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Trump’s Defense Is Confident in Acquittal: Impeachment Update

Laura Litvan and Laura Davison

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial entered its second day Wednesday as House managers began presenting their case to the Senate.

Here are the latest developments:

Trump’s Defense Is Confident in Acquittal (10:21 p.m.)

There is no question that Trump will ultimately be acquitted in the Senate, according to Jay Sekulow, one of the lawyers representing him.

It would take 67 senators, including at least 20 Republicans, to remove Trump from office. Sekulow said he and other Trump lawyers expect to begin their case on Saturday, and they haven’t decided how much time they’ll need.

Sekulow said it was interesting that Democrats used selective quotes and video clips from the House’s witnesses, “but when you read the transcripts, they also said things that were very positive about the president and the president’s policies. So we may be talking about some of that.”

He also defended the invocation of executive privilege to prevent some Trump administration officials from testifying.

Schiff Makes Subpoena Case by Using Suspense (8:42 p.m.)

As the prosecution’s case stretched into the evening, Schiff made a vivid case for more evidence.

He spoke about a rare direct cable from Bill Taylor, formerly the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo raising concerns about security aid for Ukraine. In Taylor’s House testimony last year, he recounted the highly unusual step of writing his cable in the first person, a break with department norms and the only such cable he had ever sent, Schiff said.

Schiff then asked a rapt Senate chamber if they wanted to hear what it said, adding after a pause, “I would like to read it to you right now. Except I don’t have it because the State Department won’t permit it.”

He used the same tactic at various other points in his presentation regarding other documents and witness testimony. Each time, Schiff asked senators if they would like to know more about the point he was making, urging them to vote in favor of subpoenas.

“There are documents that prove this,” Schiff said. “They’re yours for the asking.”

Republicans Unmoved But Some Are Listening (7:26 p.m.)

Several Republicans signaled during a break in the trial that they’re unmoved by the first part of House managers’ case for removing Trump from office.

GOP Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of Mitch McConnell’s leadership team, said he has little doubt that later, after senators ask questions of both sides, Republicans will unite behind a plan to move swiftly toward an acquittal and reject calls for new witnesses and documents.

“At the end of that, most senators will be pretty well informed on which way they are going to vote and aren’t going to need any additional information,” Barrasso said.

GOP Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina asserted that Democrats are using the trial as part of their attempt to take control of the Senate in November’s election.

“The goal of this entire process is not to remove the president from office; it’s simply to remove certain Republican senators -- Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa, Maine, Arizona -- from office,” Scott said.

Texas Republican Ted Cruz said House Democrats have made Hunter Biden’s testimony “crucial” because their argument is that Trump wasn’t justified in asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

That means the Senate also should have more information about whether Joe Biden acted corruptly to protect his son, who was serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, Cruz said.

GOP Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana expressed a different view.

”I’ve learned a lot and I think everybody has,” he said. “Senators didn’t know the case. We didn’t stay glued to the television, we hadn’t read the transcript.”

“It’s like doing your taxes. It’s been very informative,” Kennedy said.

Trump Sets Record for Presidential Tweeting (5:25 p.m.)

Trump set a record for presidential tweeting as House managers presented their case in his impeachment trial, according to a tally by the website Factbase.

The site counted 125 tweets on Wednesday -- most of them retweets -- as of 4:25 p.m. Washington time, beating his earlier total of 123 on Dec. 12. Trump was especially busy on Twitter as he returned from a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he boasted about his handling of the U.S. economy and attacked Democrats over their impeachment efforts.

Many of the tweets and retweets related to the Senate trial, where House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff presented senators with a dark portrait of a deeply flawed, even dangerous president as he argued that Trump should be removed office. -- Justin Blum

Trump Team to Challenge Case ‘Aggressively’ (5:06 p.m.)

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the president’s defense team plans to “challenge aggressively” the case for his impeachment after House Democratic managers finish their arguments.

“There’s a lot of things that I’d like to rebut and we will rebut,” Sekulow told reporters after House manager Adam Schiff’s opening presentation. Democrats have argued that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival.

Sekulow said Schiff accused Trump of a quid pro quo by linking security aid to the investigations he wanted from Ukraine. But Sekulow urged reporters to “notice what’s not in the articles of impeachment: allegations or accusations of quid pro quo. That’s because they didn’t exist.”

The articles of impeachment don’t contain the phrase “quid pro quo,” but they do describe a tradeoff. They say that Trump “conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested.”

Sekulow didn’t say whether Trump’s team would use the full 24 hours allotted under the trial rules to make their case, saying “we’re going to base it” on what the House managers do.

Schumer Rules Out Deal with GOP on Witnesses (4:32 p.m.)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has ruled out horse-trading with Republicans on whether to call witnesses during the Senate impeachment trial, moving to protect Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden from a potentially politically damaging appearance there.

Some Republicans have suggested they could be open to calling witnesses such as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Advisor John Bolton if Republicans are allowed to to call Joe and Hunter Biden as well as the unidentified intelligence community whistle-blower.

