Politics

Live Updates on the Senate Impeachment Trial: Trump Is Acquitted

A bipartisan group of senators voted to remove the president from office, as Sen. Mitt Romney joined 47 Democrats. A slight majority of Republicans voted to acquit, though, and that was enough for Trump to stay in office.

On January 21, the Senate began the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. It's only the third time a president has faced an impeachment trial in U.S. history. We have your guide to the schedule, who’s who, and background on why he was impeached here.

This is a landing page for live updates as the Senate trial progresses. 

Watch the trial live above, or here.

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Feb. 5, 4:32 pm: Trump acquitted on both articles of impeachment

Republicans have acquitted President Trump on a near-party line vote after a witness-free Senate trial, despite the fact that Trump admitted his abuse of power on the White House lawn. He is the third U.S. president in history to face an impeachment trial. 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney broke rank and voted to remove Trump from office, becoming the first senator in U.S. history to vote to remove a president of his own party from office. (It didn’t happen with Andrew Johnson, and it didn’t happen with Bill Clinton.)

The Senate voted 52-48 on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. With Romney's vote to acquit on the second article of obstruction of Congress, the votes were on party lines at 53-47. Read more here.

The Senate trial is officially over.

Feb. 3, 2pm: Weld comments on Trump's impeachment 

We have a team on the ground in Iowa covering the caucus. Yesterday, they interviewed former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who's running against Trump in the GOP primary. Here's what he had to say about Trump's impeachment trial:

The sitting senators who are still in the presidential race have tried to fit in as much campaigning in Iowa as they can between trial sessions. Late Friday night, after the last session adjourned, Sen. Elizabeth Warren flew straight to Iowa where she spoke to supporters. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar also joined her for the weekend.

After spending the last two days criss-crossing Iowa and answering voters' questions about who is best equipped to take on an impeached president come November, the senators flew back to DC last night in order to be there for today's closing arguments. Then they'll come back again tonight for caucus night parties. Some of them may be victory parties, as Sens. Warren and Sanders have consistently been leading in Iowa polls, along with former VP Joe Biden.

Jan. 31, 6:30 pm: A final vote on acquittal or conviction will likely happen Wednesday

The Senate is now in recess while party leaders determine what the next steps are.

The latest reports from GOP senators are that a final vote will now happen Wednesday, Feb. 5. They will return for a few hours tonight to hear amendments, plan to finish around 9 pm EST, and will not have a Saturday session.

They plan to adjourn until Monday, when House impeachment managers and Trump's defense lawyers will be able to make their closing arguments.

After that, senators get some time to make floor speeches about the reasons for their final vote, which will happen sometime Monday through Wednesday. Sources say a final vote is expected Wednesday around 4 pm. That means President Trump will not be acquitted before he has to deliver his State of the Union to Congress on Tuesday night.

Jan. 31, 5:43 pm: Motion to call witnesses fails in 51-49 vote

Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins were the only ones to break with their party and vote yes on witnesses. All Democrats voted yes, making the total 51 Republicans against witnesses, and 47 Democrats + 2 Republicans for witnesses, an incredibly close vote.

Senators like Elizabeth Warren immediately slammed the decision:

 

Jan. 31, 4:20 pm: Sen. Lisa Murkowski is a no on witnesses 

After keeping us in suspense overnight, and despite 75% of Americans supporting the testimony of witnesses in the Senate trial, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) says she's a no on the motion to call people like John Bolton to testify — meaning President Trump’s impeachment trial is once again making history, now as the first-ever presidential trial to occur without witnesses. Murkowski said “Congress has failed” and “I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate.” It’s a curious statement, considering she is one of the senators who could have decided to hold a more fair trial.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who announced he was a no last night, also gave a remarkable statement: he admitted that what Trump did regarding Ukraine was “inappropriate,” but says he doesn’t believe it’s impeachable. And Alexander isn’t alone; Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said his statement speaks for “lots and lots” of GOP senators. At least two Republican senators dissent from this view: Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have said they'll vote yes on a motion to call witnesses, but two isn't enough for the Democrats to get the number they need to pass the motion on witnesses. It's effectively killed.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called it “the greatest cover-up since Watergate” and pointed out the implications: “[Trump] will conclude he can do it again, and Congress can do nothing about it. He can try to cheat again."

