells out our democracy and national security in exchange for a personal political favour. The Framers of our Constitution took pains to ensure that such egregious abuses of power would be impeachable.”

Emoticon The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has officially begun in the US Senate.

Schumer offers rebuttal to Mcconnell’s opening statement

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, has just offered his rebuttal to Mitch McConnell’s opening remarks, arguing that the Republican Senate majority leader had twisted the rules in favour of President Donald Trump and was adamant on rushing the trial through as quickly as possible.

“The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump. It asks the Senate to rush through as fast as possible and makes getting evidence as hard as possible … In short, the McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial with little evidence in the dark of the night – literally in the dark of night,” Mr Schumer said.

The New York senator was referring to Mr McConnell’s proposed rule change that would mandate both sides to make their 24 hours of opening arguments within two calendar days. During the 1999 trial, the two sides did not have the two calendar day limit.

Democrats, including Mr Schumer have argued that the additional limit set by Mr McConnell, is designed to ensure that much of the trial takes places overnight with fewer Americans watching.

“My colleagues – the eyes of the nation, the eyes of history, the eyes of the founding fathers are upon us,” Mr Schumer concluded. “History will be our final judge. Will senators rise to the occasion?”

McConnell tells Senate Trump not given fair hearing in the House

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just spoken on the Senate floor, laying out the groundwork for the impeachment trial, which will kick off shortly.

Mr McConnell reiterated his defense of the ground rules he laid out for the trial on Monday night and his criticism that Democrats had not given President Donald Trump a fair hearing in the House of Representatives. He said the president had not had a chance to defend himself — an argument that has been hotly countered by Democrats who note the president’s legal team refused to mount a defense during the House impeachment inquiry.

“Our straightforward resolution will bring the clarity and fairness that everyone deserves: the president of the United States, the House of Representatives and the American people, this is the fair roadmap for our trial,” said Mr McConnell.
He repeatedly asserted that the ground rules for Mr Trump’s impeachment inquiry closely resembled those that governed Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial — a characterisation dismissed by Democrats.

Majority of Americans think Trump should be asked to testify at trial – Monmouth Poll

More than three in four Americans say Donald Trump and members of his administration should be asked to appear at the Senate impeachment trial, according to a Monmouth University Poll. However, there is a “deep partisan split” over whether they should do so voluntarily, with 40 per cent saying the president ought to be “compelled” to testify.

The poll also showed a majority of Americans think House managers should be able to introduce new evidence in the trial.

“Public opinion on allowing new evidence and compelling witness testimony in the Senate trial breaks sharply along partisan lines,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “But it is interesting that solid majorities in every partisan group would like to see Trump and members of his administration at least asked to appear.”

Here are some key takeaways from the poll:
1. 64 per cent of Democrats, 39 per cent of independents, and 13 per cent of Republicans think the president should be compelled to testify.
2. 83 per cent of Democrats, 48 per cent of Independents and 21 per cent of Republicans said Trump officials should be compelled to appear.
3. 57 per cent of those surveyed said House managers should be able to present new evidence to support the articles of impeachment.

Romney sticks with Republicans on McConnell’s rules for Trump trial

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

Mitt Romney, one of the five Republican senators whose vote is considered to be in play for allowing witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, said in a statement on Tuesday he agreed with the rules set forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a blow to Democrats.

“I have made clear to my colleagues and the public that the Senate should have the opportunity to decide on witnesses following the opening arguments, as occurred in the Clinton trial,” Mr Romney said in a letter to constituents. “If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.”

Separately, the Utah senator told CNN he did not support Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s decision to call a vote on witnesses today, calling it a “mistake”.

Mr Romney told CNN he believed Mr McConnell had made only “modest” changes to the impeachment rules that governed Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment and that Democrats were overreacting. “If everything is an outrage, then nothing is an outrage.”

Lamar Alexander, another Republican senator who is considering voting for additional witnesses, also indicated he too would only consider supporting a vote for additional evidence and witnesses after opening arguments were made.

“The resolution I am supporting guarantees a vote on whether we need additional evidence at the appropriate time,” Mr Alexander said.

Trump in Davos as impeachment trial begins

Donald Trump will have to follow today’s proceedings from afar after making a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president does not plan to watch the impeachment trial on Tuesday. “He has a full day here in Davos, but will be briefed by staff periodically,” Ms Grisham told reporters.

