Read the full text: Mitt Romney’s remarks on impeachment vote

Full speech: Romney speaks on senate floor, plans to vote for Trump conviction

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) will vote to convict President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial on the charge of abuse of power, becoming the only Republican to break with the president and his party. Read his statement below.

The Constitution is at the foundation of our Republic’s success, and we each strive not to lose sight of our promise to defend it. The Constitution established the vehicle of impeachment that has occupied both houses of Congress for these many days. We have labored to faithfully execute our responsibilities to it. We have arrived at different judgments, but I hope we respect each other’s good faith.

The allegations made in the articles of impeachment are very serious. As a Senator-juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise “impartial justice.” I am a profoundly religious person. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the President, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong.

The House Managers presented evidence supporting their case; the White House counsel disputed that case. In addition, the President’s team presented three defenses: first, that there can be no impeachment without a statutory crime; second, that the Bidens’ conduct justified the President’s actions; and third that the judgement of the President’s actions should be left to the voters. Let me first address each of those defenses.

The historic meaning of the words “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the writings of the Founders and my own reasoned judgement convince me that a president can indeed commit acts against the public trust that are so egregious that while they are not statutory crimes, they would demand removal from office. To maintain that the lack of a codified and comprehensive list of all the outrageous acts that a president might conceivably commit renders Congress powerless to remove a president defies reason.

The President’s counsel noted that Vice President Biden appeared to have a conflict of interest when he undertook an effort to remove the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. If he knew of the exorbitant compensation his son was receiving from a company actually under investigation, the Vice President should have recused himself. While ignoring a conflict of interest is not a crime, it is surely very wrong.

With regards to Hunter Biden, taking excessive advantage of his father’s name is unsavory but also not a crime. Given that in neither the case of the father nor the son was any evidence presented by the President’s counsel that a crime had been committed, the President’s insistence that they be investigated by the Ukrainians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit. There is no question in my mind that were their names not Biden, the President would never have done what he did.

The defense argues that the Senate should leave the impeachment decision to the voters. While that logic is appealing to our democratic instincts, it is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president. Hamilton explained that the Founders’ decision to invest senators with this obligation rather than leave it to voters was intended to minimize—to the extent possible—the partisan sentiments of the public.

This verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The President’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not “perfect”— No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.

In the last several weeks, I have received numerous calls and texts. Many demand that, in their words, “I stand with the team.” I can assure you that that thought has been very much on my mind. I support a great deal of what the President has done. I have voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and biases aside. Were I to ignore the evidence that has been presented, and disregard what I believe my oath and the Constitution demands of me for the sake of a partisan end, it would, I fear, expose my character to history’s rebuke and the censure of my own conscience.

I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?

I sought to hear testimony from John Bolton not only because I believed he could add context to the charges, but also because I hoped that what he said might raise reasonable doubt and thus remove from me the awful obligation to vote for impeachment.

Like each member of this deliberative body, I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence. I am convinced that freedom itself is dependent on the strength and vitality of our national character. As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction. We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the President from office. The results of this Senate Court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgement of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the President’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong.

We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

Senators on Monday are hearing closing arguments, giving House impeachment managers and the president’s legal team one last chance to sway the Republican-led Senate to convict or acquit President Donald Trump.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

10:46 A.M.

Dr. Jill Biden: Lindsey Graham's Trump-era transformation 'a little hurtful'

Dr. Jill Biden on Friday called Sen. Lindsey Graham's Trump-era transformation "a little bit hurtful," lamenting the South Carolina senator's shift from a onetime friend to one of President Donald Trump's top attack dogs accusing the former second family's son of wrongdoing in Ukraine.

The former second lady said the Bidens and Graham used to be "great friends," traveling together with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when former Vice President Joe Biden was a long-serving senator from Delaware. But she said the South Carolina senator, a staunch Trump ally, has changed. Read the full story. — Myah Ward

10:29 A.M.

Closing arguments launch as Trump's trial winds down

House Democrats and President Donald Trump’s legal team will make their final pitches on Monday to a Republican-controlled Senate that has all but decided the president will be acquitted later this week.

Monday’s closing arguments in the nearly three-week impeachment trial are little more than a formality, given the Senate’s party-line decision Friday to shut down the pursuit of new witnesses or evidence to bolster the House’s case that Trump abused his power and obstructed the impeachment inquiry. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio

7:59 A.M.

Impeachment is almost over. Ukraine isn’t.

Yes, the impeachment process ends this week; but the Ukraine scandal is likely far from over.

Case in point: it remains possible that former national security adviser John Bolton tells his story before the release of his book in March. House Democrats have swatted away questions about whether they will move to subpoena Bolton. As long as it was still possible that the Senate could subpoena him as part of the trial, the House was staying out of it.

