After nearly thirteen hours, the first day of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump—a day which was only about establishing the rules of the trial—is in the history books. The grueling day, which grew in length as amendment after amendment was debated, opened with a surprise: the rules resolution that had been released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night had been changed just prior to the start of the trial. Specifically, what had been a truncated two days to make opening arguments for each side was extended to three and the potential of not admitting evidence from the House's impeachment inquiry without a vote had been removed. Beyond that, there were no other changes to the rules resolution, even after all that debate. After the brutally long day, the rules passed at 1:50 AM along party lines 53-47, and the trial will get under way tomorrow after a few hours of sleep for everyone, myself included (for the full schedule as best we know it from here, scroll waaaayyyy down to the last bullet). Good god I am exhausted and this is only just started.
Much of the day's length was thanks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was determined to get votes on every document and witness Democrats would like to see during the trial. While passage was unlikely, the strategy was to force Republicans to vote against witnesses and documents, which they definitely did. A lot. For the record—and to justify the note taking I did all day and night—the amendments were:
Amendment one: Subpoena for certain White House documents.
Amendment two: Subpoenaing the State Department for documents.
Amendment three: Subpoenaing the OMB for documents.
Amendment four: Subpoenaing the testimony of White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
Amendment five: Subpoenaing documents from the Dept of Defense.
Amendment six: Subpoenaing the testimony of Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, both from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Amendment seven: To prevent the selective admission of evidence and to provide for appropriate handling of classified and confidential material. Which, points for breaking the format.
Amendment eight: Subpoenaing the testimony of former National Security Advisor John Bolton, mustache and all.
Amendment nine: Provide for individual votes on any motion to subpoena witnesses or documents.
Amendment ten: To allow extra time to file responses to motions.
Amendment eleven: To allow Chief Justice John Roberts to rule on motions for subpoenas of witnesses and documents.
Even though every amendment except one failed by a 53-47 party-line roll call vote, each one was accompanied by up to two hours of debate time. So, do that math. The one amendment that had a different outcome was the tenth, which recieved one Republican vote, from Susan Collins, which is definitely not nothing. (Source: Roll Call)
The only changes to the rules weren't made during the lengthy trial session today, but instead were made by Mitch McConnell—literally by hand—sometime this morning after complaints from both Democrats and Republicans about the aggressively short trial length he'd put forward in the rules Monday night. Most notably, Republican Senators Susan Collins and Rob Portman successfully pressured McConnell for the changes. Collins "and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the House transcript [in] the record," Collins spokesperson Annie Clark told Politico. "Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible." While the changes may have no impact on what happens after opening statements or on the ultimate resolution of the trial, that they were made at all is an indication that McConnell may stand on less firm ground that he lets on, so thinking guy emoji. (Source: Politico)
Because of the format of the impeachment trial—where the Senators sit in silence as the jury—the actual debate of the various resolutions introduced by Schumer was not between Senators, but instead between the impeachment managers and the White House defense lawyers. What that meant is that, in looping one-hour increments, today we got a little preview of what the next week of arguments should look like as each side made micro versions of their arguments over and over again throughout the afternoon and long into the night. So what did these Groundhog-Day-like mini-arguments look like?
For Democrats, they took the opportunity to repeatedly lay out the facts of their case against the president as well as to underline the need for additional witnesses and documents and the historical precedent for doing so. Ultimately, lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff asked the jury of Senators, "We are ready to present our case, we are ready to call witnesses. The question is: will you let us?"
For the White House lawyers, the answer was a resounding no, as they used the hours of debate as an opportunity not to defend the president so much but instead to attack the process. Democrats have "weaponized the House of Representatives to investigate, incessantly, their political opponent," White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued. "A doctor would call that projection," which, well, stares.
Expect much, much, much more of these lines of argument over the next week. (Source: New York Times)
With cell phones and other electronics confined to the cloakroom, a literal threat of "pain of imprisonment" if they spoke, and only water or milk to drink (really), the lengthy day—the first of many—was going to take some getting used to for the Senators in the jury. While most Senators began the proceedings taking careful notes as arguments were made, it "wasn’t long before they started whispering to their seat-mates or writing each other notes. Some struggled to stay awake as the hours passed with short breaks," Bloomberg reports. I've never felt more kinship with a Senator tbh. It's gonna be a long week. (Source: Bloomberg)
That long week gets underway in earnest tomorr—checks watch—er, today, at 1pm when the Senate trial reconvenes. And, now that the rules are finalized after this long day, we at least know what the next week or so of the trial is going to look like for sure:
The House impeachment managers will make their opening arguments Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They have 24 hours allotted and will distribute them over those three days.
The president's lawyers will start their arguments on Saturday, there will be a break on Sunday, and their arguments will continue on Monday and Tuesday (this feels weird timing-wise and maybe they will adjourn Friday to start this on Monday but it's likely I am lying to myself because it is late).
After both sides have made their opening arguments, Senators will get 16 hours, likely spread over two days, to submit written questions, which Chief Justice John Roberts will read aloud and will get answered by both sides.
Only after all that will there be a vote on witnesses and documents and, after that, potentially the *big* vote on removal or acquittal. If everything moves at the pace set today, that vote would likely happen next Friday or Saturday, January 31 or Feb 1.
Of course, everything has the potential to stretch out and certainly if witnesses are subpoenaed, all bets are off for, like, everything. But, for real now, this is happening. Let's go. (Source: Washington Post)
What's coming next: The trial gets underway for real tomorrow (or, you know, today) with three days of arguments by the House impeachment managers. Let's gooooooooooo. God I'm tired.