Trump Team Vows To Deflate Democrats’ Case As 1st Week Of Impeachment Trial Wraps Sunday, Jan 26 2020 

President Trump’s accusers fell far short of proving wrongdoing or the case for removing him from office, defense attorneys told senators on Saturday as they opened their portion of the impeachment trial.

The presentation by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his colleagues follows three days of opening arguments from House Democratic managers and marks the end of the first week of Trump’s impeachment trial.

The defense team promised to eviscerate the Democrats’ arguments with their own evidence and said the bottom line is simply that Democrats and much of officialdom hate Trump.

The case for removing a president for the first time in history and “tearing up the ballots of all the states” must be unquestionable, Cipollone said, and here, it isn’t.

“They’re asking you to do what no Senate has ever done — and they’re asking you to do it with no evidence. And that’s wrong,” Cipollone said.

He and Trump’s other lawyers used the shorter weekend Senate session on Saturday to run what they called “coming attractions” for their defense of the president in the coming week.

But Cipollone, lawyer Mike Purpura and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow said they could dismantle the House impeachment managers’ case expeditiously.

The attorneys wrapped their arguments in about two hours on Saturday.

Trump acted within his powers all throughout the Ukraine affair; was consistent in the objections he raised about equal burden-sharing with Western European nations on Ukraine; and ultimately released aid frozen for Ukraine last year with no commitment by its leaders to do investigations Trump wanted, they said.

“The president was, at all times, acting in our national interest and upholding his oath of office,” Purpura said.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to take full Senate trial sessions next week to amplify their points — although they’ve said they may not use all 24 hours they’re granted under the rules.

Then senators will have the opportunity to submit written questions for the parties.

Some — as, for example, Maine’s Independent Sen. Angus King — have been asking constituents what questions they should ask when that time comes.

Legal focus

Trump’s attorneys on Saturday opened with what they called the factual and legal problems with Democrats’ case.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for example, has said that he never felt pressured by Trump during the much-debated events of 2019, Purpura argued.

None of Democrats’ witnesses ever heard directly from Trump that he wished to exploit leverage over Ukraine in order to get Zelenskiy to conduct the investigations that Trump wanted, Purpura said.

Lead manager Rep. Adam Schiff., D-Calif., and his compatriots rely too heavily on inference, supposition and extrapolation — not facts, Purpura argued.

“They try to overcome the devastating evidence against them by, apparently, claiming to be mind readers,” he said.

Another deputy counsel to Cipollone, Patrick Philbin, followed later in the day by taking on Article II of the Democrats’ articles of impeachment, which alleges obstruction of Congress.

In Philbin’s telling, Schiff and Democrats were unwilling to accommodate Trump’s valid concerns about protecting his privilege to solicit advice confidentially.

Philbin also said that Democrats’ subpoenas and requests for information in the Ukraine affair were invalid because they didn’t follow what he called an appropriate vote by the full House to authorize its impeachment inquiry.

Counteroffensive

Trump’s lawyers had been hinting before their window opened in the trial that they not only intended to defend the president but, in effect, turn the proceedings into impeachments of the FBI, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

There were hints about what’s coming in that sense, including from Sekulow, who appeared to suggest that Trump’s team plans to argue that both Russia and Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

Sekulow also underscored findings about the Russia investigation that have embarrassed the FBI and the Justice Department.

Some Republicans have sought to cast a newspaper op-ed and comments by Ukrainian officials critical of then-candidate Trump as, in effect, equal in magnitude to the historic wave of active measures launched by Russia in that election, including with cyberattacks and disinformation.

During the House impeachment inquiry late last year, former national security council Russia specialist Fiona Hill put House Republicans on the defensive over what she called this false equivalence, which has its origins as a Russian government talking point seeking to eschew responsibility for the 2016 interference.

Trump, however, took that narrative up and it partly underpinned his actions in the Ukraine affair.

That has forced defenders to try to dance between the raindrops, both in the House and now in the Senate trial: They’ve sought both not to deny the reality of the Russian interference but also to underscore some Ukrainian officials’ opposition to Trump at the time of the election.

It isn’t clear how much Sekulow might develop the Ukraine interference narrative in the coming days as an explanation for why Trump’s desire for investigations might have been, in his view, reasonable.