Jan. 31, 12:42 pm: Will there be witnesses? (Probably not)

House impeachment managers and Trump's lawyers will make their final arguments shortly on whether to allow witnesses and documents into the trial. Each side gets up to two hours to present their arguments per the Senate rules, which means a vote could come around 4-5 pm EST today.

As they debate, The New York Times is reporting new details from John Bolton's unpublished tell-all claiming that Trump ordered him to help put the squeeze on Ukraine as early as last May. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who is currently leading Trump's defense, was present at that meeting. Democrats are expected to fall one vote short of getting Bolton and others to testify. Last night, potential swing voter Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that while he disapproved of Trump's actions, he'd vote to block witnesses because 'there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven.'

In a sad bit of news, Rep. Jerry Nadler, one of the House impeachment managers, is leaving the trial early to be with his wife, who is currently undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Jan. 30, 1:39 pm: Trump’s defense is a “defense for dictators” 

As the second day of Q&A between senators, impeachment managers, and Trump’s defense lawyers gets underway, an ongoing topic of discussion has been defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz’s argument last night. Dershowitz, who has dominated the spotlight from the Trump team, argued that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.” 

From The Washington Post:
'The law professor went on to say that if a president were to tell a foreign leader he was going to withhold funds unless his foreign counterpart built a hotel with his name on it and gave him a ­million-dollar kickback, “That’s an easy case. That’s purely corrupt and in the purely private interest.”

“But a complex middle case is: ‘I want to be elected. I think I’m a great president. I think I’m the greatest president there ever was. And if I’m not elected, the national interest will suffer greatly,’ ” Dershowitz said. “That cannot be an impeachable offense.”'

The reactions were swift, with many legal analysts and experts describing Dershowitz’s argument as a “defense for dictators.” John Dean, former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, had this to say — keep in mind he tried to help cover up the Watergate scandal, ultimately pled guilty to a felony for obstruction of justice, and ended up becoming a star witness in the Watergate affair.

From a political scientist at the University College London:

From Supreme Court lawyers and former government officials:

From Senators:

And a pithy summary from cable news:

Dershowitz has already tried to walk his comments back on Twitter, but his argument hasn’t changed: it boils down to his belief that Trump did nothing wrong, and that pressuring a foreign government to investigate your rivals in exchange for crucial military aid isn’t an abuse of power.

Rep. Schiff has already responded to the argument today:

Jan. 29, 3:21 pm: Rep. Schiff already makes a compelling argument for witnesses

“There’s no way to have a fair trial without witnesses, and when you have a witness who is as plainly relevant as John Bolton...who has volunteered to come and testify, to turn him away, to look the other way, I think is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror,” Rep. Schiff said early in this afternoon’s session. He continued, saying if senators still have questions about Trump’s motivations in the Ukraine scandal, then that’s exactly what Bolton can answer.

If Republicans rush to acquit President Trump without hearing Bolton's testimony, the former national security advisor's book will still be published in March. If or when that happens, Republicans will be on the record as having given up the chance to hear more of the book's potentially revelatory and relevant contents—which have included two bombshells during the trial so far. (One, that Trump explicitly tied Ukraine’s military aid to doing him a personal favor in a meeting with Bolton; and two, that Bolton expressed concerns that Trump was himself doing personal favors for authoritarian leaders that he likes.) Based on everything we know, like the high levels of public support for calling witnesses and having a fair trial, it seems like a risky strategy for Republicans to avoid Bolton now.

Schiff also made an interesting analogy, asking people to consider how Republicans would act if it were Obama on trial:

Jan. 29, 1:12 pm: And we’re off! Senator Q&A session begins

The first question in the trial comes from Sens. Murkowski, Collins and Romney, three of the senators who are considered the most likely to break with the rest of the Republican party and support calling witnesses. (Romney is a definite yes; the others are maybes.) 

