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Impeachment trial: Key Republican senator says no to witnesses

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Washington — Senator Lamar Alexander announced Thursday night he won't join Democrats in calling for witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial, making it unlikely that the simple majority needed to call witnesses will be reached.

"I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution's high bar for an impeachable offense," Alexander, of Tennessee, said in a statement.

Republican Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, said she'll vote for witnesses.

Two other GOP senators remain undecided — Utah's Mitt Romney and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. Both indicated they wouldn't announce their decisions until Friday morning, although Romney's office said late Thursday that he's said "repeatedly" he wants to hear from former National Security Adviser John Bolton and "thus will vote for the motion tomorrow."

Four GOP senators would have to join all the Democrats to ensure the testimony of witnesses. Even if both Murkowski and Romney were to vote in favor of calling witnesses, it would likely result  in a 50-50 stalemate. 

And even if Chief Justice John Roberts broke the tie to allow for witnesses, he could still be overruled by a majority of the senators.

Without witnesses, the trial is likely to wrap up late Friday or Saturday. 

Senators concluded three days of questioning on Thursday, the trial's ninth day. Initially,  Roberts blocked a question from Senator Rand Paul that was believed to include the whistleblower's name. 

Senators peppered both sides with questions about the president's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and the legal theories underpinning the two articles of impeachment against him. Mr. Trump's attorneys argued his conduct doesn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense and Democrats hammered home their insistence that the Senate call witnesses, particularly Bolton.

He reportedly alleges in a book manuscript that Mr. Trump tied hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine's willingness to announce investigations of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, an accusation the president and his team deny.

Download the free CBS News app for complete coverage of the president's impeachment trial in the Senate. Watch the trial live in the player above.  


Romney's office weighs in on his vote

Romney's office told CBS News the senator has said "repeatedly" he wants to hear from Bolton and "thus will vote for the motion tomorrow."

By Caroline Linton

Alexander says he will not vote for witnesses

11:06 p.m.: Senator Lamar Alexander, one of the four Republicans considering voting in favor of calling witnesses, announced that he will not vote to hear from witnesses and subpoena new documents. This means that Democrats likely do not have the votes required to call witnesses.

The trial is now likely to conclude on Friday or Saturday at the latest, and Mr. Trump is almost certain to be acquitted.

"It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation," Alexander said. "When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year's ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate."

Alexander is retiring at the end of this term. — Grace Segers and Kathryn Watson


Collins says she will vote to hear from witnesses

10:58 p.m.: Senator Susan Collins released a statement saying she will vote to hear from witnesses. She had signaled she would do so in an interview with "CBS This Morning" earlier this week, when she said it was "very likely" she would decide to vote to call witnesses.

"I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed," Collins said in a statement.

"If this motion passes, I believe that the most sensible way to proceed would be for the House Managers and the President's attorneys to attempt to agree on a limited and equal number of witnesses for each side.  If they can't agree, then the Senate could choose the number of witnesses," Collins continued.

By Grace Segers

Trump will head to Florida Friday during Senate debate on witnesses

10:35 p.m.: The president will head to Florida on Friday afternoon when the Senate is expected to be in the middle of debating whether to call witnesses.

According to the president's schedule released late Thursday night, he will leave the White House shortly after 4 p.m.

Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview taped Thursday night in Iowa that he caught some of the televised arguments and had "great confidence" in Republican senators. The president described the proceedings as "boring." 

By Kathryn Watson

Alexander reading "Impeachment: An American History"

10:27 p.m.: Senator Lamar Alexander, who said he will announce his decision on witnesses Thursday, is reading "Impeachment: An American History," reported The New Yorkers' Susan Glasser. The book is by Jon Meachem, Peter Baker, Timothy Naftali and Jeffrey A. Engel.

Senator Tom Cotton has also been spotted reading a book, although it's unclear what book he's been reading. The senators are not allowed to have phones on the floor during the trial, and many have been passing notes. 

By Grace Segers

Murkowski, Alexander and Sullivan sign onto question suggesting Trump's actions aren't impeachable

10:24 p.m.: Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander and Democrat Dan Sullivan signed onto a question from Republicans suggesting that even if the allegations against the president are true, they aren't impeachable. 

The senators submitted a question asking, "Assuming for argument's sake that Bolton were to testify in the light most favorable to the allegations contained in the articles of impeachment, isn't it true that the allegations still would not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, and that therefore, for this and other reasons, his testimony would add nothing to this case?"

The White House counsel, as would be expected, argued the president's actions would not be impeachable. 

