Impeachment trial of President Trump

By Meg Wagner, Fernando Alfonso III and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0159 GMT (0959 HKT) February 1, 2020
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1:19 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Republican senator: “Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us”

From CNN's Manu Raju

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who has not said much during the trial, told reporters: “Let me be clear, Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

What this is about: Last night, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee and a potential swing vote, announced that he will vote no on hearing from witnesses at the trial.

When CNN's Manu Raju asked if he believes Trump acted inappropriately, Sasse didn’t answer and walked away.

1:17 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

The Senate trial is back in session

Senate TV
Senate TV

The Senate is back in session. We're expecting there will be four hours of debate on the question of whether to compel witnesses and documents.

The vote on that key question is expected between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET. If the GOP blocks the motion — which seems likely — they could move to cast final votes on the two articles of impeachment.

1:14 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Trump releases statement following New York Times report on Bolton manuscript

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Getty Images
Getty Images

President Trump has released a statement about a New York Times report that claims the President ordered former national security adviser John Bolton to help with the Ukraine pressure campaign to obtain damaging information.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of NYC, to meet with President Zelensky. That meeting never happened," Trump said in a statement this afternoon.  

Earlier today: The report from the Times cites an unpublished manuscript of Bolton's book. CNN has not seen a copy of the manuscript.

According to the Times, Bolton wrote that Trump gave him the instructions in May. The conversation also included acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House lawyer Pat Cipollone.

The Times reported:

"Mr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote."
1:03 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Democrats plan to offer a number of amendments, source says

From CNN's Manu Raju

A source familiar tells CNN that Democrats are debating their amendment strategy at lunch right now — and it’s clear that Democrats are not concerned if the trial drags out until next week, as the GOP is threatening.

They do plan to offer a number amendments but it’s unclear how many.

12:42 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

New York Times: Bolton's book says Trump ordered him to help with pressure campaign in May

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump ordered former national security adviser John Bolton to help with the Ukraine pressure campaign to obtain damaging information, according to a new report from The New York Times, citing an unpublished manuscript of Bolton's book.

CNN has not seen a copy of the manuscript.

According to the Times, Bolton wrote that Trump gave him the instructions in May. The conversation also included acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House lawyer Pat Cipollone.

The Times reported:

"Mr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote."

Hear the latest details:

12:29 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

The White House is preparing for possibility that impeachment trial could drag into next week

From CNN's Jim Acosta

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

A White House official tells CNN it is possible that the Senate impeachment trial could drag into next week, and that aides are preparing for that potential.

“20 years from now, all everyone will focus on is the acquittal, not the timing,” the official said.

Remember: We're not sure exactly when the trial could end. GOP sources and senators have said Trump is likely to be acquitted in the early morning hours of Saturday, but timing is fluid.

12:18 p.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Republicans are gauging how quickly they can end the trial

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Ted Barrett 

Senate GOP leaders want to end the trial quickly once the witness vote goes down. But they need 51 votes to do anything.

What’s happening right now is leadership is trying to gauge how quickly they can end without drawing objections from several members of the conference, specifically on the issue of deliberations, according to two sources.

We’ve long noted that deliberations — which would take place in closed session — are a wild card, with GOP leaders saying they’d like to move without them. But they’d need 51 votes to do that.

Add into that uncertainty about how many motions Democrats will offer and the timing for the final vote is very fluid at the moment.

Part of what’s happening right now is a warning shot: If you want these things, it means this could run into the Iowa caucuses and and beyond the State of the Union.

The ongoing GOP and Democratic lunches should add some more clarity to things, and McConnell will likely address this at some point.

More context on Cornyn's warning: Moments ago, Sen. John Cornyn warned that the trial could extend past today. 

One of his aides explained that Cornyn is saying that if Democrats choose to drag this out super late tonight, Republicans will adjourn for the day and come back Saturday. If Democrats do the same dilatory tactics on Saturday, Republicans will adjourn and come back Monday — which is Iowa caucus day.  

Right now we don’t know how late Democrats want to drag things out, nor what the GOP’s threshold is for triggering adjournment.

11:40 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Republican says Trump's call was not perfect, but isn't impeachable

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey told CNN that while Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president — which is at the center of the articles of impeachment — is not perfect, it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment.

“I’ve said from the beginning I think there were — it was not a perfect phone call and there were elements that were not entirely appropriate. But, it's not even close to rising to the level of impeachment," he said.

Toomey added that he is writing an op-ed explaining his rationale. 

He added that witnesses "don't add anything that is necessary at this point" in the trial.

11:41 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

GOP senator explains how the trial could continue into next week

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Ted Barrett and PJ Wayne

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

GOP Senator John Cornyn appeared to warn that if Democrats do not reach an agreement to vote on the articles tonight then it could potentially drag over into next week and bump into the Iowa caucuses and the State of the Union address. 

“My guess is it probably is going to carry us over to the first part of next week, but obviously we have the Iowa caucuses on February the 3rd, and we have the State of the Union the next day,” Cornyn said to reporters this morning when asked if he knows of any measures that could be put forth to keep the trial going past today. “So I think for all sorts of reasons, it’s probably a good idea to bring this thing to a close in the near future.”

Senator John Cornyn also reacted to Sen. Lamar Alexander’s no vote on Senate witnesses, saying: “We always knew this was going to be a cliff hanger,” he said.

“We have some very independent thinkers in the Republican caucus, and I think Senator Alexander’s statement was a principled one and makes the important point that if impeachments become routine then we might as well call off elections," he said.