House managers had a very clear strategy when they walked into the Senate chambers on Thursday: Poke holes in the defenses they expect President Trump’s lawyers will try to employ when it’s their turn this week.
The White House defense team claims that impeachment cannot be valid without a crime. So for more than an hour, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York methodically walked through the history of constitutional law to preemptively assert that such a defense is wrong.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers also argue in their legal brief that the president was interested only in combating corruption in Ukraine. So the House managers zeroed in on evidence on Thursday that shows the president was concerned about corruption claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — not corruption generally.
And because they expect the president’s legal advisers to repeatedly raise the Bidens when they present their defense, the House managers spent hours debunking the accusation that the Bidens did anything improper in Ukraine.
Taken together, Thursday’s presentations by the House managers were meant as a shield against what they expect is coming, most likely on Saturday, when Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer, get their chance in the well of the Senate.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, applauded the House managers during a break in the case for “pre-empting” the arguments from the president’s team. But Mr. Sekulow was undeterred a few minutes later.
“I am confident that whether it is Saturday, or Monday or Tuesday that the case will be made defending the president,” he said. “I have no doubt.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s role in the impeachment of Mr. Trump may be formally over, but by her own design, the matter is not out of her hands.
Even in her absence from the Capitol this week, as the speaker traveled through Poland and Israel in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, she had her hand firmly on the tiller of the prosecution of the president.
In many ways, Ms. Pelosi is the eighth, largely unseen manager of the Democrats’ case.
She selected the group of seven House impeachment managers from among her closest and most loyal advisers, placing at its helm Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, a trusted protégé whom she privately calls “the general.”
Ms. Pelosi has dispatched her handpicked House general counsel to sit at the table inside the Senate chamber, with the prosecutors acting as her eyes and ears. She reviewed all the managers’ written briefs before they were filed.
And the multipronged media campaign to make the case for Mr. Trump’s removal is being run out of her office, by her communications director and other staff.
“Look, she cares a lot about this,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said in a brief interview.
The presentations at the Senate impeachment trial on Thursday have been some of the most dense yet, starting with a historical lecture about the constitutional roots of impeachment and later delving deeply into the details of President Trump’s actions.
But that hasn’t kept the public away.
The public galleries in the Senate were as full as they have been all week, with almost 200 people listening quietly as the House managers presented their case. The galleries no doubt included some Senate staff members and others who were assigned to be there. But there appeared to be plenty of regular attendees, too — people just eager to watch a bit of history unfold.
President Trump is nowhere near the Capitol, but the House managers are still using his words against him.
At several points on Thursday, the House members prosecuting the articles of impeachment have used video clips of Mr. Trump as evidence of his motives in pressuring Ukraine for investigations into the Bidens.
Building his case that Mr. Trump wanted Ukrainian investigations that benefited him politically, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the lead House manager, showed several clips, including one in which Mr. Trump referred to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered with his campaign in 2016.
“There was a lot of corruption having to do with the 2016 election against us, and we want to get to the bottom it and it’s very important that we do,” Mr. Trump said in the clip, his voice echoing through the chamber.
Mr. Schiff quickly made his point: “He’s not concerned about actual corruption cases, only matters that affect him personally.”
Later, as Mr. Schiff argued that Mr. Trump only cared about investigations into the Bidens, he used a video clip of the president’s own words, as he discussed his interest in working with Ukraine on corruption.
“And let me tell you something, Biden’s son is corrupt. And Biden is corrupt,” the president said in the clip.
The House managers made a strategic decision on Thursday to focus extensive attention on the actions of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden.
The lengthy presentation — by Representative Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas, one of the House managers — was aimed at proving that there was no basis to President Trump’s assertions that the former vice president and his son did improper things in Ukraine.
“Common sense will tell us that this allegation against Joe Biden is false,” Ms. Garcia told the senators.
But allies of Mr. Trump quickly pounced on the extended discussion about the Bidens to insist that the impeachment trial should include scrutiny of their actions, and potentially a move to call them as witnesses.
Mr. Trump’s Republican defenders have long argued that the president’s demand that Ukraine announce investigations into the Bidens was not improper because he was merely interested in rooting out corruption in that country.
At least one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers suggested the Democrats made a mistake in focusing on the former vice president and his son.
“They have opened the door,” said Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump and a member of his impeachment legal defense team. “It’s now relevant.”
Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri and a staunch ally of the president, made the same point in a tweet during a break after the presentation.
Jay Sekulow, the president’s lawyer and one of the leaders of his defense team, declared that “nothing has changed in the last day and a half of their two and a half days.”
He declined to say whether the White House defense would request any changes to the schedule on Saturday, saying that they would do what “our legal team thinks is appropriate to present our case.”
During a break in the trial, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, applauded the House managers for “pre-empting” arguments from the president’s defense team.
Mr. Sekulow was undeterred. “I am confident that whether it is Saturday, or Monday or Tuesday that the case will be made defending the president,” he said. “I have no doubt.”