By Kathryn Watson

Murkowski sends in question: "Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?"

9:30 p.m.: Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of four senators who remains undecided about calling for witnesses, submitted a question asking Mr. Trump's counsel about calling Bolton. 

"Will you explain that Ambassador Sondland and Senator Johnson both said the president explicitly denied that he was looking for a quid pro quo with Ukraine, the reporting on Ambassador Bolton's book suggests the president told Bolton directly that the aid would not be released until Ukraine announced the investigations the president desired," Roberts read. "This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge. Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?"

White House counsel Patrick Philbin said it is "not precedent" to call witnesses who were not subpoenaed by the House. "That's not the way that this chamber should allow impeachments to be presented to it," Philbin said.

Senator Lamar Alexander, another one of the four GOP senators who is undecided, said he will make his announcement Thursday night. 

By Caroline Linton

Thune says there is "a high level of interest in just getting this done"

9:13 p.m.: Senator John Thune, the Republican Majority Whip, expressed confidence the impeachment trial would wrap up soon, telling a reporter there is "a high level of interest in getting this done" in the Senate.

"My guess is that if the motion on witnesses fails, that maybe there is a time where both sides can meet in conference and consider what the next step would be and what they want to do," Thune said. "I don't know why we would drag it out, I'd like to see us close it out if we can and make that motion to go to final arguments and allow a certain amount of time for each side to make those and then get to the voting."

"I think a lot of that will depend on cooperation from Democrats to of course us winning vote in the first place," Thune added

By Grace Segers

Roberts entered chamber that was at only 15% capacity

9:00 p.m.: When Chief Justice John Roberts re-entered the chamber after the dinner break, the room was at only about 15% capacity. There were absences on both sides, so much so that it got the attention of Senator Lamar Alexander, who pointed and turned around to his colleagues. He appeared to laugh at the number of Democrats who were not in the room.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Cory Booker strolled into the chamber more than 15 minutes after the Senate reconvened. On the Republican side, Senators Lindsey Graham, John Barrasso, Jerry Moran, Kevin Kramer, Tom Cotton and Lisa Murkowski were either extremely late, or didn't showed for the first 30 minutes.
Collins, joined by Senators Marco Rubio and James Risch, posed a question to the impeachment managers about their decision to withdraw Dr. Kupperman's subpoena. Schiff answered, but Collins appeared dissatisfied with his remarks. After he concluded, she turned to Risch, who shrugged in disappointment and made a "did he even answer the question?" expression.
The cycle of note passing continued. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse summoned a page, who then delivered a note to Senator Joni Ernst, who subsequently showed it to Senator Martha McSally.  — Julia Boccagno


Alexander says he will make decision on calling witnesses tonight

7:55 p.m.: Senator Lamar Alexander told reporters on Thursday evening that he would make a decision about whether to vote to call witnesses later this evening, indicating whether the trial will stretch into next week or end on Friday or Saturday.

Alexander is one of the four GOP senators considering a vote in favor of calling witnesses. Democrats need four Republicans to vote for witnesses for a majority of 51 senators. 

The White House counsel has threatened that calling witnesses would extend the trial for a long period of time, but House managers insist they would be able to call witnesses for depositions in a week.

By Grace Segers

Democrats seek to ease concerns over time needed for testimony, documents

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer attempted to address concerns that the Senate would have to devote substantial amounts of time to collecting additional evidence if senators vote to allow witnesses and more documents.

Schumer submitted a question for the House managers asking them to elaborate on Schiff's suggestion that additional witnesses be deposed in one week and reassure senators that having witnesses and documents will minimally impede on the business of the Senate.

Schiff, speaking on behalf of the managers, said the documents House Democrats have subpoenaed have already been collected and could be "readily provided" to the Senate. The California Democrat also said House managers and Mr. Trump's lawyers would agree on a finite number of witnesses who are "relevant and probative of the issues" to depose during the one-week period.

"Neither side would have an endless capacity to call witnesses," he said.

Schiff said that if there was dispute over a witness, the decision on whether to hear from that individual would fall to the chief justice. Additionally, if there was a dispute over a passage in a document and the White House sought to invoke a privilege, that, too, would fall to the chief justice.

"This can be done very quickly," Schiff said. "This can be done I think effectively."

Schiff called for a "reasonable accommodation," that being the one week during which senators would "continue with the business in the Senate."

Then, once depositions are completed, both the House managers and Mr. Trump's legal team would present their findings from the testimony and the Senate could decide to call witnesses to appear in person.

