The first day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has begun with battle over its format.
This is the third such trial in US history.
So far the senators have debated the rules under which the trial should be conducted. No witnesses have yet been authorized to testify.
Despite efforts by Democrats to force the White House to provide documents, the vote failed after splitting along party lines.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who sets the rules for the chamber, said he is hoping the trial will last just 10 days.
He made some last-minute changes to his proposal for how the Senate will conduct President Trump’s impeachment trial. The House managers and the president’s defense team now have three days each, instead of two, to present their opening arguments (although each side’s total time is still capped at 24 hours).
Mitch McConnell has also changed the rules of evidence somewhat, allowing the House managers to introduce material gathered during their hearings unless a majority of the Senate objects.
He has said he had the Republican votes he needed to pass his rules package, but perhaps he felt some pressure from within his own ranks to more closely align his proposal to the way President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial was run in 1998.
However, Democrats will still be calling for more. They want a guarantee of witnesses, something that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Democrat Charles Schumer said a trial without witnesses or evidence would be “a cover-up”.
President Trump is accused of seeking help from Ukraine to get himself re-elected, and of obstructing Congress.
He has called the investigation a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt”.
Donald Trump is only the third president to face an impeachment trial.
Robert Ray succeeded Ken Starr as the independent counsel.
Monica Lewinsky tweeted on January 17 shortly after President Trump’s team was announced: “This is definitely an ‘are you kidding me?’ kinda day.”
In 2016, Ken Starr was forced out of his position as president of Baylor University after an inquiry found the school had mishandled rape accusations against its football players.
He later also resigned from his roles as chancellor and law professor at the university.
Alan Dershowitz is a retired Harvard University law professor and constitutional law expert whose past celebrity clients have also included boxer Mike Tyson.
He said in a statement that he had also opposed Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Donald Trump sought Alan Dershowitz’s advice, too, during the 2017-2019 special counsel investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr both represented disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein during his 2008 abuse trial.
On January 17, President Trump shared Alan Dershowitz’s comments criticizing a Government Accountability Office ruling that the White House had broken the law by withholding aid to Ukraine.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also been asked to join the team.
Pam Bondi, a longtime Trump ally, joined the White House communications team last November to focus on “proactive impeachment messaging”.
Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a central figure in the Ukraine investigation, had also hoped to join the defense, but he did not make the cut.
Rudy Giuliani told CBS he might be called as a witness in the impeachment trial and “understood this may happen if I uncovered the 2016 Ukrainian corruption”.
The former NYC mayor was apparently referring to a discredited theory that Ukraine intervened in the last White House election.
One of Rudy Giuliani’s associates, Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas, has said he went to Ukraine to pressure local officials on behalf of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
President Trump’s allies have rubbished Lev Parnas’ claims, pointing out that he is facing unrelated campaign finance charges.
Last month, Donald Trump was impeached by the House on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Democrats have accused the president of withholding military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country into investigating his political rival, former VP Joe Biden. President Trump denies the claims, and calls the impeachment proceedings a partisan “hoax”.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have clashed over the rules of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Democrats want assurances witnesses and documents will be allowed, to enable what they term a fair trial.
Chuck Schumer says the recent release of an “explosive” email about aid to Ukraine is a reminder of why openness is necessary.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he has not ruled out witnesses.
However, he stopped short of agreeing ahead of time to take testimony during the trial.
President Trump was formally impeached by the House last week for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Donald Trump is the third president in US history to be impeached. However, he is unlikely to be removed from office, as his Republican party has a majority in the Senate, where the trial will be held as stipulated in the US Constitution.
He is accused of pressuring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to start an investigation into his political rival, Democratic presidential front runner, Joe Biden.
President Trump is accused of doing this by withholding military aid and making a White House visit contingent on co-operation.
The trial is expected to begin next month, after the holiday break.
However, Democrats have so far refused to hand over the articles of impeachment voted through in the House – the charges – to the Senate.
They want assurances from Mitch McConnell that their chosen witnesses – at least four current and former White House aides with knowledge of the Ukraine affair – will be allowed to testify.
He suggested holding a trial similar to former President Bill Clinton’s in 1999, in which senators decided which witnesses to call after opening arguments and a written question period.
Mitch McConnell accused Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of holding “an absurd position” for delaying handing over the impeachment articles and said she is “apparently trying to tell us how to run the trial”.
Democrats renewed their demand for witnesses over the weekend after an email emerged suggesting the White House sought to freeze aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after President Trump spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone in July. That call is at the center of the allegations against President Trump – charges he denies.
Chuck Schumer said he and his Republican counterpart remain at an impasse after holding a “cordial” meeting on December 19 to discuss trial rules.
