WASHINGTON (CN) – For the second day in a row, President Trump's trial represented a long day’s journey into night marked by a tenacious fight by Democrats calling for the fall of the Senate GOP's evidence stonewall.
After vigorously debating the ground rules until well after midnight last night, House impeachment managers plunged headlong into similarly lengthy and fiery opening arguments Wednesday. Delivering arguments until 9:30 p.m., Democrats chafed at highly restrictive Senate rules leaving unclear whether evidence collection will follow.
“We went well in the morning as you know,” said Representative Adam Schiff, a House impeachment manager and frequent Trump foil, this morning in his opening remarks.
Fatigue was writ large across the faces of many senators listening to opening arguments inside the chamber as Wednesday afternoon turned into early evening.
Republicans and Democrats had traded searing recriminations leading up the roughly 2 a.m. vote on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution, but come Wednesday afternoon Schiff offered an olive branch.
“You paid attention to every word and argument that you heard from both sides,” the California Democrat said, “and we are deeply grateful to that.”
With adrenaline flowing, Schiff said, the California Democrat alternated between cajoling, persuasion and accusation, telling reluctant Republican colleagues that they too should demand the production of evidence that could either incriminate or exculpate their party’s president.
“We’re not afraid of those notes,” Schiff goaded, referring to the minutes taken by Vice President Mike Pence’s assistant Jennifer Williams on Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “We haven’t seen them.”
“Maybe those notes say, ‘No quid pro quo.’” Schiff continued. “Maybe those notes say that it’s a perfect call!”
Schiff, it should be emphasized, expects to find no such scribblings, as demonstrated by his bracing description of the Ukrainian scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment.
“Such a wholesale obstruction of a congressional impeachment has never before occurred in our democracy, and it represents one of the most blatant efforts at a coverup in our long history,” Schiff declared earlier in the day.
“If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among our branches of government, inviting future presidents to operate as if they too are also beyond the reach of accountability, congressional oversight, and the law,” his blistering oration continued.
So launched Day 1 of opening arguments for the Democrats, exclusively holding the Senate floor for up to three days before turning the dais over to the White House’s lawyers.
Democrats have called the Senate rules governing the trial an extension of that cover-up, leaving unclear whether the Senate will hear any new witnesses or evidence supporting the two articles of impeachment against President Trump: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“It was a dark day and dark night for the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters at a press conference Wednesday morning. “As a consequence, the impeachment trial begins with a cloud hanging over — a cloud of unfairness.”