By Melissa Quinn

Chief justice reads question about legitimacy of chief justice

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, submitted a question to Roberts regarding the possible impact his role presiding over an impeachment trial without witnesses and additional evidence could have on his legitimacy and the legitimacy of the institution he leads.

"At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government," Roberts read, "does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?"

Schiff responded on behalf of House managers.

"I would not say that it contributes to a loss of confidence in the chief justice," he said. "I think the chief justice has presided admirably."

The Constitution dictates that the chief justice of the United States presides over an impeachment trial when the president is tried. Roberts, appointed to the high court by Republican President George W. Bush, is required under the rules of impeachment to read aloud the questions submitted by senators in writing.

By Melissa Quinn

Pence says he "never" heard Trump link Ukraine aid to Biden investigations

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters traveling with him in the Midwest he "never" heard the president link aid to Ukraine and investigations into the Bidens. 

The vice president said he's been "very impressed" with the president's legal team. The vice president said he is "hopeful for a quick outcome." Pence said 17 witnesses testified in the House, and the administration released the transcript of the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

"I think it would be good for the country for the Senate to vote, to acquit and move on," Pence said. 

Pence also said he spoke with the president ahead of his meeting with Zelensky in Poland, and Mr. Trump told Pence he wanted him to "see what you make of him." Pence noted he was "very impressed" with Zelensky.

By Kathryn Watson

White House counsel knocks Schiff for peddling "false accusations" against Trump in "dulcet tones"

As Schiff defended members of his staff, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, a member of the president's legal team, punched back against Schiff for what he said were "false accusations" against the president and members of his administration.

Responding to a question from Republican Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Jim Risch of Idaho as to whether impeachment is the "ultimate interference" in an election, Cipollone said Democrats are "falsely accusing the president of wanting to cheat" yet asking senators to remove Mr. Trump from office and take him off the ballot in November.

"Talk about cheating," he said. "You don't even want to face him."

Cipollone also addressed earlier comments from Schiff in response to a question about purported ties between the whistleblower and a member of his staff, in which the Intelligence Committee chairman said he wouldn't dignify the "smears" with an answer.

"Since the beginning of this Congress, manager Schiff, the other House managers and others in the House have falsely accused the president — and they've come here and done it — the vice president, the secretary of state, the attorney general, the chief of staff, lawyers on my staff, false accusations, calumny after calumny, in dulcet tones. And that is wrong," he said.

Cipollone said the question posed by more than a dozen GOP senators is "legitimate" and accused Schiff of applying a double standard.

"I think it's time in this country that we stop assuming that everybody has horrible motives in the puritanical rage of just everybody's doing something wrong except for you. You cannot be questioned," he said. "That's part of the problem here."

By Melissa Quinn

Schiff admonishes GOP senators over attacks on staff and whistleblower

Schiff fired back at a group of more than a dozen senators who submitted a question to the chief justice again asking about unsubstantiated ties between a House Intelligence Committee staffer and the alleged whistleblower.

"I'm appalled at some of the smearing of the professional people that work for the Intelligence Committee," Schiff said, saying just a lone news article is circulating smears against his staff. "I will not dignify those smears on my staff by giving them any credence whatsoever, nor will I share any information that I believe could or could not lead to the identification of the whistleblower."

Schiff said members of the Senate used to care about protecting the identities of whistleblowers and didn't "gratuitously attack members of committee staff."

"But now they do," he said, adding their conduct is "disgraceful."

Schiff said he fears efforts by Republican senators to reveal the identity and information about the anonymous whistleblower will have negative implications for government officials who may want to blow the whistle on future misconduct.

"When you jeopardize a whistleblower by trying to out them this way, then you are threatening not just this whistleblower, but the entire system," the California Democrat said. "Now the president would like nothing better than that, and I'm sure he is applauding this question because he wants his pound of flesh and he wants to punish anyone who has the courage to stand up to him."

Sekulow, however, placed the blame on Schiff for putting the whistleblower "front and center with his own words during the course of their investigation." 

The president's lawyer suggested it would not be unlawful to unmask him or her.

"Retribution is what is prohibited under the statute against a whistleblower. That's what a whistleblower statute protects, that there's no retribution," he said. "But this idea that there's complete anonymity, and I'm not saying we should disclose the individual's name ... but we can't just say it's not a relevant inquiry to know who on the staff that conducted the primary investigation here was in communications with that whistleblower."

By Melissa Quinn

Schiff offers 1-week time limit on witness depositions

Schiff addressed concerns from some senators that opening the door to allowing witnesses would lead to a prolonged trial that could stretch on for weeks. He proposed a time limit of one week for depositions if Republicans agree to allow them to be called.