What was clear on Saturday was how much Sekulow, Cipollone and Philbin were prepared to focus specifically and personally on Schiff, whom they said was not a credible accuser because of his earlier role in the Russia imbroglio and because of what they called the unfair process he ran in the House.

Dems: Now they want to negotiate?

Schiff responded to the White House lawyers’ criticism with a post on Twitter after the session.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, said they heard the best justifications yet for new witnesses and evidence in the trial in the presentation — from the very White House that has declined to furnish them.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, for example, told reporters after the arguments that the administration itself easily could settle what Trump’s attorneys called the facts in the Ukraine affair.

It could, he said, permit officials to testify, including former national security adviser John Bolton or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Kaine scoffed at the White House lawyers’ complaints about process and their emphasis on the right of cross-examination by observing that Trump had foreclosed the ability for his own aides to be cross-examined here.

“How dare they?” Kaine said.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Trump Did ‘Nothing Wrong,’ His Legal Team Says In First Day Of Impeachment Defense Saturday, Jan 25 2020 

Updated at 12:06 p.m. ET

President Trump “did absolutely nothing wrong,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Saturday, as lawyers representing the president got their first shot to poke holes in the impeachment case made this week by Democrats.

Saturday’s proceedings, which lasted a little more than two hours, set up the White House arguments in the impeachment trial. The proceedings resume Monday at 1 p.m.

The president’s team told senators that the House managers selectively withheld evidence in their arguments against the president.

Cipollone said House managers, who concluded their arguments late Friday, “are asking you to remove President Trump” from the 2020 ballot and “they’re asking you to do it with no evidence.” He said the managers “didn’t tell you” that the issue of burden sharing — getting other nations to contribute more to Ukraine’s defense — was discussed in the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. That call is at the heart of the charges against the president.

Deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura continued that theme, reiterating that House managers “didn’t tell you” that top Ukrainian officials were unaware that U.S. aid was being withheld from Ukraine until a Politico article in late August. However, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Laura Cooper testified during the House impeachment inquiry in November that Ukrainian officials asked in July “what is going on” with the security assistance.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on charges that he obstructed Congress and abused power, saying he tried to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rivals during the July phone call. The president and his defenders have dismissed the process as a sham and refused to participate in the House proceedings. Saturday was the first time Trump’s lawyers responded in person to the charges against the president.

Saturday’s presentation was expected to set the stage for the “coming attractions,” as Trump attorney Jay Sekulow described it Friday, for the trial when it resumes Monday.

That includes discussing the Steele dossier, a report of unverified information on the Trump campaign compiled by a former British spy, and efforts made by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to dig up dirt on Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Sekulow also tried to argue, as many Republicans have over the course of the impeachment proceedings, that Clinton solicited foreign interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election.

American intelligence agencies have been unanimous in their assessment that it was Russia that interfered in the last presidential race.

Another of Trump’s defense attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, told NPR’s David Folkenflik that he would focus his arguments on what he sees as “nonimpeachable offenses” brought forward by the House.

“They charged him with nonimpeachable offenses: namely obstruction of Congress and abuse of power,” Dershowitz said. “Those would have clearly been rejected by the framers as too broad, too open-ended and not sufficiently specific. So I’m going to focus my argument on the criteria used by the House.”

On Friday, House Democrats closed their opening arguments after 24 hours spread over three days.

Lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the case against Trump had nothing to do with feelings of hatred or anger against the president, as many Republicans have said.

“I only hate what he has done to the country,” Schiff said in his final remarks before leaving the Senate floor. “I grieve for what he has done to this country.”

Republicans have largely stood by the president throughout the week, and because they hold a majority in the Senate, it remains unlikely that Trump will be removed from office.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Democrats To Hold Final Day Of Arguments Before Trump’s Team Takes The Stage Friday, Jan 24 2020 

House Democrats on Friday will launch their third and final day of opening arguments that President Trump should be convicted and removed from office. The president’s lawyers will have a turn to lay out the case for acquittal this weekend.

Democrats will resume the Senate impeachment trial of the president at 1 p.m. Watch the proceedings live here when it begins.

The House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump in December: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Democratic impeachment managers plan to focus on obstruction on Friday, after looking at abuse of power on Thursday.

Democrats contend that President Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine into investigations that would help him in the 2020 election. They also say that Trump obstructed their investigation of the circumstances of that effort, including the temporary withholding of military aid to Ukraine.

