As expected, the first day in the Senate impeachment trial against President Trump featured a battle over rules and while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave some ground, the eventual outcome was seen as a win for the president.
The 12-hour day was also marked by Chief Justice John Roberts admonishing both sides for their conduct in the chamber.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, McConnell’s rules package was adopted in a 53-47 party-line vote, Fox News reported. The Senate leader used the impeachment trial for former President Bill Clinton as a guideline, and will allow consideration for new witnesses and documents later on in the proceedings, after opening arguments.
A series of amendments from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were defeated throughout the day.
“In short, the Senate trial began Tuesday with elaborate arguments over process. Now process is crucial in this context, in many ways the whole ballgame,” wrote Fox News’ Howard Kurtz.
An effort led by Sen. Susan Collins, the liberal Republican from Maine, prompted McConnell to relent in allowing evidence to be automatically entered into the official record, which he initially tried to prevent. He also agreed to expand the 24 hours of debate time each team has from two days to three, which will shorten the marathon days and ensure more people are tuned in — assuming anyone is.
It was a day of “outraged speechifying,” as characterized by Kurtz, with Democrats charging the other side with a “coverup” for not allowing them to run roughshod over proceedings as they did in the House, while using their TV time to repeat over and over the allegations leveled against the president.
To no surprise, as a House impeachment manager, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was at the center of what may be the biggest controversy of the day.
The Democrat smeared the opposing team for obstructing justice.
“It’s embarrassing,” Nadler said, according to Fox News. “The president is on trial in the Senate, but the Senate is on trial in the eyes of the American people. Will you vote to allow all the relevant evidence to be presented here? Or will you betray your pledge to be an impartial juror? … Will you bring Ambassador Bolton here? Will you permit us to present you with the entire record of the president’s misconduct? Or will you instead choose to be complicit in the president’s coverup? So far I’m sad to say I see a lot of senators voting for a coverup, voting to deny witnesses, an absolutely indefensible vote, obviously a treacherous vote.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone responded, effectively shutting down Nadler by reminding him that “you’re not in charge here!”
“We’ve been respectful of the Senate,” Cipollone said. “We’ve made our arguments to you. And you don’t deserve, and we don’t deserve, what just happened. Mr. Nadler came up here and made false allegations against our team. He made false allegations against all of you; he accused you of a cover-up. He’s been making false allegations against the president. The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler is you, for the way you’ve addressed the United States Senate. This is the United States Senate. You’re not in charge here. … It’s about time we bring this power trip in for a landing.”
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow also slammed Nadler for his attempt to “shred the constitution” by dismissing executive privilege.
“At about 12:10 a.m., January 22, the chairman of the [House] Judiciary Committee, in this body, on the floor of this Senate, said ‘executive privilege and other nonsense,'” Sekulow noted. “Now think about that for a moment. ‘Executive privilege and other nonsense.’ Mr. Nadler, it is not ‘nonsense.’ These are privileges recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States. And to shred the Constitution, on the floor of the Senate. To serve what purpose? The Senate is not on trial. The Constitution doesn’t allow what just took place. Look what we’ve dealt with for the last, now 13 hours. And we hopefully are closing the proceedings, but not on a very high note.”
The drama playing out well after most Americans went to bed.
A “bleary-eyed” Chief Justice Roberts, the presiding judge in the impeachment trial, issued a stern rebuke to remind both sides where they were.
“It is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” he said. “One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner, and using language, that is not conducive to civil discourse. ”
“In the 1905 [Judge Charles] Swayne trial, a senator objected when one of the managers used the word ‘pettifogging’ — and the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used,” Roberts continued. “I don’t think we need to aspire to that high a standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”
"Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are."
Chief Justice Roberts lets both sides know he will not stand for mudslinging while he's presiding over @realDonaldTrump's impeachment trial in the "world's greatest deliberative body." pic.twitter.com/WHYf92nRm9
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 22, 2020
As the long day drew to a close, with a chuckle, Majority Leader McConnell thanked the chief justice for his patience.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 22, 2020