During a news conference in New York on December 22, Chuck Schumer said Republicans “have come up with no good reason why there shouldn’t be witnesses, why there shouldn’t be documents”.
He added: “We don’t know what the witnesses will say. We don’t know how the documents will read. They might exonerate President Trump or they might further incriminate him. But the truth should come out on something as important as an impeachment.”
Democrats argue that Republicans will not act as impartial jurors during the impeachment trial, after Mitch McConnell pledged last week to work in “total co-ordination” with the White House. Meanwhile, House of Representatives officials raised the possibility of a second impeachment if new evidence of obstruction by President Trump came to light. The suggestion came in court papers filed by Democrats as they seek the testimony of White House counsel Don McGahn.
A newly-released government email has revealed that the White House sought to freeze aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after President Donald Trump spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone in July.
The email, telling the Pentagon to “hold off”, was sent by a senior White House official.
In the phone call, President Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
On December 18, President Trump has been impeached for abuse of power over the issue.
Democrats say the phone call shows Donald Trump used the office for personal political gain.
A US whistleblower who heard about the conversation raised concerns, which ultimately triggered the impeachment inquiry.
The president was formally impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but is unlikely to be removed from office as the case will go to trial in the Senate, where his Republican party has a majority.
The newly-released email was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity following a court order in a freedom of information case.
The email shows that Mike Duffey, a senior White House official, contacted senior defense officials about withholding Ukraine’s aid just over an hour-and-a-half after President Trump ended a call with President Zelensky on July 25.
The transcript shows President Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate Joe Biden, currently a frontrunner to be the Democratic candidate in the 2020 White House race, and his son Hunter Biden, who had previously worked for a Ukrainian energy company.
In the email Mike Duffey asks that the Department of Defense “hold off” on providing aid following the administration’s plan to review.
The email reads: “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction.”
In a statement released to media on December 22, Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, dismissed the characterization of the email.
After 10 hours of partisan debate on the merits of the two impeachment charges against President Trump, the House called for votes at about 20:30 local time.
The first charge is abuse of power, stemming from President Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into his Democratic political rival, Joe Biden.
It passed by 230 votes to 197, almost completely on party lines. Only two Democrats opposed – New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, who is set to leave the party, and Minnesota’s Collin Peterson.
The second charge is obstruction of Congress, because President Trump allegedly refused to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry, withholding documentary evidence and barring his key aides from giving evidence.
It passed by 229-198. Democrat Jared Golden of Maine voted for the first charge but opposed this.
No Republicans supported impeachment, although ex-party member Justin Amash, from Michigan, did.
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both charges – effectively an abstention. Two members were absent for personal reasons.
Being impeached places President Donald Trump alongside only two other presidents in the nation’s history – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
House Judiciary Committee has approved two impeachment articles against President Donald Trump, moving the process towards a full House vote.
The articles are expected to be voted on by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives next week.
President Trump is the fourth US president in history to face impeachment.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Donald Trump again dismissed the process as a “sham” and a “hoax”.
Today’s hearing lasted just over ten minutes before the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstructing Congress – were passed by 23 votes to 17.
The vote was delayed after more than 14 hours of rancorous debate. Republicans criticized that decision by Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Nadler, accusing him of pushing back the vote to ensure more TV coverage.
In the abuse of power article, President Trump is accused of soliciting a foreign country to help him politically by trying to force Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender.
The president is also accused of obstructing Congress by failing to co-operate with the House investigation.
Leading Democrats agreed the articles of impeachment described over nine pages. They say that President Trump “betrayed the nation” by acting “corruptly”.
Jerry Nadler made a brief statement to reporters after the vote, calling it a “solemn and sad day” and pledged that the House of Representatives would “act expeditiously”.
However, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz said: “For Democrats, impeachment is their drug.”
Speaking from the White House Oval Office alongside the president of Paraguay, President Trump called the impeachment process “a witch hunt”, “a sham” and “a hoax”.
Donald Trump said Democrats were “trivializing impeachment” adding that they are “making absolute fools out of themselves”.
House Judiciary Committee has unveiled charges against President Donald Trump, a key move in impeaching him.
The first article revealed by committee chief Jerry Nadler accuses President Trump of abuse of power and the second accuses him of obstructing Congress.
The Republican president is said to have withheld aid to Ukraine for domestic political reasons.
Donald Trump has urged the Senate to try him “sooner than later”.
He insists he has done “nothing wrong” and has dismissed the impeachment process as “madness”.
If the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes to approve the articles later this week, they will then be submitted to the lower chamber for a full vote.
If, in turn, the articles are approved by the House, an impeachment trial in the Republican-held Senate will take place, possibly early in January.
The impeachment process was launched after an anonymous whistleblower complained to Congress in September about a July phone call by Donald Trump to the president of Ukraine.
