The Senate convened shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday to start in earnest the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, who faces charges that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress. Senators were warned that they had to remain quiet, a skill that they rarely exercise in the Senate chamber, or face imprisonment.
The first order of business was a debate over the format of the trial, a draft of which Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, released on Monday. Democrats spent the morning lashing out against Mr. McConnell’s plan, accusing him and other Republicans of trying to cover up Mr. Trump’s actions.
Unlike most other debates in the Senate, the elected senators did not do the actual debating. Instead, the seven House impeachment managers, who are serving as prosecutors in the case, and Mr. Trump’s legal defense team argued over the rules that will govern the proceedings.
Along party lines, the Senate voted down three amendments from Democrats aimed at introducing new evidence.
The Senate voted 53 to 47 to reject three proposed amendments to Mr. McConnell’s rules proposal. The first would have allowed the Senate to subpoena White House documents that the Trump administration had refused to release. The second focused on documents from the State Department, including correspondences between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials. Before taking a dinner break around 7:30 p.m., the Senate voted down an amendment targeting records from the Office of Management and Budget, which handled the suspension of military aid to Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Democrats have argued that the documents are critical for the Senate to conduct a fair trial. The amendment involving State Department documents would have also allowed lawmakers to subpoena records involving Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union. Mr. Sondland had said he had been unable to access his written records before he testified at a House hearing in November that he had worked with others to pressure Ukraine “at the express direction of the president.”
Once lawmakers returned from a brief recess, they rejected proposals that would have allowed the Senate to subpoena White House officials, including Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, for testimony, as well as one requesting records from the Defense Department.
But when Democrats called for the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, to turn over documents related to the Ukraine matter, the White House hit back with a sharp statement on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
“The Democrats are an utter joke — they have no case, and this latest political stunt proves it,” said Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman. “The idea that the counsel to the president has to turn over protected documents and confidential information is ludicrous, and to imply he can’t represent the president of the United States in an impeachment proceeding is completely absurd.”
Earlier on Tuesday, when Mr. Trump was asked a question about the impeachment trial, taking place thousands of miles away, he said, “That whole thing is a hoax.”
What is apparent is that the Republican controlled Senate’s handling of the impeachment trial is a hoax. McConnell has gone on record as saying that he is not impartial, will not allow witnesses, and has worked in coordination with Trump’s attorneys.
This travesty of justice would not occur anywhere else in America. The fact that it is happening in the halls of the Senate is very sobering.
We are witnessing the demise of democracy.
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