But the evidentiary record for the trial is closed, and there are no more opportunities for Democrats to force votes on witnesses for the remainder of the trial. It’s not a matter of if we hear from Bolton; it’s just a matter of when. Read today’s Huddle newsletter. — Andrew Desiderio

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

The Senate Friday will begin debating whether to bring in witnesses to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, though the Democratic-led push is almost sure to fail after GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander announced he’d vote against the effort. That sets up a likely vote late Friday or early Saturday to acquit the president.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

5:06 A.M.

Trump team plans a non-impeachment State of the Union

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump will relaunch his 2020 campaign.

Likely clear of imminent threats to his presidency, the president plans to use his annual State of the Union speech as a fresh start for his re-election bid, according to seven senior administration officials and White House allies who spoke to POLITICO about the president’s upcoming address.

Despite facing a captive audience that includes Democrats who have spent the last few months trying to remove Trump from office, the president is resolved to not even mention impeachment, two of those officials said. Read the full story. — Gabby Orr

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

Senators will resume asking questions of President Donald Trump’s defense and House prosecutors starting at 1 P.M. Thursday, marking the last chance for lawmakers to inquire about the president’s impeachment before moving to a vote on witnesses.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

9:35 A.M.

Conservative group runs ad pressing Romney to reject witnesses

FreedomWorks is running a full-page ad against Sen. Mitt Romney to put new pressure on the Utah Republican to vote against witnesses.

The conservative group is running the ad online and in print in the Salt Lake Tribune. It seems unlikely to work; Romney is the most committed senator to hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton, whose unpublished book reportedly links Trump more directly with Ukraine aid freeze. — Burgess Everett

5:03 A.M.

How Trump's impeachment created two Democratic superstars

The House Democratic Caucus has long been dominated by a gaggle of also-rans: men and women who, while good enough for Congress, proved to be underwhelming on the larger stage of national politics.

That's changed.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder on the Senate floor as they argue for the president’s removal from office, two men — Adam Schiff of California and Hakeem Jeffries of New York — have been catapulted to the front of the nation's consciousness, to the top of the Democratic Party and have become the fulcrum for speculation about a host of prominent positions both in the House and beyond. Read the full story. — Jake Sherman and Heather Caygle

5:03 A.M.

Trump allies see witness-swap scheme as impeachment messaging coup

President Donald Trump’s allies are relishing the political benefits of a plot to offer an equal number of impeachment witnesses for both parties, even though it likely won’t go anywhere.

But that’s the point.

Republican strategists are viewing the offer as a potent tool in the PR war around the president’s impeachment trial. In their eyes, the proposal defangs a Democratic argument that Republicans are shutting down witnesses without actually having to call witnesses. It could give the appearance of fairness, they said, while also energizing the Trump base eager to at least imagine the president’s foes — like Joe Biden — taking the witness stand. Read the full story. — Anita Kumar

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial enters a new phase Wednesday starting at 1 P.M., with senators getting their first opportunity to ask questions of the defense and Democratic House managers. The senators will write their questions down and submit them to Chief Justice John Roberts, who will read them.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

10:04 A.M.

Manchin: ‘I really do’ think Hunter Biden is relevant

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin cracked open the door to hear from Hunter Biden in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, saying that he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden's son is a relevant witness.

For weeks, it's appeared there have not the votes to subpoena Hunter Biden, who worked at a Ukrainian energy company and is the focus of Republicans' defense of Trump, arguing the president was worried about corruption in Ukraine. But if a handful of Democrats joined most Republicans, the Senate could in theory cobble together a majority for Hunter Biden’s testimony -- that is, if at least four Republicans go along with 47 Senate Democratic Caucus members and vote to consider witnesses.

Asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" about whether Biden is relevant, Manchin replied: "I think so, I really do.

"I don’t have a problem there because this is why we are where we are. Now, I think that he can clear himself of what I know and what I’ve heard. But being afraid to put [on] anybody that might have pertinent information is wrong no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican," Manchin said Wednesday morning.

"I want witnesses, I want people to tell me what you know. You’re asking me to make the most important decision I’ve ever made in the critical arena that I’m in or as an individual and I want to hear everything I can," he said. "I want to make sure that the decision I make is the right decision." —Burgess Everett

8:57 A.M.

Trump claims Bolton book is 'classified national security'

President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that his conversations with former national security adviser John Bolton are entirely classified, setting up a new line of defense against potentially devastating testimony from Bolton should he be called as a witness in the president’s ongoing Senate impeachment trial.

Trump also suggested that Bolton, long regarded as a hawk within GOP foreign policy and national security circles, would have entangled the U.S. in multiple major world conflicts if not for the president’s refusal to heed his counsel.

