Democrats lost the first round in President Trump’s impeachment trial when the Senate voted down attempts by Sen. Chuck Schumer to subpoena a cache of documents from the White House regarding the Ukraine.
Lawmakers tabled Schumer’s three amendments on a strict party line vote.
Schumer wanted to subpoena documents from the administration related to Trump’s communications with the president of the Ukraine and on intra-administration communication on the with holding – and later release – of U.S. military aid to the Ukraine.
Democrats also pushed to subpoena relevant documents from the State Department, which did not hand them over during the House investigation upon orders from the White House.
But Sen. Mitch McConnell made clear he has the votes among his Republican majority to shoot down any Democratic legislative maneuvers.
Several moderate GOP lawmakers – who Democrats had hoped to pick off to their side – said they were fine with waiting to vote on subpoenaing documents and witnesses after each side presents its opening argument, which is the same procedure used in Bill Clinton’s Senate trial.
Tuesday was about legislative procedure.
Neither side can officially make their case until the Senate approves a resolution on how the trial will proceed.
But both sides are presenting their arguments as the procedural debates take place on the Senate floor.
And the trial got off to an angry clash as Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff accused the president of engaging in a ‘corrupt’ effort to get Ukraine to help him ‘cheat’ in his reelection.
Schiff, a California Democrat who is heading a team of impeachment managers, made his case before 100 senators seated at their desks – telling them they must provide for a ‘fair trial’ that lets each side make its case. But his initial argument, put forward over the rules of the trial themselves, didn’t keep him from digging into the Ukraine affair that constitutes the first article of impeachment against him.
Trump ‘seeks the full and complete destruction of a co-equal branch of government,’ said Schiff, who played video of Trump saying the Constitution’s Article II gives him the power to ‘do whatever I want.’
On Ukraine, Schiff accused Trump of ‘soliciting a foreign power to help him cheat in the next election.’
He called for a full trial complete with appearances by witnesses – including by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and forced out national security advisor John Bolton.
‘You may never know the full scope of the president’s misconduct or those around him, and neither will the American people’ without hearing from them, Schiff said.
In a concession, McConnell put forward a rules package allowing for 24 hours of debate for each side spread over three days – rather than two.
The earlier timetable would have ensured debates as late as 2 or 3 am.
He made the change under pressure from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and others – the first indication that McConnell had to trim his preferences to maintain support from a small group of centrists.
‘Senator Collins and others raised concerns about the 24 hours of opening statements in 2 days and the admission of the House transcript in the record. Her position has been that the trial should follow the Clinton model as much as possible. She thinks these changes are a significant improvement,’ Collins spokesperson Annie Clark said in a statement.
Collins, however, has indicated that she will – later in the process – support a Democratic effort to subpoena documents and have additional witnesses.
‘I anticipate that I would conclude that having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999,’ the senator said in a statement Thursday evening.
Democrats want four additional witnesses, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton along with two other administration aides.
Schiff’s team has been making the case for such witnesses as Tuesday went on.
‘The House and the Senate would see their power disappear,’ Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California warned senators if they let President Trump use his executive power to with hold witnesses. Lofgren was appealing to the desire of many senators on both sides of the aisle to retain legislative power.
And Rep. Val Demmings of Florida played a clip from indicted Rudy Giuliani side kick Les Parnas speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to argue new evidence has been revealed that warrants additional documents and witnesses.
Trump, meanwhile, weighed in with a tweet from Switzerland, where he attending meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
‘READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!’ Trump wrote in all caps.