In Thursday’s session, the House managers argued that Trump’s behavior was what the nation’s Founding Fathers hoped to guard against.

“That is why this president must be removed from office, especially before he continues his effort to corrupt our next election,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. “Simply stated, impeachment is the Constitution’s final answer to a president who mistakes himself for a king.”

In winding down Thursday’s session, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said there is overwhelming evidence that the president has done what he is charged with and said he posed a “danger to the country.”

“OK, he’s guilty. Does he really need to be removed?” Schiff rhetorically asked the chamber. Yes, he argued, because Trump would not reliably put the interests of the country before his own.

“You can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. He will do what’s right for Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “If you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed.”

Trump’s legal team is set to begin its own opening arguments on Saturday. Like the House managers, Trump’s lawyers have 24 hours over three days to make their case, before a period of questioning by the senators.

The president and his supporters have maintained that Trump had real concerns about corruption in Ukraine, saying the call for probes was not driven by a desire to boost Trump’s own political prospects. They say it is Democrats who are seeking political gain by launching an inquiry in the first place.

Republicans have largely stood by Trump, and since they hold a majority in the Senate, Trump is likely to be acquitted of both charges.

Read more about the Senate trial process here.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

WATCH LIVE: Democrats Continue Their Case For Removing Trump From Office Thursday, Jan 23 2020 

House impeachment managers are resuming their prosecution of President Trump in the Senate on Thursday and are expected to outline how the law applies to what they see as the president’s “corrupt scheme” with Ukraine to tilt the 2020 election in his favor.

Watch the proceedings live when they begin at 1 p.m. ET.

It follows a day of presentations and argument in which Democratic impeachment managers implored skeptical Republicans to buck their party’s leadership and vote to remove the president for abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress.

“The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading the prosecution of the president.

“In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage and abusing the powers of that office in such a way 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’s above the law and scornful of constraint,” Schiff said.

Trump’s defense team will have its turn to counter Democratic arguments and make a case for the president’s acquittal when the prosecution is finished. If Democrats take up all of their allotted time, that would mean House managers would wrap up Friday and the president’s defense lawyers would mount a defense this weekend.

Speaking Wednesday from Davos, Switzerland, Trump called the Democrats leading his prosecution “sleazebags” and “very, very dishonest people,” and he dismissed the case built against him as “a hoax.”

“I think it’s so bad for the country,” Trump said, adding: “I’d love to go to the trial, sit in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.”

Later, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s private attorney and part of the impeachment defense team, bristled at the idea of Trump pulling off such a stunt.

“His counsel might recommend against that,” he said with a laugh.

The trial centers on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. In particular, House prosecutors say the president dangled $391 million in congressionally approved security assistance needed to counter Russian aggression as a way to get Kyiv to announce an investigation into the Bidens. Such an announcement, House Democrats say, would politically benefit Trump’s reelection prospects.

Hints of the scheme, Schiff argues, were apparent in the now-familiar July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian president.

“Witness testimony, text messages, emails, and the call record itself confirm a corrupt quid pro quo for the White House meeting, an official act, available only to the president of the United States,” Schiff told senators on Wednesday. “President Trump corruptly used an official White House visit for a foreign leader to compel the Ukrainian president into helping him cheat in the next election.”

The president’s acquittal is all but certain. Democrats would need 20 GOP senators to defy their party’s leadership and vote to convict in order to remove Trump from office.

That outcome is not likely with partisan battle lines so deeply drawn, especially in the backdrop of how Americans are deeply divided over impeachment and with the nation watching as the political proceeding plays out ahead of a presidential election.

The White House has blocked key witnesses from participating in the trial and has not cooperated with subpoenas from House investigators. Democrats need four Republicans to join them to win a procedural battle that will enable them to request documents or witness testimony. There are no indications right now that any GOP senators will break with their leadership.

Schiff called Trump’s stonewalling of the impeachment process a “furious effort to conceal, suppress and cover up his own misconduct.”

Added Schiff: “His order was categorical. It was indiscriminate and historically unprecedented. No president before President Trump has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

WATCH LIVE: With Rules Set, Senate Trial Opening Arguments To Begin Wednesday, Jan 22 2020 

Opening arguments will be made Wednesday in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

When the trial resumes at 1 p.m. ET, the House managers will begin to formally make their case that the Senate should convict President Trump on two articles of impeachment, which charge him with abusing the power of his office and with obstructing Congress. Watch the proceedings live.

