The White House counsel harshly reminded the Democrats’ impeachment manager of his place during the Senate trial Tuesday night, prompting the Supreme Court chief justice to step in with a plea for civility.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and the House Judiciary Committee chairman, accused Senate Republicans of seeking to participate in a coverup by blocking additional witnesses and documents in the impeachment trial.
“History will judge and so will the electorate,” he said, eliciting groans from Senate Republicans in the chamber.
Pat Cipollone, who leads President Donald Trump’s defense team, responded by reminding Nadler he wasn’t in the House anymore.
“The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you’ve addressed this body,” Cipollone said to applause. “This is the United States Senate. You’re not in charge here.”
At that point, Chief Justice John Roberts admonished both sides.
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” said Roberts ,who is presiding over the trial. “Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.”
John Roberts doesn’t make the rules
The three-way exchange came as part of a debate over an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton. That amendment was blocked in 53-47 party-line vote, as were a series of other attempts by the Democrats to subpoena documents and witnesses.
After more than 12 hours of acrimonious debate, Senate Republicans unanimously passed ground rules for the impeachment trial, which is the third in U.S. history. The full Democratic minority voted against the plan.
Under the rules, orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, each side with have 24 hours over six days to argue their cases for an against impeachment. Last-minute revisions eased off an earlier plan to keep opening arguments to two days and allowed the House’s record of the probe to be admitted as evidence.
After the opening arguments, the Senate will again consider the matter of whether to subpoena witnesses or documents, at which point a few Republicans have signaled they may be open to doing so.
Lawyers for Trump were given the option to move early in the proceedings to ask senators to dismiss all charges, according to a senior Republican leadership aide. Such a motion would likely fall short of the support needed to succeed. But Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the 100-member chamber, where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.
House Democrats last month charged Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The articles of impeachment stem from the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, and to impede the inquiry into the matter. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Nadler said there was “overwhelming” evidence of wrongdoing,” and House Intelligence chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and the co-lead impeachment manager, said Trump had committed “constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”
However, Cipollone argued the Democratic case was a baseless effort to overturn the 2016 election.
“The only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said. “There is absolutely no case.”
“They’re not here to steal one election, they’re here to steal two elections,” Cipollone added of the Democrats.
The arguments will begin when the trial resumes at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. It is expected to continue six days a week, Monday through Saturday, until at least the end of January.
Televised congressional testimony from a parade of current and former officials who spoke of a coordinated effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, has done little to change support for and against Trump’s impeachment. Reuters/Ipsos polling since the inquiry began shows Democrats and Republicans responding largely along party lines.
No president has ever been removed through impeachment, a mechanism the nation’s founders – worried about a monarch on American soil – devised to oust a president for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” One, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of a looming impeachment.
(Reuters contributed to this report)