"I will make an offer to opposing counsel, who have said that this will stretch on indefinitely if you decide to have a single witness," Schiff said. "Let's cabin the depositions to one week. In the Clinton trial, it was one week of depositions, and you know what the Senate did during that week? They did the business of the Senate. The Senate went back to its ordinary legislative business while the depositions were being conducted. You want the Clinton model? Let's use the Clinton model." 

Three witnesses appeared in videotaped depositions during the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999. Senators were allowed to review the recordings, and none of them were brought to the Senate floor.

"Can't we take one week to hear from these witnesses?" Schiff asked. "I think we can. I think we should. I think we must."

By Stefan Becket

Schiff says Trump team's claim that Giuliani wasn't conducting foreign policy "undermined their entire argument"

A bipartisan group of four senators — Democrat Joe Manchin and Republicans Kristin Sinema, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — asked the president's legal team if the White House can assure the Senate that no private citizen will conduct U.S. foreign policy in the future unless sanctioned by the State Department. 

Philbin took the question, saying, "I just want to make clear that there was no conduct of foreign policy being carried on here by a private person."

Philbin said he assumed that question referenced Giuliani.

"Ambassador Volker was clear that he understood Mr. Giuliani just to be a source of information for the president," Philbin claimed. 

Philbin would not commit the administration to keeping private citizens out of foreign policy, but said the president's "policy is always to abide by the laws."

Schiff seized on Philbin's words, asking what Giuliani was doing if not conducting foreign policy. 

"They have just undermined their entire argument," Schiff said, adding that Giuliani must have then been conducting a "personal political errand."

By Kathryn Watson

Roberts instructs senators not to direct questions to individual attorneys

Roberts has seldom injected himself into the Senate proceedings, with the exception of reading submitted questions from the senators as required under impeachment rules. But the chief justice instructed senators not to direct their questions to one specific House manager or White House lawyer.

"I haven't specified this before, but I think it would be best if senators directed their questions to one of the parties or both and leave it up to them to figure out who they want to go up to bat rather than particular counsels," Roberts said. 

The directive came after Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana submitted a question specified for Nadler and Philbin.

By Melissa Quinn

Republicans eye Friday night end of trial

Republicans in the House and Senate are hopeful the impeachment trial will conclude Friday night if a vote on allowing additional testimony fails.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, told reporters during the break in proceedings the House has "failed to make the case for impeachment" for the two articles passed in December.

"I think it's time to vote," he said. "I'm ready to vote, and I'm ready to vote now."

The rules of the trial passed by the Senate specify closing arguments will last four hours total, and Barrasso said it's his belief they will begin Friday afternoon, after which senators would vote on whether they should compel witnesses to testify and the Trump administration to turn over more documents.

"If we are able to say no, we want to go right now to final judgement, that we would move in that direction and stay here until that work is decided and completed Friday evening," Barrasso said. "That's where all the momentum is right now."
Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, approaching the microphones after Barrasso, said he's "hopeful" the trial will end Friday night.

"I think the real question is tomorrow, how many Democrats are going to vote to acquit the president and do that happened in the House," Jordan said.

In the House, two Democrats — one, Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, switched parties following the vote — voted against both articles of impeachment. One Democrat opposed just one article, obstruction of Congress. 

GOP Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa likewise told reporters she is "hopeful" proceedings will wrap Friday, but conceded "I don't think we can ever say 100% confident."

By Melissa Quinn

McConnell and Murkowski have extended conversation in Senate chamber

As most senators emptied out of the chamber during the brief recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked over to Senator Lisa Murkowski and indicated for her to sit next to him. He showed Murkowski something on a sheet of paper, before placing the paper in his inside pocket.

At times, McConnell appeared to be counting on his fingers. He spoke very close to Murkowski's ear, and she nodded occasionally. When she began speaking, she appeared to count on her fingers as well.

Murkowski is one of the senators considering support for calling witnesses in the trial, but has not made her views known to McConnell. The majority leader was perhaps trying to gauge where Murkowski stands in terms of calling witnesses.

McConnell and Murkowski spoke for about five minutes after the Senate recessed.

By Grace Segers

Senate recesses until 4 p.m.

The Senate is taking a brief break and will reconvene at 4 p.m. Nearly 120 questions have been submitted so far.

By Melissa Quinn

Trump team can't name specific documents turned over in House inquiry

Schumer asked both the House managers and the president's legal team to name a single witness or document the president turned over to the House impeachment inquiry. 

