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Impeachment trial: First day of Q&A session concludes

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 00:22:17-05

Washington, D.C. — Restless senators got their first chance to actively participate in President Trump's impeachment trial as two days of question-and-answer sessions got underway Wednesday.

Chief Justice John Roberts posed written questions submitted by senators to House impeachment managers and the president's legal team, with questions alternating between parties. The first day of questioning wrapped up around 11 p.m. with another session beginning Thursday at 1 p.m.

Most of the questioning Wednesday was a continuation of the arguments each side made over the first six days of proceedings, with Democrats mostly tossing friendly questions to the managers and Republicans doing the same for the White House team. Others submitted queries asking for clarification on the process of the impeachment inquiry, or about the evidence collected in the House probe.

All eyes were on the inquiries posed by the handful of Republicans who remain on the fence over calling new witnesses, namely former national security adviser John Bolton. Three of them — Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski — kicked off proceedings by submitting a joint question on the importance of Mr. Trump's motives when he demanded investigations from Ukraine into his political rivals.

At the end of the session, Collins submitted a question asking why House Democrats did not charge Mr. Trump with bribery. Both Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Adam Schiff took a crack at answering, but it is unclear if she found their arguments convincing.

The senators, along with Republican Lamar Alexander, kept copious notes over the course of the day, their eyes trained on the lawyers answering questions while other colleagues mulled about the chamber or chatted amongst themselves.

The prospect of Bolton's testimony formed the backdrop for the action in the Senate. Democrats need four Republican senators to join them in voting to allow motions to compel testimony and documents, a question that is expected be put to a vote on Friday.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues on Tuesday that Republicans don't yet have the votes to prevent consideration of new testimony, but a handful of lawmakers remain undecided and wanted to see how the Q&A portion of the trial plays out.