• September 29, 2020

Updates on the Last Day of Questioning

What to Watch on the Last Day of Questioning

Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

President Trump will visit two battleground states Thursday as his defense team and House managers begin a second day of answering questions from senators in his impeachment trial.

Mr. Trump will visit Michigan, where he will highlight the signing of the U.S.M.C.A. trade agreement, one of his key legislative accomplishments during his time in office. Then, he will head to Iowa for a campaign rally, just four days before the caucuses in the state, where Democrats will begin the first votes toward choosing their eventual nominee.

In the split-screen that has been a hallmark of Mr. Trump’s time in the White House, he will be carrying out official activities and then taking part in campaign events, as official Washington is focused on a debate over his conduct in office.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, was prevented from asking a question on Wednesday because the question he posed, in relation to the origins of the impeachment inquiry, would have named the whistle-blower, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“It’s still an ongoing process; it may happen tomorrow,” Mr. Paul told reporters on Wednesday.

But at least one member of Senate leadership said that he did not believe that the whistle-blower, whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry, would be named on the Senate floor.

“I don’t think that happens, and I guess I would hope that it doesn’t,” said Senator John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber.

The still-anonymous whistle-blower filed a complaint last summer, after President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. The complaint was filed through an official process meant to protect those filing from reprisals.

Much of the focus will again be on the chamber’s few moderates and the queries they choose to pose during the remaining eight hours of questioning. On Wednesday, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, was given the first question, which she chose to ask in tandem with Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, both Republicans.

The three senators are seen as the most likely Republicans to vote for witnesses, and their colleagues in the chamber seemed to perk up every time one of the three submitted a question.

“Some of them were good,” Ms. Murkowski said of the nearly 100 answers she heard on Wednesday.

The chamber will also focus on three centrist Democrats: Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Ms. Sinema, holding a question card, could be seen Wednesday night conferring with her colleagues in the back of the chamber over possible questions to ask.

All the Democrats and at least four Republicans would have to support hearing witnesses to reach the 51 votes needed.

As a growing chorus of Republican senators declared on Wednesday that they felt ready to move to a final vote without calling new witnesses, the president’s legal team delivered several bold answers to senators’ questions. Among the most remarkable was an argument from Alan M. Dershowitz, who suggested that anything President Trump might have done in the service of his own re-election effort was in the public interest.

The president’s lawyers seemed increasingly self-assured in a stance others have offered before: Regardless of whether the Democrats’ impeachment allegations are true, the president’s actions still would not justify his removal from office.

Even as the 16-hour period of questioning comes to a close on Thursday, both sides will still have an opportunity to deliver something akin to a closing argument as early as Friday. But as the president’s lawyers sense that the trial could move toward a swift conclusion, they may elect to commit to the notion Mr. Dershowitz offered on Wednesday that any more discussion, and any testimony from new witnesses, should be considered irrelevant.

Senators questioned the House impeachment managers and President Trump’s legal team. Trump’s lawyers argued that anything a president did to win re-election could be “in the public interest.”
Credit…Image by Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, expressed doubts on Wednesday that he would be able to secure the votes to introduce new witnesses in the trial. At the same time, Democratic and Republic senators alike began tailoring their questions to effectively turn the members of each legal team into witnesses themselves.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and lead impeachment manager, was asked about what he and his staff knew about the C.I.A. official who filed a whistle-blower complaint that prompted the impeachment proceedings, and how that information informed the committee’s investigation. Democrats indicated that they hoped to press Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel who is leading Mr. Trump’s defense team, for details about his experience in the White House specific to the case against the president.

On Thursday, senators may look to home in what outstanding information still exists. Several people like John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, and Lev Parnas, an associate of the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s who helped pressure Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals, indicated this week that they would be willing to testify if subpoenaed. Bracing for an outcome in which those in Mr. Trump’s orbit never appear, senators may look for creative ways to discuss what those potential witnesses could have added to their case.

What we’re expecting to see: The trial will reconvene for a final day of questioning, as senators submit written questions for House impeachment managers and White House lawyers. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will again read the questions aloud and hold responses to five minutes.

When we’re likely to see it: The proceedings will begin at 1 p.m. Eastern and could run for about eight hours, or until senators feel they have exhausted their lines of questioning.

How to follow it: The New York Times’s congressional and White House teams will be following all of the developments and will be streaming the trial live on this page. Stay with us.

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