Bolton, Trump tweeted, was “fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now.” The president claimed his former aid had “‘begged’ me for a non Senate approved job” and then “IMMEDIATELY [wrote] a nasty & untrue book.”

“All Classified National Security. Who would do this?” Trump concluded. Read the full story. — Quint Forgey

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

President Donald Trump’s defense team will wrap up their opening arguments Tuesday starting at 1 p.m., though the question of whether Republicans will agree to call for witnesses still hangs over the trial after John Bolton’s stunning revelations.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

10:34 A.M.

Lindsey Graham supports plan to let senators view Bolton’s manuscript

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday backed a potential option to break the impeachment trial stalemate over John Bolton's new book: make it available to lawmakers — but keep it secret.

"I totally support @SenatorLankford's proposal that the Bolton manuscript be made available to the Senate, if possible, in a classified setting where each Senator has the opportunity to review the manuscript and make their own determination," Graham tweeted.

It's unclear whether Bolton's publisher would agree to such an arrangement or whether that would be an acceptable alternative to senators who want to call Bolton to testify. — Kyle Cheney

10:25 A.M.

Cory Gardner avoids elevator moment

Sen. Cory Gardner, who is up for reelection this fall in Colorado, made sure to avoid any ridicule on social media on Tuesday morning.

Asked a question on witnesses, the GOP senator noted the last time he answered he was mocked for allowing the Senate elevator doors to close before he gave a complete answer.

"Last time I got in elevator, one of you guys filmed me and really made fun of. So I'm going to stand here and answer that question. And just ask that you don't film me!" Gardner said with a laugh.

As to whether he will vote to hear from new witnesses, Gardner was noncommittal: "We're in the middle of the trial. I'll continue to listen to the arguments put forward." — Burgess Everett

9:50 A.M.

Senate eyes short trial day Tuesday before Q and A session

Senators, House managers and President Donald Trump's defense are weighing a shorter day on Tuesday and taking a brief hiatus before the question and answer period begins.

The president's defense is expected to make a presentation of just two to three hours on Tuesday, and the Senate may then break for the day and return Wednesday for the start of the 16 hour question and answer sessions, according to three people familiar with trial planning. That would likely set up the critical vote on witnesses for Friday after two days of senators' questions. — Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan and Darren Samuelsohn

7:42 A.M.

Biden says Ernst 'spilled the beans' with caucus comments amid impeachment fight

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Monday evening said Sen. Joni Ernst had “spilled the beans” after the Iowa Republican suggested that the Senate impeachment debate surrounding the former vice president could hinder his performance in her state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next week.

“Iowa caucus-goers take note,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “Joni Ernst just spilled the beans. She and Donald Trump are scared to death I’ll be the nominee. On Feb. 3rd, let’s make their day.”

During their second day of oral arguments Monday, President Donald Trump’s legal defense team in his Senate impeachment trial argued that Biden, not their client, should be investigated for corruption or abuse of power.

“Iowa caucuses, folks, Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening,” Ernst told reporters in the Capitol. “And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus-goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point? Not certain about that.” Read the full story. — Quint Forgey

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

President Donald Trump’s legal team will resume opening arguments Monday — but explosive claims from former national security adviser John Bolton have the potential the upend the trial.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

7:04 A.M.

Trump denies explosive new Bolton allegations

President Donald Trump claimed early Monday morning that he “NEVER” communicated to John Bolton that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on foreign probes into his domestic political rivals — a vehement denial that comes amid intensified calls for testimony by the former national security adviser at the president’s Senate impeachment trial.

Trump delivered his repudiation of the explosive new allegations in a series of tweets shortly after midnight, hours after The New York Times first reported Sunday that Trump told Bolton in August that the administration should continue withholding $391 million in security assistance until officials in the Eastern European nation helped with investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats, according to an initial draft of Bolton’s forthcoming book.

“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” the president wrote online. Read the full story. — Quint Forgey

5:01 A.M.

Trump plots a flashy series finale for impeachment

The president is itching to close out a bruising chapter of his presidency — with a victory lap to maximize the political value of his expected acquittal.

President Donald Trump is already itching to broadcast the series finale of his impeachment.

In recent days, he and top White House aides have been considering how he should celebrate his presumed acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate and whether he should deliver a rare Oval Office address to mark the occasion, according to three senior administration officials. Read the full story. — Nancy Cook

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What we learned at the Trump trial Saturday

What happened Saturday?

