During the first day of the ‘impeachment trial’ against President Trump, many people conclude that democrats looked like whining, lying, spoiled children, spewing inaccurate and indefensible arguments about why they should dictate the rules.
In fact, at one point early this morning, Chief Justice John Roberts had to issue a reprimand.
A marathon, 12-hour first day in the Senate impeachment trial against President Trump erupted into a shouting match well after midnight Wednesday morning, as Trump’s legal team unloaded on Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
Nadler began the historic spat by speaking in support of the eighth amendment of the day, which was proposed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., just as the clock struck midnight. The proposal would have amended the trial rules offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to immediately subpoena former National Security Advisor John Bolton.
McConnell’s rules, which were eventually adopted in a 53-47 party-line vote at 1:40 a.m. ET Wednesday and largely mirror those from the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, permit new witnesses and documents to be considered only later on in the proceedings, after opening arguments are made.
But Nadler, who was overheard apparently planning to impeach Trump back in 2018, said it would be a “treacherous vote” and a “cover-up” for Republicans to reject the Bolton subpoena amendment, claiming that “only guilty people try to hide evidence.” Bolton has reportedly described Trump’s conduct as akin to a “drug deal,” and he has indicated he would be willing to testify and provide relevant information.
“It’s embarrassing,” Nadler began. “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.”
[Schiff also accused the Senate of a cover up yesterday.]
Trump’s legal team, which has argued that Democrats’ impeachment case couldn’t be as “open-and-shut” as advertised given the apparently urgent need for new evidence even after the House impeachment inquiry, immediately rose in response.
“We’ve been respectful of the Senate,” an animated White House counsel Pat Cipollone fired back. “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.”
Then, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow hammed Nadler for suggesting that executive privilege, a longstanding constitutional principle protecting executive branch deliberations from disclosure, wasn’t legitimate. The White House has said the privilege prevents Democrats from forcing administration officials to provide testimony before Congress.
“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 said. “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.”
Sekulow accused Democrats of hypocrisy given that Attorney General Eric Holder had similarly cited executive privilege to avoid providing documents as part of House Republicans’ “Fast and Furious” gunrunning probe. Holder was later held in contempt of Congress.
“‘Only guilty people try to hide evidence?'” Sekulow asked, quoting Nadler incredulously. “So, I guess when President Obama instructed his attorney general to not give information, he was guilty of a crime? That’s the way it works, Mr. Nadler? Is that the way you view the United States Constitution? Because that’s not the way it was written, that is not the way it’s interpreted, and that’s not the way the American people should have to live.”
The outbursts prompted Roberts, who as Chief Justice of the United States is constitutionally required to serve as the presiding judge in the impeachment trial, to issue a highly unusual rebuke to both sides of the debate.
“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,” Roberts 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. ”
Roberts continued: “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. 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.”
The vote on the Bolton amendment, like the roll call on Schumer’s previous failed quixotic proposals on the day, was not a final determination on any witness or document request, because McConnell’s proposal would allow new evidence to be considered later on in the process.
At 1:30 a.m. ET, Schumer introduced his last amendment to McConnell’s rules– and he unexpectedly put Roberts back in the spotlight. The proposal would have allowed Roberts to decide the appropriateness of witnesses, which Republicans nixed because the Constitution affords the Senate the “sole” power over impeachment trials.
That last amendment was tabled by a 53-47 party-line vote, just like ten of Schumer’s other proposals.
When McConnell thanked Roberts for his “patience” as the proceedings wrapped up at 1:40 a.m. ET following that vote, Roberts remarked to applause, “It comes with the job.” The trial adjourned until 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
As some Democratic impeachment managers told Fox News that they were exhausted from the “long day” while staffers streamed out of the Capitol complex at 2 a.m. ET, McConnell smirked and simply told Fox News that it had been a “good day.”
Under McConnell’s final, adopted rules resolution, both the Democrats’ impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers will now have three session days, totaling 24 hours, allocated to present their case.
McConnell’s original resolution had allowed 24 hours of arguments over only two days. Democrats complained that that would push the trial into “the dead of night,” and McConnell expanded the timeline with a handwritten note on the resolution on Tuesday after the GOP moderates voiced similar concerns.
In fact, if as democrats claimed six times that the impeachment articles contain “overwhelming evidence,” Pat Cipollone argued in a brief, there should be no other need for ‘evidence.’