Washington — On a day steeped in tradition and decorum, the Senate formally took over President Trump's impeachment case on Thursday as the chief justice of the Supreme Court and senatorsto administer "impartial justice" in the upcoming trial.
Earlier, House impeachment managers returned to the Senate to present the two articles of impeachment before the assembled senators, reading the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress into the record. The managers will prosecute the case against the president when the trial officially begins next week.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is responsible for presiding over the trial under the Constitution, was escorted to the chamber to swear the oath: "Do you solemnly swear that in all things pertaining to the impeachment of the trial of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws, so help you God?"
Roberts in turn administered the oath to the lawmakers in attendance, who proceeded to sign a ceremonial "oath book" formalizing their vow. (One senator, Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, was attending to a family medical issue and was not present.)
The Senate then adjourned until Tuesday, January 21, at 1 p.m., when the trial will formally get underway.
Trump claims he doesn't know Lev Parnas
The president, taking questions from reporters during a religious freedom event at the White House, claimed he doesn't know Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani who says the president "knew exactly what was going on in Ukraine." Parnas played a key role in the push to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and push out then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Mr. Trump said he doesn't believe he's ever spoken to Parnas, even though there is a picture of Parnas with the president.
Mr. Trump said he takes pictures with "thousands" of people all the time at fundraisers.
"I don't know him at all, don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from," the president told reporters.
The president added he doesn't need "the help of a man I never met before."
Senate adjourns until Tuesday at 1 p.m.
The Senate adjourned until Tuesday at 1 p.m. after the oath of office was administered to senators. Members, who will serve as jurors, will convene then to formally begin Mr. Trump's impeachment trial.
"The Senate, sitting as court of impeachment, is adjourned until Tuesday, January 21, at 1 p.m.," Roberts said, banging the gavel after McConnell moved to adjourn.
The Senate will issue a summons to Mr. Trump, who has until Saturday at 6 p.m. to respond.
Before adjourning for the weekend, McConnell also laid out a timeline for briefs to be filed in the proceedings. The House has until Saturday at 5 p.m. to file a trial brief if it wishes to do so, and Mr. Trump's legal team has until 12 p.m. Monday to submit its own brief with the secretary of the Senate.
A rebuttal from the House is due by 12 p.m. Tuesday.
Senators swear oath to deliver "impartial justice"
After he was sworn in, Roberts turned to administer the oath to senators, who stood and raised their right hands, vowing to "do impartial justice."
After Roberts administered the oath, each member was called alphabetically to sign the "oath book."
One senator, Republican Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, was absent from the day's proceedings. "Senator Inhofe is in Oklahoma today to be with a family member facing a medical issue," his office said in a statement. "He plans to return to Washington on Tuesday where he will be sworn in with no delay to the impeachment process." — Melissa Quinn and John Nolen
Roberts sworn in to oversee trial
Roberts was escorted into the chamber to be sworn in by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, president pro tempore of the Senate. Roberts will preside over the impeachment trial.
Roberts was dressed in his usual court robes as the Senate chamber silently watched.
"Senators, I attend the Senate in conformity with your notice for the purpose of joining with you for the trial of the president of the United States," Roberts said. "I am now prepared to take the oath."
Grassley then delivered the oath.
"Do you solemnly swear that in all things pertaining to the impeachment of the trial of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws, so help you God?" Grassley asked.
"I do," Roberts responded, to which Grassley added, "God bless you."
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives at the Senate
Chief Justice John Roberts has made the trip from the Supreme Court across the street to the U.S. Capitol.
He is scheduled to be sworn in as the presiding officer of the Senate's impeachment trial at 2 p.m. In addition to presiding over the proceedings in the upper chamber, Roberts, 64, will juggle his responsibilities as the federal judiciary's top official. The justices are set to meet Friday morning for their weekly conference, where they will discuss petitions filed with the Supreme court, and will hear arguments in three cases next week.
House impeachment managers present articles to Senate
The seven House Democrats selected to serve as impeachment managers in Mr. Trump's impeachment trial took for the second time the walk from the House to the Senate to present the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.
The managers then entered the Senate and were announced on the floor by House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving.
"I announce the presence of the managers on the part of the House of Representatives to conduct proceedings on behalf of the House concerning the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States," Irving said.
"The managers on the part of the House will be received and escorted to the well of the Senate," said Senator Chuck Grassley, the president pro tempore, who was presiding over the Senate.
Grassley then instructed the managers to proceed.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the seven impeachment managers, said the managers are "present and ready to present the articles of impeachment, which have been preferred by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, president of the United States."
He then read the two articles from the well of the Senate.
