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Impeachment trial: Democrats make last-ditch plea for convicting Trump

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Senate hears closing arguments in impeachment trial
Senate hears closing arguments in impeachment... 02:05

Washington — House Democrats made a last-ditch effort to urge the Senate to convict President Trump in his impeachment trial, delivering closing arguments two days before a vote that appears to be a foregone conclusion.

The House impeachment managers and the president's legal team were both given two hours to deliver closing remarks on Monday. 

Adam Schiff, the lead House manager, made an impassioned plea to close the proceedings, saying that "every single vote — even a single vote, by a single member — can change the course of history."

"It is said that a single man or woman of courage makes a majority," Schiff continued. "Is there one among you, who will say 'enough'?"

Each senator now gets 10 minutes to speak and explain his or her decision on whether to convict, a vote that's slated for Wednesday afternoon.

Sixty-seven senators would be needed to convict Mr. Trump on the two impeachment articles and remove him from office. There are 53 Republicans in the Senate, and just two sided with Democrats on Friday in a failed effort to allow new witnesses and documents in the trial, a vote that served as a death knell for Democrats' case.

The formal trial proceedings wrapped up Monday afternoon and the Senate returned to a regular legislative session for senators' remarks. Three Democratic senators who are running for president quickly left Washington for Iowa, where the first contest in the presidential nominating process gets underway Monday night.

Senators' speeches will continue on Tuesday, ahead of Mr. Trump's State of the Union address in the chamber of the House that impeached him less than two months ago.

 

Murkowski: "I cannot vote to convict"

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski announced Monday evening she will not vote to convict and remove Mr. Trump from office.

"I cannot vote to convict," Murkowksi said in a speech on the Senate floor. "The Constitution provides for impeachment but does not demand it in all instances."

During her remarks, Murkowski lambasted the House for laying a "rotted" foundation for the Senate's impeachment trial and said the upper chamber "should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display" during the proceedings.

"For all the talk of impartiality, it is clear to me that few in this chamber approached this with a genuinely open mind," Murkowski said, adding that the Senate "cannot be the greatest deliberative body" when it started the trial by issuing letters to the media before its parameters were even set.

The House "failed in its responsibilities," Murkowski said, adding the lower chamber "rushed through what should have been one of the most serious, consequential undertakings of the legislative branch simply to meet an artificial, self-imposed deadline."

The impeachment process, she added, "has been the apotheosis of the problem of congressional abdication."

But Murkowski did not spare the president during her floor speech and instead called his actions "shameful and wrong."

"His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation," she said. "The president has the responsibility to uphold the integrity and the honor of the office, not just for himself but for all future presidents. Degrading the office by actions or even name-calling weakens it for future presidents and  it weakens our country."

Murkowski said she realized days ago "there would be no fair trial," and said Mr. Trump's impeachment was instead "litigated in the court of public opinion." She also said the House should not have rushed to impeach Mr. Trump, and instead pursued censure first.

Murkowski is one of a handful of Republicans — along with Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — who was being closely watched ahead of Wednesday's vote. In a highly anticipated vote Friday, the Alaska senator voted against issuing subpoenas for additional witness testimony and documents, saying the House's articles of impeachment were "rushed and flawed."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Schiff's final speech: "Who will say 'enough?'"

Schiff implores Senate to convict Trump 25:50

In the final remarks made to senators before they vote on a verdict, Schiff delivered an impassioned plea for lawmakers to find the courage to put an end to the president's conduct.

"Every single vote, even a single vote by a single member, can change the course of history," he said. "It is said that a single man or woman of courage makes a majority. Is there one among you who will say 'enough?'"

Schiff's 25-minute-long speech laid out Mr. Trump's record of inviting foreign interference in U.S. elections, beginning with his call in 2016 for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails to his most recent efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into his Democratic political rivals, the latter of which are at the heart of impeachment efforts against him.

If senators believe Mr. Trump will act any different in the future following the impeachment proceedings, Schiff said, they are wrong.

"He has not changed. He will not change," Schiff said. "He has made that clear himself, without self-awareness or hesitation. A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way."

Schiff said that if Mr. Trump is not removed from office, the odds he will cheat in future elections are all but certain, and the California Democrat warned that acquittal will set the country on a dangerous path.

"What are the odds if left in office he will continue trying to cheat? I will tell you: 100%. Not 5, not 10 or even 50, but 100%," he said. "If you have found him guilty and you do not remove him from office, he will continue trying to cheat in the election until he succeeds. Then what shall you say?"

Schiff lamented that in the decades since impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, lawmakers have become more partisan, leading to their willingness to accept impermissible conduct.

"For reasons as varied as the stars, the members of this body and ours in the House are now far more accepting of the most serious misconduct of a president as long as it is a president of one's own party, and that is a trend most dangerous for our country," he said.

Schiff said that "history will not be kind to Donald Trump," and said senators can choose to either join him in the annals of history or stand up to him.