Mr Trump criticised environmental “alarmists” and economic “pessimists” in his remarks in Switzerland, while cheering growth in the US economy during his tenure. He also knocked the Federal Reserve for raising rates “too fast” and lowering them “too slowly”.

For more on Mr Trump’s speech, read Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson’s story here.

Democrats step up campaign to convince Republicans

Courtney Weaver, FT US political correspondent

With just hours to go before the trial, Democrats are pushing through with a last-minute campaign to convince a handful of Republican senators to break with their colleagues and vote with Democrats to allow new witnesses and evidence in the trial.

“We need four Republicans who are willing to stand up for what’s right, who are willing to stand up for what America wants and needs, and not simply bow down to the president,” Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday.

Brian Schatz, a Democratic senator from Hawaii, urged Democratic voters to call the Senate switchboard directly to urge the Senate to allow new witnesses and evidence in the trial.

He tweeted:

Schumer to propose amendments to McConnell’s trial rules

Lauren Fedor, FT Washington correspondent

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, told reporters he would propose a series of amendments to Mitch McConnell’s resolution when it comes before the chamber later today “on the documents we requested, the witnesses we requested, and amendments to fix the most egregious departure that McConnell made from his proposed resolution from the Clinton rules.”

Mr Schumer has led the charge for former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to testify in the Senate trial, after the Trump administration ordered officials not to cooperate with the House investigation.

Under Mr McConnell’s resolution, senators would debate whether to subpoena witnesses or admit fresh evidence only after four days of opening statements, i.e. next week. But Mr Schumer’s comments this morning suggest he is going to try and force the issue earlier — as soon as this afternoon.

While the Senate is controlled by Republicans, a handful of more moderate GOP legislators, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, have indicated that they could vote in favour of witnesses.

Top Democrats step up criticism of McConnell

Lauren Fedor, FT Washington correspondent

Top Democrats have been speaking in front of cameras this morning on Capitol Hill, doubling down on their criticisms of Mitch McConnell ahead of a vote later today on the Senate majority leader’s resolution that lays the ground rules for Trump’s trial.

Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee who led the House impeachment investigation and will now be the top prosecutor in the Senate, told reporters:

This is not a process for a fair trial. This is the process for a rigged trial. This is the process if you do not want the American people to see the evidence. This is a process you use if you want to hand in hand, working in concert with the president, allow the president to continue to obstruct the Congress and deny the truth to the American people.

Mr Schiff said he and the six other “impeachment managers” — Democratic congressmen and women who are acting as prosecutors — will appeal to senators to “live up to the oath they have just taken, to do impartial justice and to hold a fair trial.”

Last week, John Roberts, chief justice of the US Supreme Court, swore in 99 senators, who vowed to be fair and impartial jurors in Mr Trump’s trial. The final member of the 100-person Senate will be sworn in today, after missing last week’s proceedings for a medical emergency.

Republicans weigh in after McConnell lays out rules for trial

Republican congressman Mark Meadows, who was recently added to Donald Trump’s legal team, fired back at Democrats who have protested the rules of the Senate trial.

“It’s ridiculous to suggest the Senate GOP is ‘covering up’ anything if they simply try the same case House Democrats passed. Give me a break,” Mr Meadows wrote in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

He added: “Democrats had their chance. They wrongly thought their case was strong enough and passed it.”

Senator Ted Cruz said the articles of impeachment against Mr Trump “do not allege a single crime was committed—not even a speeding ticket”.

Hillary Clinton slams McConnell’s rules

Hillary Clinton castigated Mitch McConnell, becoming the latest to accuse the Senate majority leader of trying to conceal the president’s misconduct.

Mrs Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 who lost to Mr Trump, said in a tweet: “The rules Sen. McConnell has proposed for the president’s impeachment trial are the equivalent of a head juror colluding with the defendant to cover up a crime.”

Mr McConnell’s resolution allows both sides 24 hours each to make their arguments but requires them to conclude this over two days. This could lead to marathon late-night sessions and raise the bar for introducing evidence. The hashtag #midnightmitch started trending on Twitter hours after his resolution was published.

Mrs Clinton, whose husband former president Bill Clinton was impeached in 1999, called on Americans to ring their senators and demand they call witnesses and allow evidence.

Who has said what?

When Democrats in the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, they were guided by the advice of three top leading legal scholars who said the president had committed impeachable offences.

In turn, their advice was based on the public testimony of more than a dozen witnesses, which formed the basis of a report authored by the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees.

The FT’s Lauren Fedor and Jessica Dye last month took a look at who the main witnesses are what each of them has said.