President Donald Trump’s legal team began their opening arguments by immediately seeking to cast doubt on Democrats’ case that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Michael Purpura noted that central witnesses in the House's impeachment hearings based their assessments on "presumptions" and "guesswork" rather than knowledge of Trump's intentions. They also went directly after Rep. Adam Schiff at one point for parodying Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president at a congressional hearing, an episode Trump has repeatedly seized on.

The initial reaction from senators split predictably along party lines, with Republicans praising the Trump defense and Democrats arguing the president’s lawyers only bolstered their case for bringing in additional witnesses to clarify Trump’s intent.

What’s happening Monday?

Trump’s team will continue with their opening arguments when the Senate reconvenes at 1:00 p.m. Monday. (The trial takes a hiatus on Sunday.)

Look for legal heavyweights added to the team, including former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, to make their first appearance to defend Trump.

4:01 P.M.

Senate Republicans eye quick Trump acquittal after witness vote

Senate GOP leaders are strongly considering a move to quickly end President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial next week if a motion to call additional witnesses is defeated, according to three top Republican senators.

The Republican strategy — which is still fluid — could mean senators have limited time between key procedural votes and the final vote on whether to convict the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

And with the odds growing against additional witnesses being called, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will face critical decisions on how fast he can bring the proceedings to an end. Read the full story. — Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan

3:45 P.M.

Trump lashes out against impeachment after opening statements

President Donald Trump railed against his ongoing impeachment trial on Saturday after his defense team completed the first day of their opening arguments, repeating claims that he’s being treated unfairly.

“Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is. This should never be allowed to happen again!” he posted on Twitter at about 1:45 p.m.

Trump’s lawyers spent two hours on Saturday attempting to poke holes in the Democrats’ case to remove the president. Trump’s defense team, however, isn’t expected to spend the full 24 hours allotted to them. On a call with reporters after the White House presented the first part of their defense, sources on the president’s legal team said they plan to be “more efficient” with their time, as compared to House Democrats.

“I doubt that there's a scenario where we approach 24 hours presentation,” a person on the president’s legal team said. “But how that will be played over Monday and Tuesday is sort of hard to predict at this point.”

Democrats on Friday night concluded their opening arguments after spending three days outlining why Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals meets the Constitutional requirements for removal. — Meridith McGraw

3:02 P.M.

Dems say Trump lawyers boosted their case for witnesses

Senate Democrats had a surprising takeaway on Saturday: President Donald Trump's lawyers are making their argument for them.

In their fight to win new witnesses and evidence, Democrats latched onto a line from White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin — that “cross-examination in our legal system is regarded as the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” Given the stiff opposition from the Trump administration and Republicans to hearing from witnesses with direct knowledge of the president's actions in the Ukraine saga, Democrats almost couldn’t stand the irony.

“I was absolutely stunned that they would consistently say that cross-examination is the greatest engine for truth and we’re playing a shell game,” said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), referring to counsel Pat Cipollone’s remarks to end Saturday’s session. “It is the president that is playing that shell game and denying cross examination.”

Jones, who described himself as “pretty animated” when he heard the argument from the president’s lawyers, faces the toughest Senate reelection bid in the country. But it seemed easy for him to come to a conclusion about the president’s opening arguments: “I deserve to hear more about the facts and not just the partisan rhetoric.” Read the full story. — Burgess Everett, James Arkin and John Bresnahan

1:02 P.M.

Sen. Blumenthal: “We will use all 16 hours” of Q&A time

President Trump’s lawyers are center stage in the trial now but Democrats won’t be ceding the debate to them.

Come question time next week, Senate Democrats say they will be sure to give the House managers a chance to swing back.

“We will be posing questions that will very pointedly give House managers an opportunity to rebut some of the distortions and misstatements that we've seen here, and we are framing those questions so that there will be, in effect, an opportunity to dispute some of those facts,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters Saturday after the Trump defense team wrapped up their opening presentation.

The question and answer session is expected to begin Tuesday or Wednesday depending on when the Trump team wraps, and the trial then will shift to 16 hours of Q&A with senators writing down their questions that Chief Justice John Roberts will read aloud.

“We will use all 16 hours,” Blumenthal predicted. ”We have as many questions as we will have time to present.” — Darren Samuelsohn

12:35 P.M.

Republicans give thumbs-up to Trump’s defense

Several Republican senators congratulated the president’s lawyers after they wrapped up the first day of their opening arguments after a quick two hours. McConnell shook hands with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and gave a thumbs-up to Cipollone’s deputy Patrick Philbin before heading out of the chamber.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) was later seen chatting with Cipollone, while Sen. Pat Roberts talked to Trump’s longtime personal attorney Jay Sekulow.

Several other GOP senators came over to talk briefly with the Trump lawyers, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

Meantime, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chief Justice Roberts were talking at the presiding officer’s chair. Roberts had lingered after the proceedings to chat with parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough and was among the last to leave the Senate Saturday afternoon. — Darren Samuelsohn

12:05 P.M.