The president's legal team could not name specific documents that were turned over during the impeachment inquiry, but pointed to documents produced in response to outside requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The fact that citizens were able to obtain information through FOIA that the administration wouldn't turn over to Congress is proof the system works, Philbin claimed. Philbin explained the White House viewed as invalid all requests and subpoenas for documents and witnesses before and even after the House voted to officially launch an impeachment inquiry. 

Schiff, asked the same question, said, "Not a single document was turned over." Any witnesses who did testify did so against the wishes of the White House, Schiff added.

By Kathryn Watson

DOJ attorneys contradicted Trump team in federal court, Schiff says

The president's legal team is contradicting the president's own Justice Department, which is making the opposite argument in court on the same day, Schiff said. 

A Justice Department attorney argued in federal court Thursday that a possible remedy for an administration defying congressional subpoenas is impeachment, according to CNN. The argument came during a court hearing over subpoenas in a House investigation into the Commerce Department and the 2020 census. 

"Let me begin with something in the category of you can't make this stuff up," Schiff told the Senate. "Today while we've been debating whether a president can be impeached for essentially bogus claims of privilege for attempting to use the courts to cover up misconduct, the Justice Department, in resisting House subpoenas, is in court today and was asked, well, if the Congress can't come to the court to enforce its subpoenas — because as we know they're in here arguing Congress must go to courts to enforce its subpoenas but they're in the courts saying Congress, thou shalt not do that."

"So the judge says, if the Congress can't enforce its subpoenas in court then what remedy is there? And the Justice Department lawyers' response is, impeachment. Impeachment! You can't make this up!" Schiff continued, greeted by ripples of laughter from the Democratic side of the chamber. 

By Kathryn Watson

Democratic senators want to know who's paying Giuliani

Democratic Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Kamala Harris of California sought answers from both the House managers and the president's impeachment team about who is paying for Rudy Giuliani's legal fees, international travel and other expenses in his capacity as Mr. Trump's personal attorney and representative.

"The short answer to the question is, I don't know who's paying Rudy Giuliani's fees, and if he is not being paid by the president to conduct this domestic political errand, for which he has devoted so much time, if other clients are paying and subsidizing his work in that respect, it raises profound questions, questions that we can't answer at this point," Schiff told senators.

Sekulow forcefully rejected the question and did not provide an answer. Instead, the president's attorney shifted the focus to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for his work on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

"You're concerned about what Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, was doing when he was over trying to determine what was going on in Ukraine?" he said.

Giuliani told "CBS This Morning" in an interview he is still Mr. Trump's personal attorney and remains in contact with him. In a May 2019 letter revealed by the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month, Giuliani requested a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and said he had the president's "knowledge and consent" to meet.

By Melissa Quinn

Senators huddle on questions as proceedings begin

Before the Senate convened, several Republicans could be seen huddling together to go over questions. While walking to his seat, an unprompted Senator John Kennedy inexplicably yelled to reporters in the gallery: "Pay your taxes!"

Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw was in the back of the chamber for a few minutes, as were Democrats Dean Phillips and Tom Malinowski. Crenshaw and Malinowski left shortly after the proceedings began. When Phillips and Malinowski first entered the chamber before the Senate convened, they accidentally sat on the Republican side of the chamber. A staffer quickly pointed them in the right direction.

Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander — the four senators reported to be considering voting to call witnesses — are taking copious notes, as usual. Romney appeared to be taking more notes than usual during the first few questions.

When Mr. Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow mentioned the four presidential candidates in the room and the upcoming Iowa caucuses, each of them reacted differently. Elizabeth Warren was writing something and not looking at Sekulow. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar were looking at Sekulow skeptically. In contrast, Michael Bennet was looking anywhere in the room except at Sekulow.

As with yesterday, there is a lot of movement in the chamber. Senators are milling in and out of the room. They're also walking around to chat with each other and with staffers. At one point, Republican Bill Cassidy sat down in Mike Crapo's vacant seat to chat with Jim Risch. Democrat Joe Manchin left his seat to chat with the staffers in the back of the room. Republican Todd Young walked over to where John Thune was sitting and said something to him, and Thune passed it on to the staffer sitting between him and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This activity was on top of the usual chatting between senators.

It appears that Thursday's proceedings will be very much like yesterday, where senators seem very engaged in writing questions but less so in hearing the answers.

By Grace Segers

Paul says Roberts made an "incorrect finding" to block question

After Roberts declined to read Paul's question, the Kentucky senator rushed out of the chamber to hold a press conference to read his question to reporters and voice his displeasure with Roberts' move.