"If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history," he said. "But if you can find the courage to stand up to him, to speak the awful truth to his rank falsehood, your place will be amongst Davids who took on Goliath, if only you will say, 'Enough.'"

Schiff concluded his remarks with a final plea for senators to convict Mr. Trump.

"It may be midnight in Washington, but the sun will rise again. I put my faith in the optimism of the Founders. You should too," he said. "They gave us the tools to do the job, a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to constrain: impeachment. They meant it to be used rarely, but they put it in the Constitution for a reason: For a man who would sell out his country for a political favor. For a man who would threaten the integrity of our elections. For a man who would invite foreign interference in our affairs. For a man who would undermine our national security and that of our allies. For a man like Donald J. Trump." 

"They gave you a remedy and they meant for you to use it," he concluded. "They gave you an oath and they meant for you to observe it. We have proven Donald Trump guilty. Now do impartial justice and convict him."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Manchin says he's still undecided and proposes censuring Trump

manchin.png
Senator Joe Manchin speaks on the Senate floor on Monday, February 3, 2020. Senate TV

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he hasn't decided how he will vote on Wednesday, but proposed censuring the president to express the Senate's objection to his efforts to pressure Ukraine.

"I remain undecided on how I will vote," Manchin said on the Senate floor. "I am truly struggling with this decision and will come to a decision reluctantly."

Manchin is considered one of a handful of Democrats who might vote to acquit Mr. Trump, who won West Virginia by 42 points in 2016. Manchin has broken with his Democratic colleagues on a number of key issues over his years in the Senate.

Manchin said the Senate was "short-changed" by not hearing from witnesses, a decision for which "history will judge the Senate harshly."

While he remains undecided, Manchin said he realized there are not enough votes to remove the president from office. But he hinted that a motion to censure Mr. Trump could win over some Republicans.

"I must be realistic. I see no path to the 67 votes required to impeach President Trump and haven't since this trial started. However, I do believe a bipartisan majority of this body would vote to censure President Trump for his actions in this matter," he said. "Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines, and as an equal branch of government to formally denounce the president's actions and hold him accountable. His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate, and censure would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms."

By Stefan Becket
 

Schumer: It takes "strength and courage" for GOP to go against "vicious and unrelenting" Trump

After closing arguments concluded, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters he believes many Republicans agree with Schiff's final remarks in "their hearts," but acknowledged a vote to convict Mr. Trump would open them up to insults from the president.

"It takes strength and courage, even when you know that Adam Schiff is right, which I think a lot of them do, to go against a president who you know will be vicious and unrelenting against you," Schumer said.

The New York Democrat said Mr. Trump is a "vindictive" and "nasty man," and cited former Republican Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee who were vocal in condemning the president's past conduct and received his ire. Flake and Corker opted not to seek reelection in 2018.

Schumer lauded Schiff's concluding remarks, saying he was "moved" and calling it the "best speech" he's heard throughout his tenure in the Senate. Wednesday's vote on whether to acquit or convict Mr. Trump, he said, is an "issue of conscience" to senators on both sides of the aisle.

"I hope maybe it pierced the hardness that is put in front of so many of our Republican colleagues. Let's hope and pray," he said.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Former GOP Senator Jeff Flake: White House lawyers "tone deaf"

By Stefan Becket
 

Closing arguments conclude, leaving only speeches and final vote

The closing arguments of the Senate trial have concluded, leaving only senators' speeches and the final vote on whether to convict the president Wednesday afternoon.

Senators, who have been forced to sit quietly other than a chance at questions, will have the opportunity to deliver remarks to justify their decisions before the final vote. Lawmakers adjourned as a "court of impeachment" and will reconvene in normal legislative session.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Sekulow asks Senate to "stand firm" and reject impeachment articles

Jay Sekulow, the president's private counsel, called on senators to reject the two articles of impeachment to protect the institution of the presidency.

"Stand firm today and protect the office of the president. Stand firm today and protect the Constitution," Sekulow said. "Stand firm today and protect the will of the American people and their votes."

Sekulow played a montage of Democratic lawmakers praising the president during bipartisan bill-signing ceremonies. "This is what the American people expect," he said.

By Stefan Becket
 

Republican senators urge Trump to avoid impeachment in State of the Union

Republican Senators Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio said Mr. Trump should avoid discussing impeachment in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. The president is expected to be acquitted by the Senate in a vote on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't. It's his State of the Union. I just think there's no way you talk about that and that not be the takeaway, right? As opposed to some of the other things that I would hope we should focus on," Rubio said.

Blunt said that there's no telling whether Mr. Trump will bring it up.

"Well, if I was him I would avoid that subject but I have no idea what he might do. I think there's plenty to talk about and it's an opportunity to move on," Blunt said.

By Grace Segers
 

Ken Starr says House Democrats "didn't follow the rules"

The president's legal team began their closing arguments, with former Clinton-era independent counsel Ken Starr stepping up to attempt to seal the deal for acquittal.

