President Trump's impeachment trial moved into the 16-hour Q&A phase on Wednesday, and a thus-far largely quiet Chief Justice John Roberts is featuring much more heavily. NBC News explains the process: Senators must write each question on a six-line question card and then give that card to Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer. Questions are then given to Roberts, who will name the questioner and then read the question aloud. He has asked that each side—that would be House managers and Trump's lawyers—limit its answer to five minutes, the time set by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton, per CNN. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said that today's question period would last up to 8 hours; another session will follow Thursday. Coverage:
- The first question from the Democrats addressed Bolton straightaway: Is there any way to render a verdict in this case without hearing from Bolton, Mulvaney, and other key witnesses? Adam Schiff's answer in part, per CNN: "The short answer to that question is, no. ... And when you have a witness as plainly relevant as John Bolton, who goes to the heart of the most serious and egregious of the President's misconduct, who has volunteered to come and testify, to turn him away and to look the other way, I think, is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror."
- The GOP then asked the president's lawyers to respond to that question: Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin said it boils down to precedent. "What is the precedent that is going to be set for what is the acceptable way for the House to bring impeachment to this chamber?" They didn't even subpoena John Bolton, he noted, "and to now insist this body will be the investigative body and do all the discovery ... then that's the new precedent, that the House doesn't have to do the work, they throw it over the transom, and then this institution [the Senate] gets derailed and has to deal with it. That should not be the precedent." (CNN notes Democrats did formally ask Bolton to voluntarily testify in its impeachment inquiry; he didn't show because the White House asked current and former officials not to participate.)
- In answering the following question, Schiff said not hearing from witnesses was setting a more dangerous precedent. He also said Democrats didn't subpoena Bolton because they didn't want a drawn-out court battle.
- A question from Ted Cruz: "As a matter of law, does it matter if there was a quid pro quo?" Trump's lawyers said presidents are allowed to authorize money with conditions when dealing with foreign policy. "If you don't do it, you don't get the money. If you do it, you get the money. There's no one in this chamber that would regard that as in any way unlawful," said Alan Dershowitz. Responding to that, Schiff said "All quid pros are not the same. Some are legitimate and some are corrupt, and you don't need to be a mind reader to figure out which is which."
- Dershowitz also argued that, hypothetically, Trump is allowed to use such a quid pro quo to benefit his own re-election if he believes that re-election is in the national interest: "Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right—your election is in the public interest. And if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." Trump's team is arguing in hypotheticals because they still do not concede a quid pro quo was attempted.
- CNN reports 41 protesters were arrested as they attempted to climb the Capitol Rotunda steps; 39 were charged with crowding, obstructing and incommoding; one was charged with all of that plus resisting arrest; and one was charged with crossing a police line and failure to obey.
- What kind of questions are likely? Politico lists a dozen. For context: During Clinton's impeachment trial, 106 questions were asked.
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