"I think it was an incorrect finding to not allow a question that makes no reference" to the whistleblower, he said.

Paul said he does not know who the whistleblower is — whose complaint with the intelligence community inspector general was the catalyst for the impeachment probe — and said his question was not about him or her.

"My question is about two people who are friends who worked together at the National Security Council who have been overheard talking about impeaching the president years in advance," he said.

Paul's question to both Schiff and Mr. Trump's lawyers asked whether they were aware that Sean Misko, a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, had a "close relationship" with another individual when they purportedly worked together at the National Security Council.

Paul claimed there are reports that these two individuals "may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings." The link between the two has not been reported by any major news outlet.

Paul called himself the "biggest defender of the whistleblower statute" and said he believes it's "an important question, one that deserves to be asked."

The Kentucky senator added that he debated whether to ask for a vote to overrule Roberts "up until the very last minute" but opted not to delay the proceeding.

By Melissa Quinn

Roberts declines to read Rand Paul's question

As he said he would, Senator Rand Paul submitted a question about the origins of the Ukraine scandal, one which presumably included the alleged name of the whistleblower.

There was a pause of several seconds as Chief Justice John Roberts examined Rand Paul's question.

"The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted," Roberts said, moving on to another member's question.

Paul was the first member of the Senate to push for the whistleblower to be outed, during a Kentucky rally with the president in Kentucky in November. Back then, he urged the media to publish the name of the whistleblower.

By Kathryn Watson

Senate reconvenes for second day of written questions

Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled in the Senate at 1:05 p.m. for the ninth day of the impeachment trial. Senators will continue to submit written questions to House impeachment managers and Mr. Trump's legal team, which Roberts reads aloud.
Senators on Wednesday asked nearly 100 questions before adjourning for the night. 

In brief remarks,  McConnell thanked senators for being respectful of Roberts' position in reading their questions and said he wanted to "be able to continue to assure him that the level of consideration" will continue.

Democratic Senator Patty Murray was first to submit a question, which was for the House impeachment managers.

By Melissa Quinn

White House spokesman unaware of contact with GOP senators on the fence

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, in response to a question from CBS News' Sara Cook, said he was unaware of any conversations the White House is having with the four Republicans who are seemingly most likely to vote for witnesses — Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander. 

"Look, our [legislative] affairs team is in constant contact with the Senate, they're in constant contact with the House. That's what they do," Gidley said. "As far as direct conversations with those four main senators that everyone seems to be concerned about, I'm not aware of any, but that doesn't mean they haven't occurred."

By Kathryn Watson

Schiff says Trump team's arguments "born out of desperation"

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff blasted Mr. Trump's lawyers for their answers to senators' written questions on Wednesday and zeroed in on the headline-grabbing defense of the president offered by Dershowitz.

"What we saw yesterday were the most incredible arguments born of desperation, arguments that if the senators ever followed would lead this country down the most destructive path," the California Democrat told reporters before the Senate reconvened.

Schiff excoriated the argument put forth by Dershowitz that "if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment."

"That is the most absurdly dangerous argument that could have been made," he said, adding the White House legal team's defense of the president "is the normalization of lawlessness."

Schiff reiterated the need for senators to hear additional testimony and said a fair trial requires witnesses.

"No trial, no vindication," he said.

By Melissa Quinn

Rand Paul will insist on asking blocked question at 1 p.m.

Senator Rand Paul, who was apparently blocked from asking a question regarding the origins of the Ukraine scandal on Wednesday, says he's going to insist it be asked at 1 p.m.

It's unclear how he will do this, as the rules require members to submit their questions in writing and be called upon to speak. Paul's office says he will do this at the beginning of the proceedings on Thursday.

"While we are uncertain of how things will proceed, Senator Paul believes it is crucial the American people get the full story on what started the Democrats' push to impeach President Donald Trump, as reports have indicated Obama appointees at the National Security Council may have discussed organizing an impeachment process in advance of the whistleblower complaint," Paul's office said in a news release. 

Speaking to reporters ahead of the trial, Schiff was asked about the possibility that Paul might ask about the whistleblower. The lead House manager said the only reason to out the whistleblower would be to satisfy the "retribution" of the president, and that should not be allowed.

By Kathryn Watson

McCarthy claims without evidence that Schiff met with the whistleblower

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, addressing reporters, brought up the whistleblower. Many Trump allies still want the whistleblower to testify. 