Trump's legal team launches attack on Dem case

President Donald Trump's lawyers laced into the House's impeachment case Saturday, opening their defense with pointed efforts to seed doubt in GOP senators’ minds about Democrats’ push to remove Trump from office.

Trump's top lawyer Pat Cipollone and his deputy Michael Purpura repeatedly sought to poke holes in the evidence that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. They contended that central witnesses in the House's impeachment hearings based their assessments on "presumptions" and "guesswork" rather than knowledge of Trump's intentions.

They also argued that the words Trump spoke on his July 25 call to Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, conveyed no pressure — and that Ukrainians never publicly expressed any. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney and Darren Samuelsohn

11:19 A.M.

Dems are united on witnesses. Less clear is the final verdict.

Sen. Chris Murphy said Saturday morning that Democrats are likely to be united on a key procedural vote on calling witnesses next week, though he acknowledged that not all 47 Democrats are guaranteed to vote to convict the president.

The Connecticut Democrat said that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other party leaders aren’t whipping senators on the question of the final verdict. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are considered the most likely senators to be mulling possible acquittal votes.

“I don’t have any reason to think there are Democrats that aren’t with us on procedural votes,” Murphy told reporters. “It’s certainly possible there are Democrats that are going to vote no on one of the articles, two of the articles. And I don’t have a sense where everybody is on the articles. We haven’t talked about it.”

He added: “Schumer may know, but nobody has done public or private whipping on this.” — Burgess Everett

11:17 A.M.

Scenes from Saturday’s trial

It was like herding cats to have all 100 senators in the chamber at one time Saturday morning.

A couple of Democrats, including Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Delaware‘s two senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons, came in from their party’s cloak room five minutes into the Trump lawyer presentations. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio were also tardy, with the Florida Republican’s tie askew. Rubio fanned himself for several seconds with a blue folder to cool down while other senators appeared to be chilled, including Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who was wearing a pink shawl over her shoulders.

President Donald Trump’s defense table was full Saturday morning, a marked contrast to Friday night’s closing remarks from Schiff when there were only four or five in attendance. The top White House and Trump personal lawyers sat shoulder to shoulder with lower level associates.

Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) stared straight at the video monitor behind Mike Purpura, a Justice Department veteran serving on the president’s legal team, as the White House lawyer opened his presentation with the video of the House chairman’s much-criticized summary of the Trump phone call. The other Democratic managers and aides sitting at the prosecution table, now on the sidelines, scribbled into their notebooks.

Some things in the chamber were largely identical Saturday morning as they were Friday. The new Georgia senator, Kelly Loeffler, continued her practice of maintaining no eye contact with the speakers and instead kept her head down, writing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sat with his hands clasped while his Democratic counterpart, Chuck Schumer slouched low in his chair.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) nodded his head in agreement when Purpura said Trump was a better friend to Ukraine. About 40 minutes in, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) pulled a cell phone from his jacket pocket and waved down a page to take it back to the cloak room. Cell phones and other electronics are not allowed in the Senate chamber during the trial. — Darren Samuelsohn

10:35 A.M.

Trump's team goes after Schiff

Trump's legal team go after Schiff over his reading of Ukraine call transcript

President Donald Trump’s team began their defense with an attack on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), playing a video of the California Democrat parodying Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.

Schiff’s embellished reading of Trump’s call has become a consistent rallying cry for Trump, who has ignored Schiff’s admission before and after the reading that he meant it as a parody and a paraphrase. Rather, Trump has described the reading as an attempt to defraud viewers into believing a more sinister version of the call.

In his version of the call, Schiff added his own inferences about what he argued Trump intended to convey to Ukraine: that they had to investigate his Democratic opponents or face reprisal. — Kyle Cheney

10:30 A.M.

28,578 pages of evidence

Democrats delivered 28,578 pages of evidence to the Senate on Saturday, marking the formal transfer of the House's impeachment record that supported their case to remove President Donald Trump from office.

The delivery of the hard-copy evidence was a made-for-TV moment, with the seven House prosecutors — led by Rep. Adam Schiff — accompanying carts stacked with boxes and binders into the Senate chamber.

The evidence is already available online. — Kyle Cheney

10:25 A.M.

Trump’s defense doesn’t ‘anticipate’ using full 24 hours to make case

The White House does "not anticipate" using its full 24 hours of debate time, counsel Pat Cipollone said on Saturday morning, putting President Donald Trump's trial on an even faster track than previously envisioned.

Trump's legal team will make its opening argument for about three hours on Saturday, and then come back on Monday to continue its case.