The rules of the Senate trial say the senators are supposed to be sitting in their seats throughout the presentation. In President Trump’s trial, they are treating that rule rather liberally.
At one point Thursday morning, when Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York finished his presentation, 19 seats on the Senate floor belonging to a mix of Republicans and Democrats were empty, according to Peter Baker, The New York Times’s chief White House correspondent, who was sitting in the press gallery.
Most were only vacant for a few minutes. It appeared, Mr. Baker said, that several senators were treating the end of Mr. Nadler’s presentation — which was followed immediately by one from a fellow House manager, Representative Sylvia R. Garcia of New York — as an unofficial break.
Ten minutes after the end of Mr. Nadler’s presentation, 10 seats were still empty. Five minutes after that, most of the senators had wandered back in, and only four seats were empty.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democratic presidential candidate, was one of the senators who left, at 1:59 p.m. She returned 15 minutes later, taking her seat again at 2:14 p.m.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had a white legal notepad in front of him as Thursday’s impeachment trial began — and he was busy doodling.
On the top page, Mr. Paul had created an extensive, and impressive, doodle of the United States Capitol. Drawn with a blue ballpoint pen, the drawing covered the entire bottom third of the paper.
At one point, Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas, a House manager, showed a video clip of George P. Kent, a State Department official, being asked whether some Republicans, like Mr. Paul, believed that what President Trump did in Ukraine was the same as what former Vice President Joseph R. Biden did when he tried to get a corrupt prosecutor fired.
Looking up from his doodle, Mr. Paul smiled and raised a fist with his index finger extended, as if to say, “Yes!” Then, when Mr. Kent answered by saying that what Mr. Biden did was very different than what Mr. Trump did, Mr. Paul lowered his arm.
And he went back to his doodle.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, began the House presentation on Thursday with an hourlong lecture on the constitutional history of impeachment.
He insisted that the history of the Constitution makes it clear that a criminal violation is not necessary to impeach the president. In making the argument, he cited words from some of President Trump’s key allies in his impeachment defense: Alan Dershowitz, a member of the president’s impeachment team; William P. Barr, the attorney general; and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.
He concluded his presentation with a forceful assertion to the senators: “Impeachment is aimed at presidents who act as if they are above the law, at presidents who believe their own interests are more important than those of the nation, and thus at president who ignore right and wrong in pursuit of their own gain.”
“Abuse. Betrayal. Corruption,” he said. “Here are the core offenses, the framers feared most. The president’s abuse of power, his betrayal of the national interest, and his corruption of our elections plainly qualified as great and dangerous offenses.”
Drawing on legal scholars and liberally quoting historical figures, Mr. Nadler argued that the founders of the nation envisioned that impeachment would be required for presidential abuses of power like the misconduct the House alleged when it passed two articles of impeachment.
As senators settled in for another long day of arguments from the House managers, there was already talk among lawmakers and their aides of a potentially abbreviated weekend trial schedule.
Under one proposal being discussed, the Senate could convene as a court of impeachment early on Saturday, around 10 a.m. and meet for a far shorter session than usual. That would theoretically allow senators who wanted to travel home — or for Democrats running for president, to campaign in early voting states — for 36 hours before the trial resumes on Monday.
The Senate’s impeachment rules normally require the trial to meet every Monday to Saturday at 1 p.m. until a verdict is reached. That late daily start time is meant to accommodate Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who maintains a morning case schedule at the Supreme Court before presiding over the trial. But Chief Justice Roberts does not have court business on Saturdays.
The decision may also depend on the president’s lawyers, who are scheduled to begin their defense against the House charges on Saturday. If they want to move the trial along as quickly as possible, they could ask for an early start on Saturday but also that the session be allowed to run into the evening. Or they could simply shorten their arguments.
“I suspect we’ll start on Saturday, and then we’ll go, probably another day or two, but who knows,” Jay Sekulow, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers said Wednesday night. “I mean we’ve got to make that determination, with our team.”
Any change would require consent from both Democrats and Republicans.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of the impeachment managers in 1999, left the Senate chamber just minutes before House Democrats played a video of him speaking during President Bill Clinton’s trial.
In the clip, Mr. Graham gave a broad definition of a “high crime”: “It’s just when you’re using your office in a way that hurts people, you’ve committed a high crime,” he said.
One of the Republicans’ talking points is that there was no crime underlying President Trump’s conduct, therefore it was not impeachable. That argument is widely disputed.
Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, who sits next to Mr. Graham on the Senate floor, briefly patted the South Carolina Republican’s empty seat as the video began to play.
As Democrats spoke in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence announced that President Trump had asked him to invite to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to Washington next week to discuss “regional issues, as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land.”
Mr. Pence, who is visiting Jerusalem, said at Mr. Netanyahu’s request he had also invited Benny Gantz, an opposition leader in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu said he would “gladly accept.”
It is another instance of the administration moving forward with legislative and diplomatic work while the impeachment trial is going on in the Senate.