President Trump is alleged to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” (a phrase from the US Constitution) on two counts outlined by Jerry Nadler:
The first allegation is that he exercised the powers of his public office to “obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest”, by allegedly putting pressure on Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election;
The second allegation is that “when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry”, thereby obstructing Congress.
President Trump “sees himself as above the law”, Jerry Nadler said.
“We must be clear, no-one, not even the president, is above the law.”
In the July phone call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump appeared to tie US military assistance for Ukraine to its launching of investigations that could help him politically.
In return for those investigations, Democrats say President Trump offered two bargaining chips – $400 million of military aid that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for President.
Democrats say this pressure on a vulnerable US ally constitutes an abuse of power.
The first investigation President Trump wanted from Ukraine was into former VP Joe Biden, his main Democratic challenger, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was President Barack Obama’s deputy.
The second Trump demand was that Ukraine should try to corroborate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the last US presidential election. This theory has been widely debunked, and US intelligence agencies are unanimous in saying Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails in 2016.
President Trump railed at the announcement of the charges, declaring again on Twitter that it was a “witch hunt”.
US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct.
The accusations, co-published by Portland Monthly magazine and ProPublica, date back to before he became an ambassador.
At the time of the alleged incidents Gordon Sondland was developing hotels in Portland and Seattle in the Pacific Northwest.
Gordon Sondland denies all of the allegations, and accuses the women of targeting him for his role in President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings.
He said in a statement: “These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, co-ordinated for political purposes.
“They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.”
All three women said Gordon Sondland retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances – by verbally abusing them at their workplace, reneging on a promised investment, and withdrawing offers of professional introductions.
One of the women, Nicole Vogel, said she met Gordon Sondland for dinner in 2003 in order to secure investment for her new magazine.
Nicole Vogel is the owner of Portland Monthly. The magazine said she was not involved editorially in the story, and it had teamed up with ProPublica, a respected non-profit news group, to report the claims independently.
She said that after dinner Gordon Sondland took her to one of his hotels and invited her to see a room. He then requested a hug, she added, but instead “grabs my face and goes to kiss me”.
Nicole Vogel said she deflected him and left the hotel, and later received an email from Gordon Sondland changing the terms of his investment.
A second acuser, Jana Solis, said she met Gordon Sondland in 2008 when she was seeking work as a hotel safety expert.
When Sondland offered her the job, she said, he called her “my new hotel chick” and slapped her rear. She then said that on another occasion he invited her to his home in Portland to evaluate his art collection, before exposing himself.
On a third occasion, Sondland asked her to inspect his penthouse apartment and then forcibly kissed her, she said.
The third woman, Natalie Sept, was working in local politics in Portland for a candidate Gordon Sondland had donated money to.
After they were introduced through her boss, she claims Gordon Sondland invited her to dinner to discuss work opportunities. She said he asked for a hug at the end of the night, but then pushed himself towards her and tried to forcibly kiss her.
In response, Gordon Sondland described the article as “underhanded journalism” that was “fundamentally false”.
He said he intended to take legal action against the two publications.
Gordon Sondland provided key testimony at President Trump’s impeachment hearing last week, where he said he followed the president’s orders to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, told impeachment hearings that President Trump directly asked about a Ukrainian investigation into his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
In previously unheard testimony, Bill Taylor said a member of his staff was told President Trump was preoccupied with pushing for a probe into Joe Biden.
The top diplomat was speaking at the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
President Trump told reporters he did not recall making such comments.
The president is accused of withholding US military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country’s new president to publicly announce a corruption inquiry into Joe Biden, among the favorites to take him on in the 2020 presidential race.
President Trump denies any wrongdoing and has called the inquiry a “witch-hunt”.
During a detailed opening statement, Bill Taylor said a member of his staff had overheard a telephone call in which the president inquired about “the investigations” into Joe Biden.
The call was with US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, who reportedly told the president over the phone that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward”.
After the call, the staff member “asked ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine”, Bill Taylor said.
Bill Taylor said: “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”
When asked about Gordon Sondland earlier this month, the president had said: “I hardly know the gentleman.”
Responding to queries from reporters after the hearing, President Trump said: “I know nothing about that, first time I’ve heard it.”
He said he recalled Gordon Sondland’s testimony, in which the diplomat said he spoke to the president “for a brief moment” and President Trump had “said no quid pro quo under any circumstances”.
However, Hunter Biden acknowledged the possible political ramifications of his work, saying his failure to do so previously demonstrated “poor judgment”.
“Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah,” he said.
“But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”
Hunter Biden stressed his record on the board of the UN World Food Program and work for US corporations to defend his lucrative role as a board member for a Ukrainian gas company.
He said: “I think that I had as much knowledge as anybody else that was on the board, if not more.”