The question: “If the president had more than one motivation for his actions, and one was his personal benefit, how should the Senate consider the first article of impeachment?” As a reminder, the first article of impeachment is abuse of power.

Jan. 29, 12:23 pm: Protesters descend on Capitol in support of calling witnesses

A coalition of grassroots groups is protesting at the Capitol today to pressure senators to call witnesses in the trial, and for some, to ultimately vote to remove President Trump.

A Quinnipiac poll released today found that 75% of voters support calling witnesses in the trial, and 53% think Trump isn’t being truthful about the Ukraine scandal.

No more senators have come out in support of calling witnesses yet. At 1 pm EST, the senators will begin a Q&A session to get clarity on the arguments for conviction or acquittal from Democratic impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers. The questioning is expected to last 8 hours today, followed by another session tomorrow. On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether to allow or block witnesses and documents.

Jan. 28, 7:53 pm: McConnell may not have enough votes to block witnesses

In an interesting turn of events, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republicans in a closed-door meeting tonight that they don't yet have enough votes to block the call for witnesses — but they're hoping to get there by the end of the week. It's a sign that the Republican senators aren't fully in lockstep, and there's maybe room for public opinion to still have an impact. Grassroots groups are urging people to keep making calls, as the senators are listening. (Also, I now have this stuck in my head.)

Jan. 28, 3:00 pm: Trump’s defense team finished their arguments. Now what?

President Trump’s defense team wrapped up its third and final day of arguments for his acquittal today. The lawyers’ tactics have been hard to follow: They’ve gone from “this wasn’t about the Bidens, Trump genuinely cares about corruption to Ukraine,” to “this was absolutely about the Bidens,” to “even if he did what everyone says he did, it’s not impeachable.” The last one came from Alan Dershowitz; see more below. Perhaps Rep. Justin Amash, the former Republican who left the party to become an independent last year, sums the defense up best:

So what’s next? A 16-hour Q&A session with the senators! This is the chance for the senators, who are essentially jurors in this trial, to question the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team, who have spent the last six days presenting their respective cases. The questions must be submitted in writing and will then be read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts. 

Via CNN, here’s what the question card looks like:

The Q&A will take place over the next two days, meaning a vote to consider calling witnesses could happen by Friday. Republican senators like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins seem in favor of calling witnesses — like John Bolton, who keeps dropping explosive revelations via his new book — but they still need two more GOP senators to join them in order to make it happen.

Jan. 28, 10:25 am: Alan Dershowitz thinks abuse of power isn’t an impeachable offense

Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer who once defended O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein, took his turn at the podium for Trump’s defense last night during primetime TV hours.

His argument? Even if President Trump did everything John Bolton said he did (more on that below), it’s still not an impeachable offense.

Afterward, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a former law school professor, called the presentation “nonsensical.”

Despite that, some reporters said certain GOP senators enjoyed Dershowitz’s presentation, and thought he did a good job. Trump’s defense team is set to resume arguments today at 1pm EST. It’ll be their last day of arguments.

And in case you missed it, here’s Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on how the Bolton revelations impact the trial.

Jan. 27, 7:21 pm: Where does the fight to call witnesses stand?

Senators like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have said they're open to calling witnesses — especially after the John Bolton revelations (more on that below) — but Democrats need 4 Republican senators to commit in order for that to actually happen. Democratic senators and advocacy groups are asking people to continue making calls to the Senate to advocate for a fair trial that involves witnesses.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) reportedly proposed a "one for one" witness deal, under which Republicans and Democrats would get to call one witness each. He still has to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to approve of the idea, and the White House doesn't want any witnesses called, but it's interesting that some GOP senators are discussing it.

Here's a good rundown from CNN on three ways that John Bolton's new revelations contradict Trump's defense.

As it stands, Trump's defense has roughly 16 hours left for arguments if they choose to use them. If they do, that would mean a vote on calling witnesses would happen later this week, possibly Thursday or Friday.