McCarthy claimed, without evidence, that Schiff has met with the whistleblower and is the only member of the House to do so. Schiff, however, has said he has not communicated with the whistleblower, and doesn't know who the whistleblower is.

Schiff has said publicly he should have been "much more clear" about his office's contact with the whistleblower. The whistleblower did at one point reach out to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. 

"I should have been much more clear," Schiff told "Face the Nation" in October. "I was referring to the fact that when the whistleblower filed the complaint, we had not heard from the whistleblower. We wanted to bring the whistleblower in at that time, but I should have been much more clear about that."

By Kathryn Watson

Pelosi: "You cannot be acquitted if you don't have a trial"

Speaker Pelosi Holds Weekly Press Conference
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi answers questions at her weekly press conference at the Capitol on January 30, 2020. Mario Tama / Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says acquitting Mr. Trump would not be legitimate because the ongoing impeachment trial has not allowed for additional evidence.

"He will not be acquitted," Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday. "You cannot be acquitted if you don't have a trial, and you don't have a trial if you don't have witnesses and documentation."

Pelosi praised the seven House Democrats serving as impeachment managers, saying they have "made us all proud" and lambasted the president's legal team for the arguments they have made as to why his conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense.

"Imagine that you would say ever of any president — no matter who he or she is or whatever party — if the president thinks that his or her presidency, in this case his presidency, is good for the country than any action is justified, including encouraging a foreign government to have an impact on our elections, which is exactly what our founders were opposed to and they feared," she said, referencing comments made by Dershowitz on Wednesday.

Pelosi said she prays "senators will have the courage and the ability to handle the truth instead of blocking the truth."

"No matter what the senators have the courage to do, he will be impeached forever," she said.

By Melissa Quinn

Schumer calls White House legal team argument "flimsy, specious and dangerous"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held his daily impeachment-focused press conference on Thursday morning, touting the first day of questioning as "very good" for the Democrats' argument for more witnesses.

"I thought the questioning period yesterday was very good for us," Schumer said, calling the White House lawyers' arguments "flimsy, specious and dangerous."

He slammed what he called the "Dershowitzian argument," saying it would "unleash a monster." Alan Dershowitz argued on behalf of the president yesterday that anything the president does is in the public interest and therefore not impeachable.

Schumer expressed confidence that the four Republicans reportedly considering voting to call witnesses would indeed do so and said, "I believe Senate Republicans and the president's team are worried about the vote."

Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono accused Republicans of being too willing to support Mr. Trump in the trial.

"We are witnesses to the coronation of Trump with Mitch McConnell holding the crown and Republicans holding the train," Hirono said.

By Grace Segers

Manchin calls Dershowitz's argument on impeachable conduct "totally preposterous"

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, rebuffed Alan Dershowitz's eyebrow-raising argument in defense of Mr. Trump, saying it goes against American values.

"I couldn't believe it. It's just preposterous, totally preposterous," he told reporters. "I'm just shocked. I'm still shocked."
Manchin said the argument put forth by Dershowitz on Wednesday is "not who we are."
"It's not how I was raised," the Democratic senator said. "I was never better than anybody else, and I didn't believe anybody else was better than me. And we're all Americans. It's just absolutely, totally preposterous."
The defense of Mr. Trump from Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, garnered significant buzz, though he attempted to clarify his remarks Thursday.

"If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," he told senators Wednesday. — Rob Legare and Melissa Quinn


Trump maligns Schiff as "mentally deranged"

The president, who appears to be kicking off his day with "Fox and Friends," chastised Schiff for having a district that's in "terrible shape" and claimed he "only dreams of the impeachment hoax."

"'Schiff blasted for not focusing on California homeless, @foxandfriends," the president tweeted, apparently citing a chyron or statement from Fox News' "Fox and Friends." "His District is in terrible shape. He is a corrupt pol who only dreams of the Impeachment Hoax. In my opinion he is mentally deranged!"

The president has long blasted Schiff, viewing the California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee chairman as responsible for many of his impeachment woes. Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, has been getting a lot of camera time as the Senate trial continues at a swift pace.

By Kathryn Watson

White House expecting a vote on witnesses by Friday evening

The White House is expecting a vote on witnesses tomorrow evening by 6 p.m., but after that "nobody can say what will happen."

A senior presidential adviser told CBS News that "superstition" is the only reason he won't express optimism about a vote against witnesses.

The message from the White House continues to be that a vote for witnesses could undermine executive privilege, open the door to uncertainty, and set a new standard for the Senate to build a record on impeachment. The official emphasized that this isn't just a message just to the four senators who may be considering calling witnesses, but one that is going out to all 100 senators.