Cipollone said he will be respectful and of the Senate's time and "very efficient." Democrats used the allotted 24 hours over three days to make their opening arguments.

"We will finish efficiently and quickly so we can all go have an election," he said. — Burgess Everett

10:19 A.M.

Marsha Blackburn’s Vindman vendetta

Marsha Blackburn has it out for Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

The freshman senator from Tennessee has been on a multi-month, multimedia crusade against Vindman, who flagged President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president to the top National Security lawyer and testified to House impeachment investigators that he considered it improper. And she’s stepping up the offensive right in the middle of the Senate impeachment trial. Read the full story. — Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett

6:40 A.M.

Trump's legal team to launch unbridled attack on Biden

President Donald Trump is the one on trial, but brace yourself Saturday to hear an awful lot about Joe Biden.

After sitting silently on the Senate floor for three full days, White House and personal lawyers to the president plan to turn his impeachment trial into an uninterrupted attack on the former vice president — a frontrunner to be the Democrats’ 2020 nominee.

“Believe me, you'll hear about that issue,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, told reporters. Read the full story. — Darren Samuelsohn and Kyle Cheney

6:40 A.M.

Forget impeachment. Republicans fear Ukraine revelations could spill into election.

Republicans are already looking past impeachment, sensing a looming Democratic plot to gradually release more Ukraine bombshells as Donald Trump fights for re-election.

Even with the president’s impeachment trial racing toward a swift acquittal for Trump, Republicans have seen a drip, drip, drip of information in recent days about Trump’s role in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival. They liken it to the repeated allegations of misconduct lodged against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation fight, and fear they're witnessing an election-year repeat. Read the full story. — Anita Kumar

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Senate impeachment trial: Live highlights and updates

House Democrats will use their second day of opening arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to put forth the constitutional framework for why the president should be removed from office.

This story will continue to be updated. Keep scrolling for other recent highlights.

9:50 A.M.

Trump's messaging strategy

Expect the White House to stay on the offensive.

The informal war room, which the West Wing has set up in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, sent out roughly 30 rapid response notes over just five hours Wednesday — from the start of the opening arguments to the dinner break. The talking points went to Capitol Hill offices and surrogates, as the White House tried to make sure Republicans remained unified and on message.

The talking points ranged from statements saying that multiple Ukrainian officials said there was no pressure to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for military aid to bashing Democrats like Rep. Jerry Nadler. They also included quotes highlighting the way the country’s founders viewed impeachment. Of course, there was also references to President Barack Obama, whose legacy Trump has worked hard to reverse.

They offer a window into how the president’s team outside the Senate chamber is attacking the Democrats’ case.

“House Democrats claimed President Trump ‘endangered’ national security by temporarily holding the aid. If that’s the case, Democrats should have been lining up to impeach Obama,” said one Trump rapid response document. — Nancy Cook

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Read Adam Schiff’s opening argument at Senate impeachment trial

Read House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff's opening argument at President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial below. You can also read the latest updates and analysis of the second day of the trial, and watch the trial live here.

Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and my fellow House managers:

“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”

Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.”

The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain.

And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.

As the centuries have passed, our Founders have achieved an almost mythic character. We are aware of their flaws, certainly, some very painful and pronounced indeed. And yet, when it came to the drafting of a new system of government, never seen before and with no guarantee it could succeed, we cannot help but be in awe of their genius, their prescience, even, vindicated time and time again.

What to expect in the Senate trial

Still, and maybe because of their brilliance and the brilliance of their words, we find, year after year, it more difficult to imagine them as human beings. This is no less true of Alexander Hamilton, notwithstanding his own return to celebrity.

But they were human beings, they understood human frailties even as they exhibited them, they could appreciate, just as we can, how power can corrupt, and even as we struggle to understand how the Framers might have responded to Presidential misconduct of the kind and character we are here to try, we should not imagine for one moment that they lacked basic common sense, or refuse to apply it ourselves.

They knew what it was like to live under a despot, and they risked their lives to be free of it. They knew they were creating an enormously powerful executive, and they knew they needed to constrain it. They did not intend for the power of impeachment to be used frequently, or over mere matters of policy, but they also put it in the constitution for a reason. For a man who would subvert the interests of our nation to pursue his own interests. For a man who would seek to perpetuate himself in office by inviting foreign interference and cheating in an election. For a man who would be disdainful of constitutional limit, ignoring or defeating the other branches of government and their co-equal powers. For a man who would believed that the constitution gave him the right to do anything he wanted and practiced in the art of deception. For a man who believed himself above the law and beholden to no one. For a man, in short, who would be a king.

We are here today—in this hallowed chamber, undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history—because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, has acted precisely as Hamilton and his contemporaries had feared. President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the power of his office by seeking help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home. And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.

