30/09/2020

House managers read articles of impeachment against president shortly after noon

WASHINGTONThe impeachment trial of President Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress opened in the U.S. Senate on Thursday with a ceremonial reading of the House-passed articles, followed by the swearing-in of the senators, who pledged to deliver impartial justice.The steps marked the official start of the trial, only the third such proceeding against a president in U.S. history. At least two-thirds of the senators would have to vote to convict Mr. Trump to remove him from office. Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing.By noon on Thursday, every senator was seated at his or her desk, a rare sight during ordinary legislative business, when it is common to see senators delivering speeches to an empty chamber. Senators typically dont sit in their assigned seats even during roll call votes, preferring to stroll around and chitchat.
As they waited for the formal exhibition of articles, some senators scrolled on their cellphones or talked quietly to each other.
At 12:05 p.m., House managers, who will act as prosecutors during the trial, arrived at the ornate doors of the Senate. They walked in two-by-two, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman
Jerrold Nadler
(D., N.Y.). Freshman Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D., Texas) trailed as the seventh. A Democratic aide said the order was chosen according to seniority.
All managers carried large blue folders containing their own copy of the articles of impeachment passed by the House last month and the resolution passed on Wednesday authorizing them as managers. They were followed by Texas Democratic Rep. Al Green, who has been a longtime voice in calling for Mr. Trumps removal from office. He wasnt an official part of the procession.
Silence fell and phones disappeared as the House sergeant at arms warned senators to keep quiet on pain of imprisonment. Then Mr. Schiff, the lead manager, began reading the articles aloud from a podium in the well of the Senate.
Resolved, that Donald John Trump, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, he said.
The first article of impeachment stems from Mr. Trump pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, including by withholding almost $400 million in aid to help Kyiv combat Russian aggression. The second article accuses Mr. Trump of impeding Congresss investigation by preventing witnesses from testifying and defying subpoenas for documentary evidence.
The senators watched, with stony faces, as Mr. Schiff spoke.
Sen. Susan Collins
(R., Maine) stifled a cough. Next to her, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) sat motionless with her hands folded into her lap. Sens. Rob Portman (R., Ohio),
Amy Klobuchar
(D., Minn.),
Tammy Baldwin
(D., Wis.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) scribbled notes.
At 12:22, when Mr. Schiff had finished, the managers departed. They briefly huddled outside the chamber, once again got in order, and marched back toward the House side of the Capitol.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Chief Justice
John Roberts,
who is presiding, was sworn in by
Sen. Chuck Grassley
(R., Iowa), the Senates president pro tempore.
Chief Justice Roberts then administered the oath to senators, who will act as the jury. Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of President Donald John Trump, president of United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?
We do, the senators said.
Senators were then called to the Senate clerks desk to sign their names in an oath book, in alphabetical order.
All of the senators were present for the swearing-in except for
Sen. Jim Inhofe
(R., Okla.), who is at home with a family member facing a medical issue, according to his office. He plans to be sworn in when the trial begins.
We will pledge to rise above petty factionalism and do justice for our institutions, for our states and for the nation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the floor Wednesday evening.
The Senate accepted the articles of impeachment against President Trump, marking the official start of the trial. Photo: Associated Press
After the swearing-in, the Senate formally notified the White House of the pending trial and summoned Mr. Trump, who will be given until Saturday evening to reply. The Senate trial was then adjourned until Tuesday at 1 p.m.
In 1999, President Clintons defense team took two days, sending a 13-page written answer to the Senate. House prosecutors submitted a pretrial memo outlining their case that same day. Then Mr. Clintons lawyers filed their pretrial brief, outlining the case for acquittal. Opening statements didnt start until nearly a week after the administration of oaths.
Although historic, Thursday entailed mostly pomp and circumstance. The trial wont get under way substantively until the Senate reconvenes after the holiday weekend.
All 100 senators agreed on rules for the 1999 trials initial phase. There is no such bipartisan agreement now, and while Mr. McConnell says all 53 Republicans in his caucus are united on the path forward, he hasnt released the text of his resolution laying out the procedures agreed upon by GOP senators.
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It isnt known whether Mr. McConnell will unveil that text Thursday. But Mr. McConnell has said he expects the rules will be similar to those that governed the Clinton trial, with 24 hours for each side to make presentations, followed by a period for senators to ask written questions.
Republicans briefed on the resolution have said they also expect it to include a guaranteed vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents, as requested by Democrats.
In 1999, a resolution dealing with witnesses passed a few weeks into the trial, along party lines. Three witnesses, including
Monica Lewinsky,
the former White House intern with whom Mr. Clinton admitted an inappropriate relationship, were deposed privately in the presence of a senator from each party. Excerpts were shown by video during the trial.
There are 15 senators now serving who also voted in the Clinton impeachment trial, including Mr. McConnell and
Sen. Chuck Schumer
(D., N.Y.), the Senates Democratic leader.
In a ceremony at the Capitol on Wednesday, the House signed and delivered two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate. Photo: Associated Press
I remember the solemnity of this, when you see the chief justice sitting in the chair with his august robes, when you hear your name called and you hear the charges, your hair sort of stands on end, Mr. Schumer said in a recent interview.
During the trial, all senators were warned by the sergeant at arms to remain silent on pain of imprisonment and will be expected to be present and seated at their assigned desks.
Any deliberations among senators likely will be held in closed session, meaning that no press or cameras will be allowed. The rest of the trial will be open, and on Thursday, members of the public and press watched the proceedings from balconies overlooking the floor.
Its a place apart from the normal Senate business, said
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
(D., Calif.), who also was a senator during the Clinton trial.
The minute you walk in, its electric with significance, she said.
The events that take place in the Senate during a presidential impeachment trial are so weighty that most senators feel it in their bones within five minutes of being there, she said, adding that the solemn atmosphere can defuse partisanship.
I was present. I saw it change before, Ms. Feinstein said. Now whether it will again, I dont know. But everybody, I think, that hasnt been seated in one comes in and says, Oh wow, you know, this is really something.
Write to Lindsay Wise at lindsay.wise@wsj.com
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