At nearly 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, the Senate adopted a resolution that calls for 24 hours of opening statements for each side, to be spread over three days, after rejecting efforts by Democrats to subpoena documents the Trump administration has refused to turn over.

The GOP majority also rejected efforts to subpoena current and former Trump administration officials to testify, including former national security adviser John Bolton and current acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

In Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum meeting, Trump re-emphasized his view that the impeachment case against him is a “hoax.”

“I think it’s so bad for the country,” he said, adding: “I’d love to go to the trial, sit in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.”

The president, who has said he is open to hearing from witnesses in the Senate trial, said Wednesday that that decision was ultimately up to the Senate.

“Personally, I’d rather go the long route,” he said. But Trump, who is returning to Washington on Wednesday, also cited “national security” for why he has reservations about testimony from some witnesses Democrats are seeking, such as Bolton. Trump said that Bolton knows too much about his personal conversations with other world leaders and that revealing them in any testimony could hurt the presidency.

“I don’t know if we left on the best of terms, probably not, and you don’t want someone testifying who didn’t leave on the best of terms,” Trump said of Bolton.

It is still possible but unclear whether the Senate will hear witnesses after the two sides have made their opening arguments. A number of GOP senators have expressed support for hearing from some witnesses. It would take four Republican senators voting with the 47-member Democratic caucus to call for witnesses. But that would likely not happen until next week.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Trump Impeachment Trial Recap: Republicans Balk At McConnell Over Session Rules Tuesday, Jan 21 2020 

Action in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial on Tuesday was about laying the ground rules for the coming weeks — and it brought a reminder that even this highly scripted ordeal may include a few surprises after all.

Senators did not agree to the first draft of rules proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., notwithstanding his party’s control of the chamber and his reputation as a savvy counter of votes.

He had repeatedly insisted that the rules for the trial would be modeled on those for the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

McConnell also said confidently last week that all the members of the GOP conference backed his approach to have the prosecution and defense lay out their arguments and address written questions before turning to the issue of whether to subpoena witnesses or documents.

When members of his own conference reviewed the details of his resolution, McConnell was forced to do something he doesn’t have to do often — change his plan under pressure from fellow Republicans.

His draft resolution stated that each side would present its case in up to 24 hours over two days. His last-minute revision expanded that timing to three days. He also allowed evidence from the House to be automatically entered into the record unless there were an objection.

But while McConnell may have been forced to revise his plans for the overall structure for the trial rules, he was able to stave off multiple attempts by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., later in the day on Tuesday. Republicans voted down multiple amendments to subpoena documents from the White House, State Department and other administration officials. They stuck with McConnell’s argument that the issue about witnesses and documents would be addressed after both sides made their case for and against impeachment.

Collins leads rebels in balking at rules

McConnell is frequently lauded for his political acumen and ability to see around legislative corners. He held firm as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., demanded he set up a “fair trial” before she sent over the articles of impeachment. He prevailed — she was unable to extract any commitments.

The majority leader also ignored predictable calls from Democrats such as Schumer to allow more than two days for the impeachment managers to make their case.

But he couldn’t ignore Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who was among a group of Senate Republicans who insisted that the time be extended.

“Senator Collins and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the House transcript in the record,” her office said in a statement. “Her position has been that the trial should follow the [Bill] Clinton model as much as possible. She thinks these changes are a significant improvement.”

The fate of McConnell’s initial proposed rules represented a very rare defeat at the hands of his own allies and underscored the desire, at least by Collins and a few others, for the Senate not to appear as a partisan rubber stamp.

Dems, White House spar over witnesses

On that point, at least, Collins and the other rebels broadly agreed with the case made by House impeachment managers about a number of amendments to McConnell’s rules.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead manager, urged senators to adopt a number of amendments offered by Schumer that would have admitted witnesses and documents into the proceedings.

Trump’s fate in this phase of impeachment — whether he’s convicted or acquitted — will have greater value if Americans believe that the president truly underwent a full and fair trial, Schiff said.