To implement his corrupt scheme, President Trump pressured the President of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. When the Ukrainian president did not immediately assent, President Trump withheld two official acts to induce the Ukrainian leader to comply—a head of state meeting and military funding. Both were of great consequence to Ukraine and to our own national interest and security, but one looms largest: President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his reelection, in other words, to cheat.

In this way, the President used official state powers—available only to him and unavailable to any political opponent—to advantage himself in our democratic election. His scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason: to help him win reelection in 2020. But the effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections and place our national security at risk.

It was not even necessary that Ukraine undertake the political investigations the President was seeking, they merely had to announce them. This is significant, for President Trump had no interest in fighting corruption, as he would claim after he was caught. Rather, his interest was in furthering corruption, by the announcement of investigations that were completely without merit.

The first sham investigation that President Trump desired was into former Vice President Joe Biden, who had sought the removal of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor during the previous U.S. Administration. The Vice President acted in accordance with official U.S. policy at the time and was unanimously supported by our European allies and key global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.

Despite this fact, in the course of his scheme, President Trump and his agents pressed the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into the false claim that Vice President Biden wanted the corrupt prosecutor removed in order to stop an investigation into Burisma Holdings, a company on whose board Biden’s son, Hunter, sat. This allegation is simply untrue, and it has been widely debunked by Ukrainian and American experts alike.

That reality mattered not to President Trump. To him, the value in promoting a negative tale about former Vice President Biden—true or false—was in its usefulness to his reelection campaign. It was a smear tactic against a political opponent that President Trump greatly feared.

Remarkably but predictably, Russia too has sought to support this effort to smear Mr. Biden, reportedly hacking into the Ukrainian energy company at the center of the President’s disinformation campaign only last week. Russia almost certainly was looking for information related to the former Vice President’s son, so that the Kremlin could weaponize it against Mr. Biden, just like it did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 when Russia hacked and released emails from her presidential campaign.

And President Trump has made it abundantly clear that he would like nothing more than to make use of such dirt against Mr. Biden, just as he made use of Secretary Clinton’s hacked and released emails in his previous presidential campaign.

Which brings us to the other sham investigation that President Trump demanded that the Ukrainian leader announce. This investigation was related to a debunked conspiracy theory alleging that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This narrative—propagated by Russia’s intelligence services—contends that Ukraine sought to help Hillary Clinton and harm then-candidate Trump, and that a computer server proving this fiction is hidden somewhere in Ukraine. That is the so-called, “Crowdstrike” conspiracy theory.

This tale is also false. And remarkably, it is precisely the inverse of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s unanimous assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in sweeping and systematic fashion in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Nevertheless, the President evidently believed that a public announcement lending credence to these allegations by the Ukrainian president could assist his reelection by putting to rest any doubts Americans may have over the legitimacy of his first election, even as he invites foreign interference in the next.

To the degree most Americans have followed the President’s efforts to involve another foreign power in our election, they may be most familiar with his entreaty to the Ukrainian president on the now-infamous July 25 call to “do us a favor though” and investigate Biden and the 2016 election conspiracy theory.

But that call was not the beginning of the story of the President’s corrupt scheme, nor was it the end. Rather it was merely part, although a very significant part, of a months-long effort by President Trump and his allies and associates who applied significant and increasing pressure on Ukraine to announce the two politically motivated investigations. Key figures in the Trump Administration were aware of or directly participated in the scheme. As we saw yesterday, one witness, a million dollar donor to the President’s inaugural committee, put it this way, everyone was in the loop.

After twice inviting Ukraine’s new president to the White House—without providing a specific date for the proposed visit—President Trump conditioned this coveted head of state meeting on the announcement of the investigations.

For Ukraine’s new and untested leader, an official meeting with the President of the United States in the Oval Office was critical. It would help bestow on him important domestic and international legitimacy as he sought to implement an ambitious anti-corruption platform. Actual and apparent support from the President of the United States would also strengthen his position as he sought to negotiate a peace agreement with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, seeking an end to Russia’s illegal annexation and continued military occupation of parts of Ukraine.

But most pernicious, President Trump conditioned hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally appropriated, taxpayer-funded military assistance for the same purpose: to apply more pressure on Ukraine’s leader to announce the investigations. This military aid, which has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support, was designed to help Ukraine defend itself from the Kremlin’s aggression. More than fifteen thousand Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies, and the military aid was for such essentials as sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, radar, night vision goggles and other vital support for the war effort.