Jan. 27, 6:54 pm: Trump's defense team criticizes the Bidens and praises Rudy Giuliani

The arguments made by Trump's defense team today are relying largely on criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter rather than disputing facts of the case. Pam Bondi, the former state attorney general of Florida who has close ties to President Trump, says that Trump's attempts to have the Bidens investigated were legitimate, even though Ukrainian officials have said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden. Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's other lawyers and a member of his defense team, indicated that they plan to spend a significant amount of time on the Bidens.

Bondi also said Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — a key player in the Ukraine scandal, as he was one of the main people pressuring Ukrainian officials on Trump's behalf — was just a "distraction" and a "shiny object" that Democrats want the public to look at. She tried to downplay his involvement in the actual scandal.

1 pm: Trump’s defense team arguments set to resume

12:18 am: Trump fires off tweets denying Bolton’s account 

Jan. 26: John Bolton’s explosive book excerpt could lead to testimony at trial 
Congressional Democrats are calling for former national security advisor John Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial after an explosive report was published over the weekend about Trump’s private comments on Ukraine last August.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Bolton’s forthcoming book contains details on Trump’s request to withhold $391 million in military aid from its ally unless Ukrainian officials helped start an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden—a key element of Trump’s impeachment trial. As a refresher, Bolton, who was Trump’s third national security advisor, left the White House in September.

In order for a call for witnesses to pass, four Republican Senators need to vote with the Democrats. As Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) has been repeatedly tweeting, “All we need is four.”


Jan. 25, 10am: Trump’s legal team defended the President, calling the inquiry a partisan ploy

The President’s legal team, which includes Alan M. Dershowitz, Ken Starr, and frequent Fox News guests, gave its opening defense on Saturday. The team spent only two of the allotted 24 hours on its day one defense, attacking Trump’s Democratic accusers as witch-hunters who lack solid evidence, and are trying to thwart the incumbent candidate’s chances in the upcoming election. The same day, House Democrats delivered more than 28,000 pages of evidence collected so far in their investigation to the Senate.

The Trump team also used clips from the House Intelligence Committee’s witness testimonies, including a clip from Chairman Adam Schiff, to argue against a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

Jan. 24, 6:23 pm: Trump’s defense team will start presenting at 10 am tomorrow, Democrats conclude opening arguments
Here’s the state of things: the House Democrat impeachment managers are finishing up their arguments this evening, likely done by around 9-10 pm. President Trump’s defense team then gets their turn for opening arguments starting tomorrow at 10 am. They also get 24 hours spread out over three days to use, if they wish. The Senate will take a day off on Sunday, so the Trump team arguments will likely be Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.

Jan. 24, 6:00 pm: Rep. Jerry Nadler says Trump is a “dictator”
Rep. Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, gave a fiery closing to his arguments today, speaking about Trump as “the first and only president ever to declare himself unaccountable and to ignore subpoenas backed by the Constitution’s impeachment manager.” That’s been a point House impeachment managers have been hammering home the last few days: that not only did Trump abuse the power of his office by attempting to extort Ukraine for personal favors, but he also attempted an unprecedented cover-up — which is true, by historical standards.

“If he is not removed from office, if he is permitted to defy the Congress entirely...then we will have lost, the House will have lost, the Senate certainly will have lost, all power to hold any president accountable. [He] wants to be all powerful… He is a dictator. This must not stand, and that is another reason why he must be removed from office,” Nadler said.

Jan. 24, 1:00 pm: Last day of opening arguments from House Dems

Democrats are expected to focus on Trump's obstruction of Congress today, in his refusal to cooperate with the inquiry and his orders to block his aides and officials from testifying. CBS News reported that a "Trump confidant" says GOP senators were told "vote against the president and your head will be on a pike." No pressure...but in all seriousness, legal experts have pointed out that that's jury tampering. 

Jan. 24, 8:30 am: #RightMatters trends on Twitter after Schiff's speech

Rep. Adam Schiff's historic speech from last night has gone viral, and #RightMatters has been trending on Twitter overnight and into this morning as people continue to share it. Watch below.

Jan. 23, 11:00 pm: Rep. Adam Schiff just gave his strongest speech yet
Rep. Schiff has given a lot of compelling speeches over the course of the House impeachment inquiry and now the Senate trial, but judging by responses from Senators and on Twitter, tonight was his best one yet. 