However, he acknowledged the appointment may have resulted from his father’s clout.
“I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” Hunter Biden said.
His foreign business ventures have pulled him to the epicenter of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
President Trump and his allies have claimed that as vice-president Joe Biden encouraged the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor because the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, a gas company that employed Hunter Biden.
These allegations – though widely discredited – were raised by President Trump in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
This call has fuelled the Democratic-led impeachment investigation. The inquiry is trying to establish whether President Trump withheld nearly $400 million in aid to nudge President Zelensky into launching an inquiry into the Bidens.
President Trump tweeted: “A big scandal at @ABC News. They got caught using really gruesome FAKE footage of the Turks bombing in Syria. A real disgrace. Tomorrow they will ask softball questions to Sleepy Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, like why did Ukraine & China pay you millions when you knew nothing? Payoff?”
The president has continued to seize on Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine and China to stage political attacks against him and his father, charging both Bidens with corruption, without offering specific evidence.
In an interview on October 15, Hunter Biden dismissed the president’s claims as a “ridiculous conspiracy idea”.
Last week, Hunter Biden announced he would step down from the board of BHR (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company.
His lawyer, George Mesires, told media his client had not acquired an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office.
Hunter Biden said last week that he would not work for any foreign-owned companies if his father is elected president.
Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has told Congress she was ousted over “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives”.
She said she was “incredulous” at being dismissed by President Donald Trump in May.
Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony is part of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
The Democratic probe is looking into whether the Republican president improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
The scandal was sparked by a whistleblower complaint about a July phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
During that conversation, President Trump described Marie Yovanovitch as “bad news”, according to a rough transcript released by the White House.
The decision to dismiss Marie Yovanovitch several months earlier reportedly followed President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other conservatives arguing she was biased against the president.
Rudy Giuliani had been working in Ukraine to press the authorities to investigate widely debunked corruption allegations against Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, who was associated with a Ukrainian company.
The lawyer is coming under increasing scrutiny over his work for the president. Asked by reporters on October 11 if Rudy Giuliani was still his lawyer, President Trump answered ambiguously: “I don’t know. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney.”
In a prepared statement, Marie Yovanovitch said:“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president.
“I was nevertheless incredulous that the US government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Marie Yovanovitch said she did not know Rudy Giuliani’s reasons for attacking her.
“Equally fictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump,” she said.
“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false.”
She warned of the harm that will come to the US when “bad actors” realize “how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system”.
Marie Yovanovitch said she had never met or spoken with Hunter Biden and that Joe Biden had never raised with her the subject of his son or the Ukrainian gas company that employed him.
She also said she learned that President Trump had called for her ousting since 2018 despite Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan telling her she had done nothing wrong.
Marie Yovanovitch said: “He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me.”
A Barack Obama-appointee, Marie Yovanovitch was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate and served as US ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until last May.
The whistleblower complaint noted Marie Yovanovitch’s surprise dismissal was a red flag for some officials.
New calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment came from House Democrats, after former White House counsel Donald McGahn failed to appear before Congress despite a subpoena.
Donald McGahn skipped a hearing on May 21 about the Mueller report.
In an extraordinary move, President Trump has vowed to block all subpoenas of his current and former staff.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler said after the failed hearing: “Our subpoenas are not optional.”
“Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,” he said.
The Trump administration claims that the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into allegations of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, cleared him of wrongdoing, and that there are no further questions to answer.
It also claims that staff cannot legally be compelled to testify, but Jerry Nadler said he would hold Donald McGahn in contempt and pursue other means of compelling testimony.
“We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other,” he said.
On May 2, President Trump responded on Twitter, arguing that he had “allowed everyone to testify” to Robert Mueller’s team, and accusing the Democrats of seeking a “do-over” of the special counsel investigation.
Democratic Party leaders have so far held off pressure from their lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings, and the party is divided over the merits of the move, but the pressure is growing as the president stonewalls congressional inquiries.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a party meeting on May 22 to discuss the issue.
Both the Department of Justice and White House released statements on May 20 arguing that Donald McGahn was under no obligation to give evidence.
According to a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee, Donald McGahn was “absolutely immune from compelled Congressional testimony”. Donald McGahn, who served as White House counsel for nearly two years under President Trump before his resignation in October 2018, said he would respect the president’s instruction not to appear.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders accused Democrats of pushing for “a wasteful and unnecessary do-over” of the Mueller report.
Citing the justice department guidance, Sanders said: “The former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly.”
In the wake of Donald McGahn’s failure to appear, Jerry Nadler announced he had issued subpoenas to former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, McGahn’s former chief of staff.
According to a New York Times report, Democratic lawmakers and aides were examining possible rules changes to allow the House to fine people held in contempt, as well as other means to break the impasse.