Impeachment trial of President Trump

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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.

11:45 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Schumer: Without witnesses, "this country is headed towards the greatest cover-up since Watergate"

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that if Republicans vote against having witnesses and documents at trial, the US is "headed towards the greatest cover-up since Watergate."

"It is deeply disturbing that on something of such importance to the future of our democracy, a few of my Republican colleagues announced last night they vote against hearing additional evidence," he said.

Schumer added that a majority of Americans want to see witnesses at the impeachment trial.

"It is clear where the American people stand on the issue. Republican senators who decide to go against the will of the people will have to reckon with it," Schumer said.

He added:

"If my Republican colleagues refuse to even consider witnesses and documents in this trial, this country is headed towards the greatest cover-up since Watergate. If my Republican colleagues refuse to even consider witnesses and documents in the trial, what will the President conclude? We all know he'll conclude he can do it again, and Congress can do nothing about it."
11:13 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Red state Democrat says he's "pretty close" to decision on impeachment

From CNN's Manu Raju

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Doug Jones, a vulnerable Democrat from Alabama, said he is "pretty close" to making a decision on if he'll vote on convicting President Trump, but he told CNN: "I gotta get my head straight and go from there."

He declined to say where he was leaning.

"I'm pulling all my notes, I'm pulling together. I'm replaying what I know — the evidence. I had leanings the whole time, you go back and forth and so I'm just pulling it together ... I did that all last night for the last few nights … I hadn't slept very much," he said.
11:04 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Meanwhile, here are today’s top stories other than impeachment

Heng Sinith/AP
Heng Sinith/AP

President Trump’s impeachment trial continues in Washington today but, The Brief’s Bianca Nobilo has been keeping track of the day’s headlines outside Capitol Hill.

 Here’s what you need to know:

  • Brexit Day: Today, Britain will leave the European Union, more than three and a half years after voting to do so. Brexit supporters will celebrate in Westminster this evening and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation from Downing Street.
  • Coronavirus in the UK: The first two cases of the infection have been confirmed in Britain, as the virus spreads globally. There are now more than 140 cases of coronavirus outside mainland China, where the infection first emerged. At least 213 people have died from the virus, with almost 10,000 cases confirmed worldwide.
  • Mike Pompeo in Ukraine: The US Secretary of State met with President Zelensky in Kiev. The diplomat said that a visit to Washington for Ukraine’s leader was not conditioned on Kiev launching an investigation into Hunter Biden, an issue at the heart of President Trump’s impeachment trial.

Watch more:

10:40 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

How key GOP senators are voting on witnesses

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

It will take 51 votes in the Senate to either approve witnesses or block them from testifying.

Right now, it seems likely that the GOP has the votes — at least four Republicans senators would need to vote with the 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats in order to pass a motion for witnesses.

After Sen. Lamar Alexander announced he'd vote against witnesses last night, it comes down to three key Republicans. Here's where they stand now:

Yes:

  • Sen. Susan Collins
  • Sen. Mitt Romney

Undecided:

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski

10:28 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

GOP senator voting against witnesses says "an error in judgment" doesn't call for impeachment

From CNN's Manu Raju

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

Sen. Lamar Alexander just spoke to a small group of reporters about his decision to vote against witnesses and documents.

"I concluded after nine long days, and hearing 200 video clips of witnesses from the House, I didn't need any more evidence, because I thought it was proof the President did what he was charged with doing, but it didn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense. I didn't need any more evidence to make my decision," he said.

He said he made his decision about the vote during this past week.

"I thought about it, but I wanted to wait until the very last minute because around here you never know what might happen. You might get a surprise during the question and answer period," he said.

CNN asked him about the distinction he made between inappropriate conduct and impeachable conduct. Here's how he responded:

"Impeachable conduct is a very high bar. It's treason, bribery, it's high crimes and misdemeanors. And to me, an error in judgment, an inappropriate and improper telephone call or action doesn't add up to treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.

Alexander said he thinks it was "inappropriate and wrong for the President to do what he did — and I think it was proved."

He added: "The question is whether you apply capital punishment to every offense. And I think in this case, I think the answer is no, let the people make that decision... and especially since the election begins Monday."

10:20 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

What's on the President's schedule today

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the Senate continues with the impeachment trial today, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order to combat human trafficking and then head to Florida. 

The order will create a new position within the domestic policy council that will be “solely devoted to human trafficking," Director of Domestic Policy Council Joe Grogan told reporters today. 

The White House is hosting a two-hour summit on human trafficking to mark the 20th anniversary of the trafficking victims protection act. Trump will deliver remarks at the summit around 12:15 p.m. ET.

 Afterward, the President and first lady Melania Trump will head to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, according to the White House schedule.

We'll see the Trumps leaving the White House around 4 p.m. ET on their way to Florida. Trump often stops to talk to reporters when he's leaving the White House — although we're not sure if he'll do so today.

9:38 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

Trump will be acquitted early tomorrow morning, GOP sources say

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Senate gavels into session at 1 p.m. ET. And while we're not sure exactly how the day will play out (see more on that in the post below this one), we expect President Trump to be acquitted by the end of the session.

More specifically: Trump will be acquitted in the early morning hours of Saturday, according to GOP senators and aides.

And while the actual end-game was never in doubt — the President was always going to be acquitted — it's jarring that the more than four months of investigations, inquiry, impeachment and trial will come to a sudden (and rather anti-climactic) end. 

Consider Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's departing words last night:

"Tomorrow's a big day." 
9:21 a.m. ET, January 31, 2020

We still don't know exactly what will happen after the witness vote

From CNN's Phil Mattingly

Senators are expected to vote this evening on the question of whether to compel witnesses and documents. We're expecting that vote to fail: Republicans seem to have the vote to block the motion.

But what follows the witness vote is very, very fluid.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind, with the caveat that seriously — this is fluid. Both sides were still trying to figure it out last night: 

  • Expect both parties to meet separately after the vote to plot their way forward. 
  • When they return, expect Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to offer a motion to move to final judgment
  • That motion is amendable, and there’s no expectation Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats will simply just let the trial end without a fight. So get ready for amendments — and the hours of debate that comes with them.
  • At some point Democrats will relent, at which point senators will have to decide whether they want to go into deliberations (which would be in closed session.) GOP leaders are leaning heavily on this not happening, but it’s possible. 
  • The vote on the articles would occur, separately, with each senator being called in alphabetical order, standing and reading their judgment of “Guilty” or “Not guilty” aloud. 

Remember: Things just aren’t locked into place yet, but rest assured, once the chamber gavels into session today, it will not adjourn until the President is acquitted.

"I can tell you that we have a high level of interest in just getting this done,” Sen. John Thune, the second-ranked Republican, told CNN.