On Jan. 21, the United States Senate convened on Capitol Hill to try the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. The Senate’s trial of Trump’s impeachment came just over a month after the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump over allegedly asking a foreign leader, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for intel about his political opponent and rival, presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden.
This impeachment marks a historic event, as Trump is only the third U.S. president to go through the formal impeachment process.
Shortly after the trial began on Tuesday, all U.S. Senators, their lawyers and the press entered the room. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) opened up the hearing with statements.
On the first day of the proceedings, McConnell established the ground rules for the trial, the Senate voted down multiple amendments from Democrats which aimed to introduce new evidence and McConnell made controversial last-minute changes to the rules after criticism from Democrats and Republicans.
After 12 hours of heated debate, the Senate passed the ground rules for the proceedings with a vote along party lines of 53 to 47. The main contention point, as has been discussed since the impeachment was passed in the House of Representatives, was the introduction of additional testimonies to provide additional evidence relevant to the charges against Trump.
While the majority of Republicans have backed Trump throughout the impeachment proceedings, many Democrats have publicly called for Trump’s removal from office. Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of California who has notoriously been the target for many of Trump’s strongly-worded tweets is leading the proceedings.
Schiff has been a strong supporter of Trump’s removal from office since the proceedings started in December. Just before the impeachment trial started, Schiff delivered a testimony in which he called out Trump and other Republican politicians for what he viewed as corrupt behavior.
On the second day of the proceedings, the Democrats walked the Senate through a timeline of the actions by both Trump and other administration officials involving Ukraine. Schiff highlighted three days, July 24-26, and noted that he felt as though they “tell so much of the story” about Trump’s alleged actions. Schiff also noted that he feels as though the issue of Trump’s misconduct must be resolved through the Senate, stating that “we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” should Trump gain a spot on the 2020 electoral ballot.
Throughout the Democrats’ presentation, Trump broke his own personal record for most tweets and retweets in one day, as he directed diatribes at the House impeachment managers.
Day two of the proceedings closed with Schiff presenting the idea that, “If you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters, because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”
During day three of the proceedings, House impeachment managers pointed out more evidence of actions conducted by officials close to Trump, highlighting the withholding of military aid to Ukraine, the alleged involvement in a pressure campaign on Ukraine and referenced the notes between Lev Parnas and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as evidence that Trump had directed an announcement for an investigation into the Bidens.
On Saturday, Trump and his associates had the opportunity to defend Trump against the articles of impeachment brought on during Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday’s Senate proceedings. Trump’s defense team will have three days, and up to 24 hours, to launch their defense. The first day of defense started with Trump’s team taking the offensive against Democrats, claiming that they were “partisan witch-hunters trying to remove him from office because they could not beat him at the ballot box.”
Trump’s defense also repeatedly stated that there was the burden of proof to meet in the trial, and that the Democrats had failed to meet that. While Republicans refused to discuss bringing witnesses into the proceedings, Trump’s defense team accused House Democrats of cherry-picking facts in order to leave out contrary information that would have skewed the narrative.
After the two-hour session, Democrats noted that they felt more inclined to demand calling witnesses, like John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, to provide eyewitness accounts of the events.
“They kept saying there are no eyewitness accounts,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) of New York told the press. “There are people that have eyewitness accounts. The very four witnesses, and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for.”
Trump’s team will have two more days to present a defense. A vote on whether the Democrats will be granted access to witnesses and documents will come in the next week. After the president’s defense is complete, the senators will then be allowed to submit questions in writings which will be read by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is presiding over the trial. The Senate will then consider any motions to dismiss the case or to call witnesses and demand documents. If no witnesses are called and no motion to dismiss the case is passed, the Senate will then move to final deliberations on conviction or acquittal. A verdict may be delivered during the next week.