Take a look at their piece here.

FT Opinion: Partisanship sates Americans’ lust for belonging

Politics is increasingly likened to sport in its tribal allegiances. This is to do sport an unconscionable disservice, writes FT columnist Janan Ganesh.

The authentic fan is healthily cynical about their own team, after all. Scathing, even. Blind enthusiasm tends to be the mark of the try-hard newcomer.

No, a political party is capable of inspiring a kind of mob loyalty — a credulity — that is well beyond a mere Manchester United or New England Patriots to arouse.

The US House of Representatives illustrated this point when they voted almost exactly along party lines in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

As for the public, from whom lawmakers take their cue, surveys record almost all Democrats supporting the action and almost all Republicans opposed

Check out Janan’s full piece here.

Trump’s top impeachment lawyer a material witness — House Democrats

House Democrats have told Donald Trump’s top impeachment lawyer he is a “material witness” in the trial and must, at the very least, disclose all evidence before the commencement of proceedings.

In a letter on Tuesday morning, House Democrats leading the case against Mr Trump informed White House counsel Pat Cipollone he was a material witness to the charges in the two articles of impeachment for which the President now faces trial.

“The ethical rules generally preclude a lawyer from acting as an advocate at a trial in which he is likely also a necessary witness”, the managers, led by Adam Schiff, wrote.

“To the extent you plan to serve as the President’s legal advocate during the Senate trial proceedings, at a minimum, you must disclose all facts and information as to which you have first-hand knowledge that will be at issue in connection with evidence you present or arguments you make in your role as the President’s legal advocate,” they wrote.

Trump’s legal brief: a recap

Donald Trump’s lawyers on Monday laid out his defence in a 171-page legal brief and called for the Senate to “swiftly and roundly condemn” the impeachment charges.

The President’s legal team appears to be mounting a defence that even if all the allegations against Mr Trump are true, such pressuring of foreign governments is part of the presidency’s legitimate powers, as the FT’s Lauren Fedor explains here.

They have accused Democrats of carrying out a “dangerous perversion” of the constitution.

The FT View: Trump’s impeachment is set to turn into a farce

“A one-sided Senate trial will be anything but a balanced reckoning”.

This is the view of the FT editorial board.

The most senior juror, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has admitted he will co-ordinate every step with Mr Trump.

This paper argues that holding a president to account is the US constitution’s ultimate remedy for a renegade executive. In this case, however, the system will not even make a pretence of weighing the evidence.

Mr Trump has all but been acquitted of abuses for which he is self-evidently guilty. The US mechanism of checks and balances will thus be left weaker at the end of the process than at the start.

Read the full editorial here.

Proposed rules for impeachment trial outrage Democrats

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has sparked outrage among Democrats by laying out rules for the impeachment trial that would raise the bar for introducing evidence, the FT’s Lauren Fedor writes.

Frustratingly for many Democrats, Mr McConnell has put forward a resolution that witnesses can only testify if the upper house votes that they should. This will come after closed-door depositions of the potential witnesses.

Mr McConnell also plans to give House impeachment managers and President Donald Trump’s legal team each 24 hours divided over two days for their opening arguments.

The trial could extend into the dead of night and prevent many Americans from watching it in full, as Lauren explains here.

The Senate is Republican-controlled and Mr McConnell’s resolution is expected to be approved on Tuesday.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, lashed out at Mr McConnell on Twitter, accusing him of carrying out “a cover-up” for the president.

How does it all work?

Wondering how the trial will play out? Or in need of a refresher on the whos, whats and wheres of the process?

The FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo and Lauren Fedor have put together this handy explainer answering a plethora of questions you might have, including:

• How will the trial proceed?
• How will the rules be determined?
• What role will the chief justice of the Supreme Court play?
• Will Trump be convicted?
• Will the trial have any impact on the 2020 elections?

For answers to these questions and more, check out Demetri and Lauren’s piece here.

Trump impeachment trial kicks off

Hello and welcome to the FT’s live coverage of today’s impeachment proceedings.

The US Senate will shortly open the third impeachment trial of an American president since the founding of the republic.

Donald Trump was impeached on two charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, after he pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, one of Mr Trump’s main Democratic rivals in the 2020 election.

In the unlikely event that he is convicted – the Senate is controlled by Mr Trump’s Republican party – the president faces removal from office.

We will be bringing you the action live as it happens, along with the latest insight and analysis from FT correspondents and commentators.

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