And that means, he argued, that the Senate must bring in former national security adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and others who Schiff said would shed more light on the underlying events of the Ukraine affair.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone urged senators to reject Schumer’s amendments, and he repeated Republicans’ long-standing criticisms of the impeachment case generally and Schiff in particular.

“It’s outrageous!” Cipollone said.

Schiff and his compatriots, including Democrats Zoe Lofgren of California and Val Demings of Florida, made what were effectively opening arguments against Trump, structured around the evidence they said should be brought into the matter.

Demings, for example, detailed the material in the possession of the State Department that she said would strengthen Democrats’ case that Trump had abused his power or conditioned his policy toward Ukraine last year on the expectation that its leaders would launch investigations that Trump thought would help him politically.

Debate was expected to continue late into the night on Tuesday as Schumer continued to offer amendments seeking testimony or material for the trial — and McConnell and Republicans were expected to continue to bat them down.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

WATCH: Senate Impeachment Trial Begins With Fight Over Rules Tuesday, Jan 21 2020 

The first full day of the Trump impeachment trial will be dominated by partisan fighting over the rules of the proceedings.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his resolution outlining the next steps, including a week of hours-long opening arguments, on Monday.

Watch the floor action live beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

The vote is a culmination of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over what would constitute a fair trial. The Democrat-led House voted in December to impeach President Trump but held off on transmitting the two articles of impeachment in an attempt to get more details on the trial rules. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ultimately moved the process forward without the assurances Democrats sought.

McConnell needs a simple majority — 51 votes — to approve his resolution that lays out how much time House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team will get to make their arguments. The Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate.

McConnell maintains he based his plan on the rules for the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999, with each side getting 24 hours. But under his plan, he specifies that time must be used over two session days, forcing both sides to make their case late into the evening since the trial days do not start until 1 p.m. ET.

The resolution also delineates how much time senators will get for written questions, and it postpones the debate and vote over whether to call witnesses until after both sides make their presentations and address questions.

Democrats argue McConnell is collaborating with the White House to speed through the trial to acquit the president without all the available materials.

“It’s clear that McConnell’s rules cause the trial to be rushed with as little evidence as possible in the dark of night. They do not want the evidence to come out,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Schumer plans to offer a series of amendments to the McConnell resolution, but unless he can peel off four Senate Republicans to vote with Democratic caucus, those efforts will fail. Even Senate Republicans like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who said he was open to hearing from witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, said that he backed McConnell’s resolution and that “if attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts.”

McConnell will deliver opening remarks at 12:30 p.m. ET ahead of Senate floor debate on his resolution and the amendments offered by Democrats. The debate over the rules is expected to take up much of the day on Tuesday, and opening arguments from the House managers are not expected to start until Wednesday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

McConnell Lays Out Plan For Senate Impeachment Trial Procedure Monday, Jan 20 2020 

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

On the eve of arguments in President Trump’s historic impeachment trial, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has revealed his long-awaited resolution setting the initial parameters for how the process will play out.

Democrats are already slamming the the four-page resolution, which they say will place time limits on arguments, and departs heavily from President Clinton’s impeachment trial of 1999. The McConnell resolution does have some similarities to the Clinton-era resolution, however.

“We have the votes, once the impeachment trial has begun, to pass a resolution essentially the same, very similar to the 100-to-nothing vote in the Clinton trial, which sets up, as you may recall, what could best be described, as maybe, a Phase One,” McConnell told reporters Jan. 7.

McConnell needs at least 51 of the 53 Senate Republicans to support his rules if he wants them to pass. Any Senator can attempt to change the rules by offering an amendment before the vote to approve the measure. Those amendments also need 51 votes, meaning all 47 Democrats need to recruit four Republicans if they hope to change any element of McConnell’s plan.

On the process for amendments Tuesday, Democrats say they expect to offer several amendments. The rule would allow two hours of debate on each amendment with each side controlling one hour of debate. Democrats stress that they are not aiming to delay the trial; the amendments will be targeted at calling for witnesses and potentially changing the rules McConnell has proposed.

The trial follows Trump’s impeachment last month in the House of Representatives on charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power. The White House has laid out a forceful rejection of those charges, and called for an acquittal of the president. At issue in the impeachment is whether Trump sought political favors from his Ukrainian counterpart in exchange for the release of military aid. The White House denies any such link was made.

