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Bitter debate on trial rules dominates Day 1 of Senate proceedings

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-22 00:25:59-05

Washington — The first day of President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate crept late into the night on Tuesday, featuring contentious exchanges between the White House legal team and House managers acting as the prosecution, with senators voting along party lines to reject Democratic efforts to subpoena new witnesses.

Increasingly restless senators sat silently as impeachment managers and White House lawyers debated several amendments to a resolution that would set the rules for the impeachment trial. The resolution was proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican and an ally of the president.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is presiding over the trial, just the third time in U.S. history a president has faced removal from office.

Democrats accuse Republicans of covering up a scheme by Mr. Trump to pressure Ukraine to benefit him politically, while Republicans argue Democrats should have challenged the White House in the courts to obtain the testimony and records they are now seeking.

The McConnell resolution would delay votes on subpoenaing witnesses and documents until both sides finish presenting their opening arguments. A simple majority of senators — 51 votes— is needed to approve the resolution, amendments and other motions. There are 53 Republicans in the Senate, and 47 Democrats, including two independents.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, offered a series of amendments to subpoena White House and administration officials, an effort that was doomed to fail after the first amendment was rejected in a straight party line vote of 53 to 47. Nonetheless he offered five more as the night progressed.