After the vote, it's ultimately up to the Senate, and the Senate could decide to hear additional motions. Even if the witness vote fails, the White House does not believe at this moment that there are 51 votes to conclude the trial by Friday afternoon.

The official did not say whether the White House expects that the trial will still be going on during the State of the Union next week, and would not answer questions about whether Mr. Trump would postpone or forgo the address.

By Paula Reid

McConnell on Friday vote on acquittal: "We will see what tomorrow brings"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was coy when asked by reporters in the Capitol whether there would be a vote on Mr. Trump's acquittal Friday if the effort to call witnesses fails.

"We will see what tomorrow brings," he said.

When a reporter then asked whether the trial would be over by Saturday, McConnell laughed and walked into his office.

The Senate trial is currently in the written-question phase, which began Wednesday and will continue today. A vote on additional witnesses and documents is expected Friday, though it remains unclear whether McConnell has the votes to block more testimony and evidence.
GOP Senator John Thune of South Dakota said Wednesday that if votes on witnesses and documents fail, "my view would be at that point you would want to start bringing this thing to a conclusion," according to CNN. — Julia Boccagno and Melissa Quinn


Dershowitz pushes back on coverage of his highly controversial argument

Alan Dershowitz, the attorney on the president's legal team who has employed the most extreme argument in defense of the president so far, is pushing back on coverage of a highly controversial statement he made Wednesday. 

On Wednesday, Dershowitz introduced perhaps the most shocking argument of the trial up to this point. He said that if a president believes at all that he is acting in the national interest in doing something to pursue his reelection (believing his reelection to be in the best interests of the country), that this should not be considered an impeachable quid pro quo. On Thursday morning, Dershowitz took to Twitter to claim his argument is being mischaracterized.

"They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything. I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest," Dershowitz tweeted, blasting coverage on CNN and MSNBC.

He continued his defense:

Here is what Dershowitz said on Wednesday: 

"Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest," Dershowitz said. "And mostly, you're right. Your election is in the public interest. And if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment."

By Kathryn Watson

Philbin says Trump's legal team first learned of Bolton claims Sunday afternoon

The president's legal team was asked Wednesday when they first learned of Bolton's claims that the president linked Ukraine aid to investigations of Mr. Trump's political rivals. Bolton's claims were made in a manuscript of a forthcoming book that had been submitted to the White House for review, according to a report in The New York Times.

Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin said the president's legal team first learned of the claims Sunday afternoon when The Times contacted the White House for comment. 

Philbin added the White House counsel's office has no role in vetting Bolton's book for possible classified information. That's the NSC's job, Philbin said. 

By Kathryn Watson

Trump team can't say if Trump raised concerns about corruption before Biden joined 2020 race

Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two of the Republicans most likely to call for witnesses in the trial, asked the president's legal team if they could point to a time before Joe Biden entered the presidential race that President Trump raised concerns about corruption with the Bidens or Burisma. 

Philbin took the question, claiming he couldn't reference any information that didn't appear in the record the House transmitted to the Senate, although there is no specific rule saying that. Philbin said he couldn't point to anything in the record that shows the president raised concerns prior to Biden's entry into the race.

"I'm limited to what's in the record," Philbin said. "I can't point to something in the record that shows President Trump at an earlier time mentioning specifically something related to Joe or Hunter Biden."

Philbin went on to describe how the president seemed to get his information from Giuliani, who was probing matters into Ukraine well before Biden officially announced his candidacy in April 2019. 

"The president, it seems from that, gets information from Rudy Giuliani," Philbin said.

By Kathryn Watson

Schiff hints at new "body of intelligence" relevant to impeachment

On Wednesday, Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, submitted a question asking whether additional information exists related to Russia's dissemination of conspiracy theories embraced by Mr. Trump and Giuliani — and whether the Senate should have that information before deliberating a verdict.

Schiff, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, replied that senators should take the time to review supplemental testimony by an aide to Vice President Mike Pence that remains classified. But he added that the House and Senate committees have been provided a "second body of intelligence" that is "relevant to this trial that you should also read."

"We should figure out the mechanism that would permit you to do so, because it is directly relevant to the issues we are discussing and pertinent," Schiff said. 

One potential solution would involve Senate leaders asking the intelligence community to make the material available to all senators, not just committee members, an aide told CBS News. 

Schiff, however, also noted that the intelligence community has failed to produce other material he said is relevant to the case. He said the NSA "been advised not to provide" evidence it has collected, which he called part of "a deeply concerning and new phenomenon."

By Olivia Gazis
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