“That trade is not on the table,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday.

Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana said that without a deal on witnesses, Republicans won’t agree to any.

“The idea of witnesses will not get anywhere if it’s not reciprocal,” Braun told reporters.

Braun said Biden should be made to tell the Senate whether he orchestrated the firing of a Ukraine prosecutor to benefit his son, who served on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings.

Biden has denied the claim and the allegation has been widely debunked. But Hunter Biden’s former position at Burisma has raised questions about whether he profited from of his father’s role as vice president.

Biden said in Osage, Iowa, Wednesday that he wouldn’t agree to such a deal because “this is a constitutional issue.” He added, “We’re not going to turn it into a farce or political theater.”

“I’m not going to play his game,” Biden said. It’s the Senate’s job to try Trump and “my job is to beat him.”

Schumer said the Senate should only call witnesses who can testify about whether Trump committed the offenses for which he was impeached. -- Erik Wasson, Jennifer Epstein

Senators Getting Restless During House Case (4:08 p.m.)

A number of senators were looking restless during Schiff’s 2 1/2 hour opening statement -- standing up and even leaving the Senate chamber despite being told to stay at their desks throughout the trial.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho and several other Republicans walked out. Eventually a half-dozen or more were missing, including Roy Blunt of Missouri and a few other members of leadership.

Republicans Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska were all standing in the back of the chamber for a while.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell showed him notes on a legal pad, which prompted a couple of smiles from the otherwise poker-faced senator.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, left the chamber for the cloakroom for about 10 minutes beginning at about 2:10 p.m. Other senators also wandered in and out, including Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Manchin and Cory Booker of New Jersey stood close together in the back and chatted -- even though senators are ordered daily by the sergeant at arms to “keep silent on pain of imprisonment.” -- Daniel Flatley

Poll Shows 63% Think Trump Probably Broke Law (3:18 p.m.)

Sixty-three percent of Americans believe Trump has definitely or probably done things that are illegal, either while in office or when he was running for president, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Among that number, 38% say he has definitely done something illegal and 25% say he probably has.

In addition, 70% say he has definitely or probably done unethical things, Pew said. Still, Americans are closely divided on whether Trump should be removed from office, with 51% saying the Senate should remove him and 46% saying he should remain in the presidency, according to the poll.

The poll was conducted Jan. 6-19 among 12,638 adults on Pew’s American Trends Panel, which Pew described as a nationally representative panel recruited from landline and cellphone users.

Democrats Cite Mueller Probe to Show Pattern (2:37 p.m.)

The top House manager focused on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s 2016 election meddling in Trump’s favor to portray a pattern of the president seeking foreign interference.

Manager Adam Schiff noted that Trump’s July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy came one day after Mueller’s testimony to Congress. Mueller didn’t recommend any action against the president although he found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help elect Trump, and that his campaign willingly made use of that aid.

“That should tell us something,” Schiff said. “He did not feel shamed by what the special counsel found, he did not feel deterred by what the special counsel found, he felt emboldened by escaping accountability.”

“For the very, very next day he is on the phone soliciting foreign interference” from Ukraine, Schiff said.

Trump views his powers as president as “political tools to be wielded against his opponents, including asking a foreign government to investigate a United States citizen,” Schiff said.

“There is no question” that Trump intended to press Zelenskiy to look into Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, Schiff said in urging senators to use their common sense to judge the case.

“These facts are not in dispute,” Schiff said, adding that the question is “whether the president’s undisputed actions require the removal of the 45th president of the United States.”

To buttress his arguments, the House team played a number of videotapes of Trump and witnesses who testified at House hearings.

GOP Seizes on Nadler Remarks About ‘Coverup’ (1:46 p.m.)

Republicans are seizing on late-night remarks by House impeachment manager Jerrold Nadler -- which drew an admonishment from Chief Justice John Roberts -- to accuse Democrats of making the trial into a meritless political exercise.

Roberts warned the House managers and White House defense team to observe Senate decorum on the trial’s first day after Nadler accused the defense of lying and senators of perpetuating a treasonous cover-up of wrongdoing by Trump.

“I’m sad to say I see a lot of senators voting for a coverup, voting to deny witnesses, an absolutely indefensible vote. Obviously, a treacherous vote,” said Nadler. “A vote against an honest trial, a vote against the United States.”

Republicans strongly criticized Nadler’s remarks.

“As one who is listening intently and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended,” said moderate Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who has been open to calling witnesses.

GOP Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said other senators were alienated. “If the goal was to persuade, they took a huge step backward last night,” he said. As a former law clerk for Roberts, Hawley said, he had never heard him issue such an admonishment before.

Lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff defended Nadler Wednesday, blaming the tiring day of debate that he accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of orchestrating by refusing to continue the rules debate into Wednesday.

“That happens in every courtroom,” Schiff said of litigators being admonished.