The McConnell resolution allows the House impeachment managers and president’s lawyers to present their opening arguments beginning Wednesday at 1 p.m., and gives them 24 hours each over two days to make their case.

Following those arguments, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions in the chamber, followed by two hours of arguments each by the House impeachment managers and president’s lawyers. This would be followed by deliberation on a question on whether to subpoena witnesses or documents. It would also allow an option for a member to bring up a motion to dismiss the case outright.

However, at least one major difference from the Clinton process has caught the eye of Democrats: The resolution cuts short the number of days each side can make arguments in the case. Rather than allow 24 hours of arguments that could extend over three days as was the case for Clinton, McConnell’s resolution shortens the number of days to two.

Democrats argue that would leave them arguing their case into the middle of the night and into the next morning, pushing the debate to the “dead of night,” a Democratic aide working on the trial said.

Democrats also object to the wording of the section pertaining to votes to call new witnesses before the Senate. The rule includes a new hurdle before votes on witnesses and documents can occur: A majority of senators would have to agree to the concept of allowing witnesses and documents before they could vote on the individual pieces of evidence.

“After reading his resolution, it’s clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell’s resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace.”

The decision to limit the testimony to two days per side was based on the amount of time used during the Clinton trial, according to a senior Republican leadership aide. At the time, neither side used the entire 24 hours provided for arguments. That allowed them to wrap up the opening phase of the trial faster than expected.

The shift could potentially frustrate some Republicans who were operating under the expectation that McConnell planned to follow the letter of the 1999 Clinton rules. The alterations may mean senators would be required to sit for testimony for significantly longer than expected, and could invite criticism that McConnell is attempting to rush the process.

Democrats were irked by others parts of the resolution, too.

Schumer argues that the resolution could also prevent the Senate and the American people from learning the full scope of claims against the president. For example, it doesn’t admit the House record into evidence at the trial, he said. Schumer said he’ll be offering amendments as a result.

“Any senator that votes for the McConnell resolution will be voting to hide information and evidence from the American people,” he said.

McConnell’s resolution also skips a section of the 1999 rule that automatically allowed House evidence to be included in the Senate proceedings. The proposed rule for the Trump trial does not do that. It only allows that Senators may offer the evidence, meaning all of the findings from the House process could be subject to majority vote, according to senior Democratic aides.

In order for Trump to be removed from office, 20 Republicans must join all 47 Democrats; there is little to no indication that will happen.

Read the resolution here.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richmond Gun Rally: Thousands Of Gun Owners Converge On Virginia Capitol On MLK Day Monday, Jan 20 2020 

Updated at 1:28 p.m. ET

The city of Richmond, Va., was under a state of emergency Monday as thousands of gun ownership enthusiasts and armed militia members gathered at the Virginia State Capitol for a rally aimed at quashing new gun restrictions. Gov. Ralph Northam has temporarily banned weapons from Capitol grounds, and some of Richmond’s streets have been barricaded to ensure the demonstration takes place peacefully.

The Richmond gun rally drew a wide range of people, from staunch believers that the Second Amendment guarantees wide access to guns to religious leaders calling for peace.

“This is about losing one of the base freedoms that we have. Without it, all the others fall right behind it,” gun rights supporter Todd McManus of Shepherdstown, W.Va., told member station VPM’s Ben Paviour.

The rally featured a slate of speeches before those gathered on the lawn below the white-columned Capitol. State politicians, an official from Gun Owners of America and law enforcement officials spoke to the crowd.

“At least two county sheriffs have spoken at this gun rights rally in Richmond,” NPR’s Sarah McCammon reports via Twitter. She adds that Sheriff Scott Jenkins of Culpeper County “says he will deputize ‘thousands’ of gun owners” if Virginia enacts new gun restrictions.

A recurring theme heard at the rally, McCammon says, is “the idea that activists must stop gun restrictions here in Virginia or they will spread across the country.”

Others slated to speak included Stephen Willeford, credited with stopping a mass shooting at a church in Texas, and Dick Heller, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down the district’s ban on gun ownership.

While people were blocked from carrying weapons within a rectangle-shaped vicinity of the Capitol, many rally attendees walked with their guns in plain sight on Richmond’s nearby streets.