Starr attempted to make the case that the nation's unity, justice and freedom are linked to the acquittal of the president. Starr, who was instrumental in the push for impeaching Bill Clinton, referenced Martin Luther King Jr. in his defense of the president, and made the audacious argument that the House deprived the president of due process in the impeachment inquiry.

"You didn't follow the rules. You should have," Starr said of House Democrats.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Senators disinterested by closing arguments from House managers

There was a lackluster atmosphere in the chamber during the penultimate day of official impeachment proceedings. Senators just have to make it through these final few hours of arguments, and then they're free to make their 10 minute speeches on the Senate floor explaining their predictable votes.

Unlike the impeachment managers, who are reiterating facts to hammer home their quixotic final arguments, the White House attorneys don't need to work at all in their closing statements. They know they have the votes to acquit the president.

Several Republican senators left during the managers' presentation, as did Democrat Amy Klobuchar. Senator Lindsey Graham was absent while House manager Hakeem Jeffries referenced the late John McCain, a close friend of Graham's. He returned to the chamber moments later. It did not seem like many Republicans were eager to consider the thought experiment of what the trial would look like if McCain were still alive and in the Senate, as many of them had their heads down while Jeffries spoke.

Graham had seemed extremely annoyed during manager Val Demings' presentation, often shaking his head. He left while Demings was still speaking and returned shortly before Jeffries concluded.

Most of the Republicans were not watching the speakers. They were looking down, or taking notes. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney seem to be intently watching the managers, as they have for the past two weeks. Most Democrats also don't seem like they're paying too much attention, knowing this is most likely a lost cause.

Of the presidential candidates, Klobuchar seemed the most outwardly antsy. She briefly chatted with Chris Coons and left halfway through Jeffries' remarks. Michael Bennet and Elizabeth Warren seemed mostly focused. Warren appeared to be taking notes, and Bernie Sanders infrequently picked up his pen. But Sanders also seemed the most outwardly bored. He spent several minutes biting and picking at his nails.

By Grace Segers
 

Senate recesses for 30-minute lunch break

Schiff spoke briefly to thank his staff for their work on the impeachment proceedings, reading individual names into the record. He once again implored the Senate to vote to convict, citing Lincoln's "right makes might" Cooper Union speech.

The Senate then went into recess for 30 minutes for lunch.

By Stefan Becket
 

Trump tweets his own closing argument

The president's attorneys will be defending him in the Senate chamber, but the president mounted his own defense Monday morning, naturally, on Twitter. Mr. Trump, who has no events on his public schedule other than lunch with the vice president, reiterated lines he's used all along.

"I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exacty that, a Hoax. Read the Transcripts, listen to what the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said ("No Pressure"). Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!" the president tweeted.

Some Republicans have already admitted that the president's actions were wrong or inappropriate, but that they don't warrant removal from office.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Crow: "Duty demands" that Senate vote to convict Trump

Representative Jason Crow, the first of the House managers to speak, invoked Daniel Webster and Alexander Hamilton to argue the Senate must vote to remove Mr. Trump from office. 

"Daniel Webster and Alexander Hamilton placed their hopes in you, the Senate, to be the court of greatest impartiality, to be a neutrality representative of the people in determining uninfluenced by party or preexisting faction the innocence or guilt of the president of the United States," Crow said. "I submit to you on behalf of the House of Representatives that your duty demands that you convict President Trump."

Crow acknowledged impeachment is "an extraordinary remedy," but said "it is in the Constitution for a reason."

By Stefan Becket
 

Senate reconvenes to hear House managers' closing arguments

The Senate reconvened shortly after 11 a.m., after a weekend free of impeachment proceedings. The House managers are the first to give their closing arguments. Each side can speak up to two hours.

By Grace Segers
 

White House confident of votes for Trump acquittal

The White House is confident about how the trial will ultimately play out, with a senior White House official insisting there has been a "quiet confidence" throughout the process because the math for acquittal was on their side. The outcome of the vote for witnesses was less certain than the ultimate acquittal vote.
 
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow will be leading the closing arguments for the president. They will focus on larger arguments about the Senate's authority and responsibility.
 
Robert Ray, a member of the president's legal team, claimed Democrats have failed to meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's own standards. 

"Under Pelosi standard, the following three tests must all be met: overwhelming, compelling and bi-partisan evidence warranting removal from office," Ray said in a statement to CBS News. "Even if one were to conclude that the evidence was overwhelming that there was inappropriate conduct, the other two tests remain unsatisfied. This impeachment was flawed from the outset and remains so. A compelling impeachment against a President necessarily charges and proves that high crimes were committed. Not so here. And, there is absolutely no question that this impeachment was entirely partisan from start to finish." — Paula Reid and Sara Cook

 

What comes after closing arguments?

After both sides are given two hours to make their final arguments, senators will each have up to 10 minutes to speak and explain their vote, under the new organizing resolution adopted on Friday.

The 10-minute speeches will continue Tuesday and Wednesday, ahead of the vote on whether to convict or acquit Mr. Trump, currently expected at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

By Stefan Becket
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