3 Republicans Asked Own Side Tough Questions

Both sides used Romney analogies
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2020 7:00 AM CST
Key Moments From Senators' Impeachment Q&A
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, departs at the end of the day in the impeachment trial of President Trump, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The first day of the Q&A portion of President Trump's impeachment trial lasted approximately 10 hours Wednesday—and the more than 90 questions read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts included one asked by both Republicans and Democrats. Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski asked whether Trump had mentioned the Bidens in connection with Ukrainian corruption in the two years before Joe Biden announced his White House bid, the Hill reports. The question was later repeated by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. White House lawyer Patrick Philbin said he couldn't name a specific instance before 2019 when Trump pursued investigations of the Bidens. More:

  • Tough questions from GOP trio. Most questions posed to either White House lawyers or Democratic impeachment managers came from their own side, but Collins, Murkowski, and Sen. Mitt Romney asked tougher questions than their colleagues. Romney asked when exactly Trump had ordered a freeze on Ukraine aid, and White House lawyers "cited discussions other people had about aid to Ukraine but never addressed when Trump ordered the hold on aid or what he told people when he did it," Politico reports.

  • The "Louis XIV defense." One of the most talked-about moments came when Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued that when a "president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." Critics including Human Rights Foundation chair Garry Kasparov denounced the argument as authoritarian and reminiscent of France's King Louis XIV, who proclaimed "I am the state," Vox reports.
  • Schiff warns that Senate could lose power. After Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asked what would happen if the Senate "fails to hold the president accountable for misconduct," impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff warned that the Senate could be drained of its power, the New York Times reports. "If you allow a president to obstruct Congress so completely—in a way that Nixon could never have contemplated, nor would the Congress of that day have allowed—you will eviscerate your own oversight capability," he said.
  • Romney analogies. The Washington Post reports that both sides used analogies involving Romney. Schiff argued that Barack Obama would definitely have been impeached if he had told Russia he would withhold military aid to Ukraine if they investigated Romney before the 2012 election. GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham later asked Schiff if it would have been OK for Obama to have asked Russia for an investigation if Romney's son worked for a corrupt Russian company.
  • The Bolton issue. Trump's defense argued that John Bolton, who reportedly claims in an upcoming book that Trump linked Ukraine aid to the Biden investigations, should not be called because it would set a bad precedent. The Senate calling new impeachment witnesses "should not be the precedent set here for the way this body will have to handle all impeachments in the future, because if it becomes that easy for the House to do it, they’ll be doing it a lot," Philbin said. Earlier, Schiff argued that a fair trial can't be held without witnesses and calling Bolton would "erase all doubt" about Trump's motivations.
The question-and-answer session will continue Thursday, followed by an expected vote on whether new witnesses can be called. (More Trump impeachment stories.)

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