Jan. 23, 8:55 pm: Rep. Zoe Lofgren tries to keep the energy up

Jan. 23, 1:30 pm: Trial day 3 — Democrats resume opening arguments

The House impeachment managers are continuing their arguments today for why President Trump should be convicted and removed from office, building the timeline of the Ukraine scandal and presenting supplementary materials from witness testimonies and documents.

Jan. 23, 10:00 am: Public support for allowing witnesses in the trial is high

Last night, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he thinks the likelihood of calling witnesses in the Senate trial gains momentum every day. He told CNN, “The fact that gives me some real hope here is that the public now is strongly on our side for a fair trial.” A Washington Post poll shows that almost 2 in 3 Republicans — 64% of them — believe Trump aides should testify before the Senate, in addition to 79% of Democrats and 72% of independents.

Jan. 22, 11:00 pm: Even Republicans are praising Adam Schiff’s opening arguments

Sen. Chuck Schumer had some interesting color to add about Rep. Adam Schiff’s opening arguments tonight, which were widely praised across the political spectrum (even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told him he did a “good job” and was “very well-spoken.”) Schumer told CNN, “I watched the Republicans...they don’t want to hear [the arguments]. So they’re looking the other way, their heads are down. But for the last half hour, they were glued to him.”

Jan. 22, 5:30 pm: Majority of Americans support Trump's removal from office

In the latest Pew Research poll, 51% of Americans support convicting Trump and removing him from office. For people ages 18-29, 63% support conviction and removal.

Jan. 22, 3:48 pm: Lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff wraps his opening statement

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was the first speaker at today's trial session. Over the course of a few hours, he laid out how President Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to do personal favors for him that would benefit him politically, while also withholding crucial military aid from the country. Ukraine is currently fighting a war with Russia.

Rep. Schiff made the argument that believes he's above the law — and if the Senate doesn't vote to convict him, future presidents will believe they're above the law, too. "If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate, and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government. The president has shown that he believes that he’s above the law and scornful of constraint," Schiff said.

Jan. 22, 8:30 am: President Trump talks about impeachment from Davos 

President Trump, who was in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum while the trial began, seemingly bragged about his refusal to hand over documents relevant to the impeachment investigation. When asked about the trial by a reporter at a press conference, the president responded, “We’re doing very well, I got to watch enough. I thought our team did a very good job, but honestly, we have all the material, they don’t have the material.” 

Democrats immediately seized on the statement as proof of obstruction, which is the second article of impeachment.

Jan. 22, 1:51 am: Senators decide on rules after long debate

After more than 12 hours of debate, the Senate agreed to rules around 1:40 am, and adjourned at 1:51 am. They'll be back in session at 1 pm.

Here's a summary of what's happened so far:

The first day of the Senate impeachment trial was focused on debating what the rules of the trial should be. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had proposed rules to essentially block new witnesses from testifying or block new evidence from being introduced, justifying it by saying the Senate’s role is to adjudicate the case of impeachment, not collect evidence or investigate it. However, several Trump officials and aides defied congressional subpoenas and did not testify before the House during its investigation, and people like former national security adviser John Bolton are willing to testify before the Senate (and he wasn’t willing to testify before the House).

For these reasons, and to ensure a fair trial, Senate Democrats introduced 11 amendments to McConnell’s proposed rules. Here’s what happened:

  • Senate Republicans rejected Democrats’ proposals to subpoena documents from the White House and the State Department that they have so far refused to turn over to investigators. The proposal was opposed in a 53-47 vote along party lines.
  • Senate Republicans also rejected Democrats’ proposals to subpoena witnesses at this time. It’s possible that this proposal will come up again next week, after opening arguments have been made by both sides, and they will allow it. Democrats and transparency activists are urging people to call the Senate to ask for witnesses to be allowed in the trial. This is where the votes of Republican senators like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins could be valuable, because all Democrats need is for four Republicans to vote with them in order to allow witnesses. Romney and Collins have both indicated they may be open to voting yes on this.