Most critically, the military aid we provide Ukraine helps to protect and advance American national security interests in the region and beyond. America has an abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism, and resisting any nation’s efforts to remake the map of Europe by dint of military force, even as we have tens of thousands of troops stationed there. Moreover, as one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

When the President’s scheme was exposed and the House of Representatives properly performed its constitutional responsibility to investigate the matter, President Trump used the same unrivaled authority at his disposal as the Commander in Chief to cover up his wrong-doing. In unprecedented fashion, the President ordered the entire Executive Branch of the United States of America to categorically and completely obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry. Such a wholesale obstruction of a congressional impeachment has never before occurred in our democracy, and it represents one of the most blatant efforts at a coverup in our long history.

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 our branches of government, inviting future presidents to operate as if they too are also beyond the reach of accountability, congressional oversight, and the law.

The Senate impeachment trial: Highlights from the first day

On the basis of his egregious misconduct, the House of Representatives returned two articles of impeachment against the President. First, charging that President Trump corruptly abused the powers of the Presidency to solicit foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election for his personal political benefit; and second that President Trump obstructed an impeachment inquiry into that abuse of power in order to cover up his misconduct.

The House did not take this extraordinary step lightly. As we will discuss, impeachment exists for cases in which the conduct of the President rises far beyond mere policy disputes to be decided, otherwise and without urgency, at the ballot box.

Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter, and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the President’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box—for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage, in abusing the powers of that office in such a way as to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, in obstructing the investigation into his own wrongdoing, the President has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of constraint.

Moreover, given the seriousness of the conduct at issue—and its persistence—this matter cannot and must not be decided by the courts, which, apart from the presence of the Chief Justice here today are given no role in impeachments, in either the House or the Senate. Being drawn into litigation taking many months or years to complete would provide the President with an opportunity to continue his misconduct. He would remain secure in the knowledge that he may tie up the Congress in the courts indefinitely, as he has with Don McGahn, rendering the impeachment power effectively meaningless.

We also took this difficult step with the knowledge that this was not the first time that the President solicited foreign interference in our elections. In 2016, then-candidate Trump implored Russia to hack his political opponent’s email account, something the Russian military intelligence agency then did only hours later.

And the President has made it clear that it will not be the last time, asking China only recently to join Ukraine in investigating his political opponent.

Over the coming days, we will present to you—and to the American people—the extensive evidence collected during the House’s impeachment inquiry into the President’s abuse of power – overwhelming evidence – notwithstanding his unprecedented and wholesale obstruction of the investigation into that misconduct.

You will hear—and read—testimony from courageous public servants who upheld their oath to the Constitution and their legal obligations to comply with congressional action, despite a categorical order by President Trump not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. But more than that, you will hear from witnesses who have not yet testified, like John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Blair, and Mr. Duffey, and if we can believe the President’s words last month — you will also hear from Secretary Pompeo. You will hear their testimony at the same time as the American people. That is, if you will allow it. If we have a fair trial.

During our presentation, you will see documentary records—those the President was unable to suppress—that expose the President’s scheme in detail. You will learn of further evidence that has been revealed in the days since the House voted to impeach President Trump, even as the President and his agents have persisted in their efforts to cover up their wrongdoing from Congress and the public.

And you will see dozens of new documents, providing new and critical evidence of the President’s guilt that remain in his hands, and in the hands of the Department of Defense and State, the Office of Management and Budget, even the White House. You will see them, and so will the public, if you will allow it. If, in the name of a fair trial, you will demand it.

These are politically charged times. Tempers can run high, particularly where this President is concerned. But these are not unique times. Deep division and disagreements were hardly alien concepts to the Framers. So they designed the impeachment power in such a way as to insulate it, as best they could, from the crush of partisan politics.

The Framers placed the question of removal before the United States Senate, a body able to rise above the fray to soberly judge the President’s conduct or misconduct for what it was—nothing more, and nothing less. In Federalist 65, Hamilton wrote:

“Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in this own situation, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the Representatives of the people, his accuser?”

It is up to you to be the tribunal that Hamilton envisioned. It is up to you to show the American people and yourselves that his confidence and that of the other Founders was rightly placed.

The Constitution entrusts to you the responsibility to act as impartial jurors, to hold a fair and thorough trial, and to weigh the evidence before you. No matter your political affiliation, or your vote in the previous election or the next, your duty is to the Constitution and to the rule of law.

I recognize that there will be times during the trial that you may long to return to other business of the Senate. The American people look forward to the same—but not before you decide what kind of democracy you believe we ought to be, and what the American people have a right to expect in the conduct of their President.

The House believes that an impartial juror, upon hearing the evidence that the Managers will lay out in the coming days, will find that the Constitution demands the removal of Donald J. Trump from his office as President of the United States. But that will be for you to decide, with the weight of history upon you, and, as President Kennedy once said, “a good conscience your only sure reward.”

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