Some people wore camouflage and helmets, while a few dressed in Revolutionary War costumes. Others wore jeans or suits, but with rifles slung across their chests. And many people simply bundled up against the cold — it was several degrees below freezing in Richmond early Monday. In the streets near the Capitol, there were chants against Virginia’s Democratic governor as well as shouts of “USA! USA!”

Faith leaders held a prayer vigil for peace near the Capitol to invoke a spirit of fellowship on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“We wanted to provide a counter-witness to potential strife, and certainly some of the conflicted relationship that’s going to be seen today,” Rev. Drew Willson tells VPM’s Roberto Roldan.

Right-wing media outlets were also a notable presence. Breitbart produced a livestream of video from the event, and InfoWars’ Alex Jones rode parade-style in a Terradyne armored vehicle, popping out of the top hatch to address the crowd through a microphone.

Vendors also descended on the city, setting up tables and portable racks to sell pro-Trump T-shirts and pro-gun paraphernalia.

The gun rights event, held on a holiday that honors a civil rights leader who himself became a victim of gun violence, has generated anxiety that it could draw white supremacists and violent extremists.

When Northam declared an emergency, he noted the possibility that some attendees might try to use the rally as an excuse to launch “insurrection” and violent attacks. A large counter-protest was called off, with several leaders saying the chance of violence was too high.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies made high-profile arrests of suspected members of neo-Nazi group The Base in three states last week, including one group that allegedly had built a functioning assault rifle. Law enforcement officials told NPR that some of those members had discussed attending the gun rally in Richmond.

The Richmond rally is part of Lobby Day, a push against gun control laws that the Virginia Citizens Defense League organizes annually. But this year’s event gained new importance after a wave of Democrats took control of the state’s legislature — and promised to make gun control a priority. Lawmakers opened their legislative session on Jan. 8 and were in session Monday.

“Virginia Democrats are following through with an election-year pledge to pass new gun laws following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach last spring,” Whittney Evans of VPM reports from Richmond. “This has prompted a groundswell of grassroots activism from gun owners who say their constitutional rights are under attack.”

Northam and other law enforcement officials hope to avoid the deadly violence that flared up at another controversial rally in Virginia. Clashes between white nationalists who gathered for the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and anti-racism protesters left protester Heather Heyer dead and 19 others injured. Two state troopers also died when their helicopter crashed.

When Northam banned weapons from the Capitol area, he cited “credible intelligence” that tens of thousands of people were planning to converge on Richmond’s Capitol Square. Seeming to refer to The Base and other groups, Northam added, “a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection.”

The ban is broad, including not only pistols and rifles, but “sticks, torches, poles, bats, shields, helmets” along with pepper spray, laser pointers, drones, and “any item that can inflict bodily harm that is visible, other than firearms.”

Northam’s emergency order took effect at the start of the weekend and is to remain in effect until Tuesday afternoon.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Senators Sworn In For Impeachment Trial Thursday, Jan 16 2020 

Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET

The Senate took some of its first steps on Thursday to prepare for next week’s impeachment trial of President Trump, just the third such trial in Senate history.

Like many congressional activities, the process begins with much pomp and circumstance and procedure and process. But little of substance will be achieved until the case for impeachment is presented next week.

First though, there are some housekeeping measures, including the swearing-in ceremony. Chief Justice John Roberts, having crossed First Street from the Supreme Court building over to the Capitol, joined senators in the chamber and then was sworn in himself by Senate President pro tempore Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Roberts will preside over the trial.

Roberts then swore in the senators to act as jurors.

Earlier in the afternoon, the seven House managers named by Speaker Nancy Pelosi gathered in the Senate chamber, where the lead manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., formally read the resolution appointing them and the two articles of impeachment approved by the House last month.

Watch that presentation.

Senate rules say the president still needs to be summoned and given a chance to respond. President Trump will be primarily represented by two attorneys, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, a private attorney who represented Trump in the Russia investigation.

But that is expected to be the extent of the “action” this week. Senators will likely head home for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, and the essence of the trial will get under way next Tuesday.

Senators may chafe at some of the conditions they’ll have to deal with once that happens. They are expected to be seated at their desks and will have to refrain from talking to one another during the arguments.

They’ll need to rise when Chief Justice Roberts enters and exits the chamber, and should votes occur, they’ll have to stand then, too.

Perhaps most difficult of all, senators will be separated from their cellphones while in the chamber and must check them in their cloakrooms.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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