Kellyanne Conway defends Trump's handling of Ukraine aid
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was speaking to reporters at the White House moments after the GAOon the delay in military aid to Ukraine. She said she hadn't had a chance to read the decision but said she was "very glad that Ukraine got the aid, and got it within the deadline."
Pressed further on the report's findings, Conway emphasized that Ukraine did eventually receive the aid, and claimed Mr. Trump wanted it to be "higher and better and bigger" than previous aid packages.
"Well, then it's a good thing that the aid that Congress approved got to Ukraine intact and it got there because this president released it," Conway said. "And he wanted it to be higher and better and bigger than it was under President Obama so that they can protect themselves against foreign aggression."
Senators given flashcard with tips for responding to reporters
Senators are being given a flashcard with tips to help them avoid the press, labeled "phrases to use when seeking assistance."
The card, which a congressional staffer provided to CBS News, recommends these responses:
- Please move out of my way.
- You are preventing me from doing my job.
- Please excuse me, I am trying to get to the Senate floor.
- Please excuse me, I need to get to a hearing/meeting.
- Please do not touch me.
It wasn't immediately clear who distributed the cards. The Senate sergeant at arms and U.S. Capitol Police did not respond to questions about the cards' origins.
Senators are not allowed to speak in the chamber during the impeachment trial, and the Senate has implemented several measures restricting reporters' access to lawmakers outside the chamber.
Liz Johnson, the communications director for Senator Mitt Romney, said similar guidance has been distributed "routinely" to congressional staffers in the context of dealing with protesters in the Capitol:
Matt Whitlock, a senior adviser for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the cards are "normally intended to be kept secret," the suggested responses serving as a signal to Capitol Police:
Some senators have already shown frustration with the press before the trial has even begun. In response to a question from CNN reporter Manu Raju on Wednesday, Senator Martha McSally called him a "liberal hack." — Grace Segers, Caitlin Conant and Ed O'Keefe
Pelosi holding weekly press conference
Pelosi is speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill in her regularly scheduled weekly press conference. Watch live here.
Government watchdog says delay in Ukraine aid was illegal
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Trump administration violated the law by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine in 2019, one of the central aspects of the impeachment case.
The GAO, a nonpartisan investigative agency that's part of the legislative branch, issued a legal decision saying the White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, withheld the aid "for a policy reason," in violation of a 1974 law known as the Impoundment Control Act.
"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," the decision says.
OMB ordered the delay over the summer of 2019, coinciding with efforts by the president and his allies to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and events in 2016.
The hold baffled career officials in the Pentagon, State Department and OMB, several of whom grew increasingly concerned that the aid was being used as leverage to get Ukraine to announce the investigations. At least one OMB official resigned over disputes about the legality of delaying the aid.
The GAO says it requested information about the delay from the Defense Department in the course of its investigation, but "officials have not provided a response or a timeline for when we will receive one."
In response to the GAO's findings, OMB spokesperson Rachel Semmel said the office disagrees with the report's conclusions.
"OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President's priorities and with the law," Semmel said in a statement.
Read the GAO report here.
Parnas says Trump "knew exactly what was going on"
Lev Parnas, an associate of Mr. Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, said Wednesday night the president was fully aware of what he and associate Igor Fruman were doing in Ukraine. Parnas made the comments during an interview on MSNBC with Rachel Maddow, in which he also leveled allegations against other administration officials.
In the interview, Maddow asked Parnas about the "main inaccuracy or the main lie that is being told that you feel like you can correct?"
"That the president didn't know what was going on," Parnas replied.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denied Parnas' allegations in a statement Thursday morning.
"These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison," Grisham said. "The facts haven't changed — the President did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start."
Read more here.
McConnell: Senate to hear from managers before swearing in chief justice
The House managers formally delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate following the engrossment ceremony and procession across the Capitol.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the president pro tempore, was presiding over the Senate when the House clerk was granted entry.
"The Senate will receive a message from the House of Representatives," Grassley said.
"Mr. President, I have been directed by the House of Representatives to inform the Senate the House has passed H. Res. 798, a resolution appointing and authorizing managers of the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, president of the United States," House clerk Cheryl Johnson replied from the back of the chamber.
"The message will be received," Grassley said, before recognizing McConnell.
The Republican leader announced that the impeachment managers will return at noon on Thursday to formally present the articles. At 2 p.m., Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will arrive at the Senate and be sworn in by Grassley. Roberts will then swear in senators, who will sit and hear arguments for and against Mr. Trump before rendering a verdict.
"This is a difficult time for our country. But this is precisely the kind of time for which the framers created the Senate," McConnell said. "I'm confident this body can rise above short termism and factional fever, and serve the long term best interest of our nation. We can do this, and we must."