A fiery closing argument delivered Thursday night from lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff has already garnered more than 4 million views.
Friday marks day four of President Trump’s impeachment trial and the final day for House Democrats to present their opening arguments of why the president should be removed from office.
Here’s a quick recap of how we got here and what’s happened so far this week.
Why is the Senate holding an impeachment trial again?
Trump was impeached on Dec. 18 over allegations that he withheld nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine as well as a White House visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for political gain.
The president is accused of asking Zelensky to launch an investigation into 2020 Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden over discredited conspiracy theories that his son Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings, was corrupt and that Joe Biden used his position as VP to fire the Ukrainian prosecutor in charge of investigating Burisma. Trump and his attorneys have also suggested, without evidence, that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong when he asked Zelensky during a July 25 phone call to investigate the two matters, but the White House’s own transcript of the phone call has largely backed up Democrats’ claims.
House Democrats also voted to impeach Trump for obstructing congressional attempts to investigate the Ukraine scandal.
Trial kicks off with a battle over the rules.
The opening day of the trial saw Senate Democrats and Republicans argue over rules that would govern the trial. Democrats pushed to include more witnesses and evidence, but the Republican majority shot them down along party lines, much to the frustration of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the House impeachment managers.
“If the House cannot call witnesses or introduce documents and evidence, it’s not a fair trial,” Schiff said. “It’s not really a trial at all.”
Democrats did get two wins, though:
- All evidence from the House impeachment probe was automatically entered into evidence as part of the Senate trial.
- Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially wanted to limit opening arguments to 24 hours over two days, forcing each side to present 12 hours each day. But after facing pressure from a small contingent of Republican senators, McConnell ultimately changed course, giving each side 24 hours over three days.
Chief Justice Roberts scolds the Senate.
Things got particularly testy during an argument over whether the Senate should subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton. Republicans rejected the idea, prompting a war of words between House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Nadler accused Republicans of being complicit in a cover-up and Cipollone said Nadler should be “embarrassed” by his rhetoric.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, who is presiding over the Senate trial, stepped in and criticized both sides, telling them to “remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
“One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse,” Roberts said.
Democrats present their case of a “quid pro quo.”
On Wednesday, Democrats began laying out their case against Trump.
Lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) offered a detailed timeline of the Ukraine scandal and outlined the evidence collected, which he said shows Trump withheld an Oval Office meeting and military aid in exchange for his own political gain.
Schiff pointed to the White House’s own transcript of the President’s call with Zelensky as proof of a “quid pro quo.”
“President Trump conditioned hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally appropriated, taxpayer-funded military assistance for the same purpose: to apply more pressure on Ukraine’s leader to announce the investigations,” said Schiff.
How seriously are lawmakers taking this?
Impeachment trial rules require senators to sit silently at their desks during the proceedings, but several senators, mostly Republicans, have been caught stepping out of the chamber, conducting live, on-air interviews, reading books, working on crossword puzzles and playing with fidget spinners, and even falling asleep.
Meanwhile, got milk?
Several Republican Senators, including Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have been caught drinking milk in the Senate during the trial.
Because on Jan. 24, 1966, Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois was thirsty on the Senate floor and asked if Senate rules permitted him to have a glass of milk. They did, and he did.
The rules still allow it, though according to Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), drinking milk in the Senate also became a tradition because so many Senators had ulcers and back in the 1950s, milk was thought to help treat ulcers.
Back to the evidence.
On Thursday, House Democrats rejected the Trump team’s various defenses, made the case that the president’s actions were grounds for removal, and rebutted his attorneys’ claims that he was acting in the country’s best interest when he tried to convince Zelensky to investigate his political opponents.
Instead, House managers argued, Trump was acting only to help himself.
“You know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country — you can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump,” said Schiff, in a speech that has since been viewed more than 4 million times.
Schiff also made the case that for those who believed Trump was guilty, it was their obligation to vote to remove him from office.
“No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore,” Schiff said. “This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost.”
Despite Schiff’s arguments, many Senate Republicans appeared unfazed and dismissed the case from House managers as redundant and unpersuasive.
What happens next?
House managers will wrap up their opening arguments on Friday afternoon, and Trump’s attorneys will begin their defense on Saturday.
Beyond that, one lingering question remains: Will Democrats get the opportunity to introduce new witnesses and evidence?