Senators asked questions Wednesday of House managers and President Donald Trump’s legal team as the president’s impeachment trial went into its eighth day.
The first day of a two-day question-and-answer session allowed both sides to refine their opening arguments, fielding a good number of questions about calling witnesses as the Senate moved toward a vote on whether to convict and remove Trump from office.
Trump was impeached in the House in December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment came after House Democrats alleged that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for the release of military aid and a White House meeting for Zelensky.
Both Bidens came up in questions during the eight-hour session.
Here are some of the other questions senators asked.
The first question
The first question came from Sen. Susan Collins, R, Maine, on behalf of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney.
The three senators asked: “If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct ... how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of Article I?”
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin answered the question, arguing the House managers had not met their burden of proof for the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. He said evidence showed Trump, at least in part, acted out of a “legitimate public interest.”
Bolton and witnesses were next
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, asked House managers if there is any way for the Senate to render an informed opinion on Trump’s removal from office without calling former national security advisor John Bolton, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and the others to testify.
Schiff answered the question by saying, “The short answer is no. There is no way to have a fair trial without witnesses. … “Don’t wait for the book,” Schiff said, referring to Bolton’s upcoming book. “Don’t wait until March 17, when it is in black and white, to find out the answer to your question.”
Dershowitz answer ignites both sides
Alan Dershowitz, one Trump’s impeachment attorneys, sparked the most decision when he argued that any action taken by the president that helps his own reelection is in the public interest and cannot be considered quid pro quo.
“If the president does something that he thinks will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said.
The answer set off Democrats who argued that Dershowitz’s comments were tantamount to saying the president can do whatever he wishes as long as he is running for reelection.
Did Trump talk about Hunter Biden before Joe ran?
Collins and Murkowski asked whether Trump raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s business dealings with an energy company in Ukraine before Joe Biden announced he was running for president.
Philbin answered, saying Democrats would not wait for court rulings to hear from senior administration officials who could answer the question. He also said Trump had two phone calls with Zelensky before Biden launched his campaign and on those calls he talked about anti-corruption measures.
What about the whistleblower?
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked House managers if the whistleblower who reported what was said on the July 25 phone call worked for Joe Biden in an effort to take get Trump impeached and removed.
Schiff answered the question, saying he did not know the identity of the whistleblower.
“I have not met them,” he said. “I’m not going to go to anything which would reveal the name of the whistleblower,” Schiff said.
A rejected question
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, had his question rejected. According to CNN, Paul wanted to ask a question that named the whistleblower.
What about Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump?
A group of Democrats asked House managers if there should be an investigation into Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in light of Republicans’ desire to investigate Hunter Biden.
House manager Val Demings, D-Florida, said the children of both Biden and Trump have no part in the proceedings. “The reason why we’re here has nothing to do with anybody’s children,” Demings said.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow was asked about calling witnesses to the Senate to testify. He said if they were called, the trial would go on for months.
“I want Adam Schiff. I want Hunter Biden. I want Joe Biden. I want the whistleblower,” Sekulow said. “If we get anybody we want, we’ll be here for a very long time."
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