On Wednesday, Republican senators held a ceremonial event to formally send Mr. Trump’s revised North American trade pact to his desk for his signature.
Just as Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, a House manager, started his presentation about “high crimes and misdemeanors,” President Trump started tweeting, accusing Democrats of not wanting to agree to a trade in which the Senate would subpoena several administration officials in exchange for people Mr. Trump’s allies have said they want. Two people Republicans have sought to interview are Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president, and the anonymous whistle-blower who first expressed concerns about Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
Democrats have urged the Senate to subpoena John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and two other administration officials. But they have said they will not consider a deal that would include what they call irrelevant witnesses like Mr. Biden.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead impeachment manager, opened the day by observing how rare it was for House lawmakers to have the opportunity to speak on the Senate floor, before silent senators. (Senators have begun flouting the rules of decorum during an impeachment trial, with some going so far as to leave the floor for short bursts of time during the day.)
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the House impeachment managers have 16 hours and 42 minutes remaining to make their case.
A Democratic official working on the inquiry said that the seven managers planned to spend the day going through the firrst article of impeachment, abuse of power, and applying the law and the Constitution to their case. On Friday, the lawmakers plan to do the same with the second article of impeachment.
Moments before the Senate convened, pages could be seen placing packets of paper on desks across the chamber. Senators, ahead of the trial, dropped off binders and bags before stealing a final moment off the chamber floor.
Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, Democrat of Pennsylvania and vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, could be seen on the Senate floor, observing the proceedings.
The White House named eight House Republicans as part of the public face of the president’s defense on Capitol Hill, and on Thursday some of those lawmakers arrived again in the Senate basement to hold court with reporters and deliver a full-throated defense of the president.
“We’re just making sure that we are paying close attention to the testimony,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, “and making sure that our points are getting out there to the American people.”
The group, she said, was working closely with the White House lawyers. But since they are not part of the official legal team, they will not be able to speak in the Senate chamber.
The top Democrat in the Senate said he still had “hope” that Republicans would agree to new witnesses and evidence in President Trump’s impeachment trial, but he stopped short of saying he was optimistic that it would happen.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said there are “lots of conversations going on,” but he denied reports that there had been discussions with Republicans about a deal allowing Republican witnesses in exchange for the witnesses whom House managers want to call.
Democrats have urged the Senate to call John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and two other administration officials. Several moderate Republicans have said they might be open to witnesses after oral arguments and questions from senators.
“Not a single Republican has approached me and said ‘What about this? What about that?’ It’s not happening,” Mr. Schumer told reporters at the Capitol ahead of the second day of oral arguments from the managers.
Mr. Schumer said he hoped the “weight of history” would help persuade those Republicans. But when asked whether he thought the Democrats would win the argument, he started to say he had optimism, then stopped.
“I have hope, that’s a better way to put it,” he said, “that we might get the witnesses at the end of the day. And we’re going to keep fighting and fighting and fighting.”
The president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, again promised on Thursday to release more evidence of the widely debunked conspiracy theory implicating one of the president’s top political rivals, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in wrongdoing.
Mr. Biden is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, and the narrative Mr. Giuliani has been promoting is at the center of the impeachment charges against Mr. Trump.
While he’s not on Mr. Trump’s defense team for the Senate trial, Mr. Giuliani is deeply entwined in the pressure campaign on Ukraine that led to the president’s impeachment. And he is among the witnesses who refused to testify during House impeachment inquiry. Mr. Giuliani has said that his work in Ukraine had Mr. Trump’s support.
For the first time since the Senate began hearing arguments against him, President Trump is back in Washington and on Twitter. He tweeted a number of criticisms toward Democrats and their arguments, rehashing favorite insults against his opponents and quoting Fox News personalities.
After returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday evening, the president is scheduled to travel to Florida on Thursday afternoon just as House managers will begin their second day of arguments.
It is not clear how much of the trial the president has watched live.
The House impeachment managers are set to begin their second day of arguments on Thursday, building on about eight hours already spent arguing that President Trump’s conduct warranted his removal on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead impeachment manager, told senators that they would spend Thursday “go through the law, the Constitution and the facts as they apply to article one” of impeachment.
“We’ve introduced the case, we’ve gone through the chronology and tomorrow we will apply the facts to the law as it pertains to the president’s abuse of power,” Mr. Schiff said as he concluded Wednesday’s arguments.
The impeachment managers have until Friday evening to use their remaining hours of argument time to present before a rancorous Senate. Lawmakers, despite rules threatening imprisonment for talking, have grown increasingly restless while cooped up in the chamber — and few minds appear to be changed.
On Wednesday, the seven lawmakers tasked with presenting the case for Mr. Trump’s conviction took turns outlining the charges that the president attempted to pressure Ukraine for assistance in his re-election campaign by withholding critical military assistance and a White House visit for the country’s leader.
Several Senate Republicans emerged late Wednesday to inform reporters that they had not learned anything new after hours of presentation from the House.