Trump Used Power to Cheat, Schiff Says (1:25 p.m.)

Trump sought to undermine free elections and also put U.S. national security at risk when he pressured Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, lead House manager Adam Schiff said in opening prosecutors’ case against the president.

When caught, the president used the power of his office to obstruct the House’s investigation, Schiff told a hushed Senate chamber.

Schiff invoked the words of Alexander Hamilton and the concerns of the nation’s founders about foreign influence over the U.S. government, corrupt bargains and uncontrolled populist demagoguery.

“In other words, to cheat,” Schiff said of the president’s demands to Ukraine. “The effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections.”

If Trump isn’t removed, it will “permanently alter the balance of power” between Congress and the presidency, said Schiff, the House Intelligence chairman.

“The president has shown that he believes that he is above the law and scornful of restraint,” Schiff said.

House to ‘Focus On the Facts,’ Schiff Says (12:57 p.m.)

Lead House manager Adam Schiff said prosecutors will begin presenting their case against Trump “with the factual chronology” of events that led to the impeachment charges against him.

”We are going to try to keep focus on the facts,” said Schiff, the House Intelligence chairman. “The facts are damning, we are going to lay them out in great detail in our chronology today.”

He said the House can’t assume the senators watched the House investigation hearings.

“I would hope they have an open mind,” when they hear the managers’ presentation, Schiff said.

House managers are trying the case before two juries -- the Senate and the American people, Schiff said. “It’s those Americans” the prosecutors are speaking to, he said. -- Erik Wasson, Mike Dorning

Trump Campaign Using Trial to Seek Donors (12:14 p.m.)

The Trump campaign is using the start of the president’s impeachment trial to generate more campaign cash.

Trump’s campaign website notes the start of the Senate trial looking into “my PERFECT PHONE CALL” and asks for donations to “CRUSH our $2 MILLION goal.” Donations will be “DOUBLE-MATCHED,” according to a message in a pop-up box.

The donation section of the website urges supporters to get on “the list of donors we hand the president.” -- Justin Blum

Pompeo ‘Happy’ to Testify If Required by Law (10:15 a.m.)

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told reporters Wednesday that he’d testify in Trump’s impeachment trial -- if he’s forced by law to do so.

Pompeo also told reporters traveling with him in Kingston, Jamaica, that he’s not following the trial unfolding in Washington.

With Trump and his lawyers resisting Democratic demands that administration officials testify, Pompeo said, “If I am legally required to testify, as I’ve said before, I’ll be happy to do it.” -- Larry Liebert

No Trial Motions Filed, Arguments to Begin (10:07 a.m.)

Neither side filed any legal motions ahead of the Senate impeachment trial’s opening arguments, clearing the way for House managers to begin making their case to remove Trump from office.

A 9 a.m. deadline for such motions passed without any filing from either the House managers or the president’s defense team.

The trial is set to reconvene at 1 p.m., with House managers allowed 24 hours over three days to make opening arguments, followed by Trump’s defense team with equal time.

The Senate spent the opening day of the impeachment trial locked in a bitter struggle over procedural rules that went on past midnight, with the Republicans prevailing in 53-47 party-line vote on the rules.

Trump Says Witnesses ‘Up to the Senate’ (7:01 a.m.)

Trump said Wednesday that the Senate must decide whether it will hear witnesses in his impeachment trial.

“I’ll leave that to the Senate. The Senate’s going to have to answer that,” he said at a news conference to close his visit to the World Economic Forum annual conference in Davos, Switzerland.

The president has vacillated on whether he supports the Senate taking testimony from people who refused to participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry. He said earlier this month that he would invoke executive privilege to prevent top administration officials such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton from testifying in order to establish precedent and protect future presidents.

“I’m going to head back and I’ll be watching it,” he said of the trial. “But it’s really going to be up to the Senate.” -- Alex Wayne

More Sparring Likely Before House Makes Case (6 a.m.)

A day after the Senate adopted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rules for the trial, House managers and Trump’s lawyers could engage Wednesday in more political maneuvering.

It’s uncertain whether the White House plans to seek a Senate vote on a motion to dismiss the case, which Trump says he wants but Republicans have said has very little support, even among their members.

After the procedural skirmishing is completed, House managers would begin presenting their case against the president either Wednesday or Thursday. They will be given 24 hours over three days, followed by the same amount of time for Trump’s lawyers to offer their defense.

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

McConnell Plans Compressed Timeline for Trump Impeachment Trial

Key Events

Here is House Democrats’ web page containing documents related to the impeachment trial. House Democrats’ impeachment brief is here. Trump’s initial reply is here, and his lawyers’ trial brief is here.The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.

--With assistance from Daniel Flatley, Alex Wayne, Mike Dorning, Larry Liebert, Jordan Fabian, Steven T. Dennis, Emily Wilkins, Billy House, Erik Wasson and Justin Blum.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net;Laura Davison in Washington at ldavison4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Laurie Asséo, Anna Edgerton

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