Friday is the moment of truth for House managers in the Senate impeachment trial as they seek to convince a handful of Republican lawmakers to support their demand for additional witnesses and documentary evidence. So far, there is little apparent evidence that they will succeed.
On Thursday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the top Senate Democrat, declined to say he was optimistic but said he still had “hope.”
Democrats have accused Republicans of abetting a cover-up by Mr. Trump by refusing to subpoena documents that the Trump administration did not hand over during their inquiry and by refusing to demand testimony from additional witnesses like John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
In their third day presenting their case, the managers will focus on the second article of impeachment, in which they accuse Mr. Trump of obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses and documents from being provided to the House impeachment inquiry.
For Democrats, that argument — which is expected to once again take the Senate trial late into the evening — could be the ideal backdrop to pressure potentially wavering Republicans who might be willing to break from their party to support the Democratic demands for witnesses.
But the potential targets, a handful of Republican senators, are staying quiet for now. They include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
On Saturday, Mr. Trump’s White House lawyers will take over for up to three days as they present their defense. Both sides will get an additional two hours to sum up their argument on the issue of witnesses and documents sometime next week. But for the House managers, Friday’s presentation may be their last, best hope.
Democrats, looking ahead to President Trump’s State of the Union address, announced on Friday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan will deliver the Democrats’ response to the president’s speech, scheduled for Feb. 4 — even though his impeachment trial may still be underway.
Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas, who made history as one of the first two Latinas from that state to serve in Congress, will deliver the Spanish-language response to the speech, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, who issued a joint statement about the selections.
The two praised Governor Whitmer, a lawyer, educator and former prosecutor, as a get-things-done type of leader, “whether it’s pledging to ‘Fix the Damn Roads’ or investing in climate solutions,” as Mr. Schumer said.
The response to the State of the Union is generally reserved for rising stars in the opposition party, offering a chance for the minority to lay out its own agenda, in contrast to the president.
With the impeachment trial set to begin at 1 p.m., senators are attending a bipartisan briefing on coronavirus, with Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, telling reporters he hoped to learn about preventive measures being taken. The virus is spreading and has sickened hundreds, mostly in Asia.
But senators were also stopping to weigh in on impeachment, as reporters, cordoned off behind velvet ropes, shouted questions about witnesses and the length of the Saturday session of the trial.
Republican moderates are in the spotlight on Friday as House managers conclude their oral arguments and senators turn to the question of whether to call witnesses and seek new documents in the impeachment trial. All four of the senators opposed Democratic motions for witnesses and documents at the beginning of the trial, but have said they might be open to switching their stances after opening arguments have been completed.
So far, however, none have committed to do so.
Here are the Republican senators to watch:
Mitt Romney of Utah has not said much since the trial started. But earlier, he indicated he would be open to new witnesses, and said he wants to hear from John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser.
Susan Collins of Maine is usually a swing vote in the Senate. Facing re-election this year, she is facing brutal blowback in her state for voting to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh for his seat on the Supreme Court. She has strongly suggested that she will ultimately vote to call witnesses. Doing so could help her mend fences with moderate voters she needs to keep her seat.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is an independent voice in the Senate. She was the only Republican to oppose Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation and has indicated she could be open to having the Senate examine additional evidence in the impeachment case.
Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is retiring after a long career in the Senate. He has not given clear answers to whether he might support additional witnesses and is extremely close with Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader. But Democrats hope his institutionalist impulses might prompt him to be the fourth vote they need.
There has been additional focus on a fifth senator, Cory Gardner of Colorado. Mr. Gardner is a first-term senator who is facing a tough re-election race this year in a politically competitive state. He will need support from independent voters and even some Democrats to win, but Mr. Garnder has so far been mum on the question of witnesses, and has criticized the impeachment inquiry as a politically motivated exercise.
Even as the Senate geared up for the third day hearing from prosecutors in the impeachment trial, a different kind of political clash was gathering outside the Capitol.
People attending the annual March for Life — and counterprotesters who support abortion rights — were already arriving Friday morning for an event that is expected to feature an address by President Trump, the first time a sitting president has attended.
People wearing “March for Life” sweatshirts crossed the Capitol grounds on the way to the march, along with others sporting red “TRUMP2020” baseball caps. Nearby, a separate group of counter protesters wearing sweatshirts that said “Literally, no one asked you” chanted “We love abortion, abortion is cool!”
The annual event protesting abortion started after the 1973 Rove v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
Other Republican presidents have addressed the gathering by video, but none has attended. Mr. Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “See you on “See you on Friday … Big Crowd!” Friday…Big Crowd!”
The cameras in the Senate are government controlled by the Senate staff, and photographs are not allowed — limiting what viewers can see as lawmakers consider the case against President Trump. To get a more complete picture of the proceedings, here are two alternatives.
The Senate chamber may be familiar to viewers of C-SPAN, but the room has undergone some significant changes to accommodate the proceedings.
President Trump complained Friday that his lawyers would begin his defense on Saturday, a day the president said in the world of television was “called Death Valley,” as he unleashed dozens of tweets and retweets attacking the Senate trial.
The president began his social media assault just after 6 a.m. by retweeting Greg Jarrett, a conservative Fox News analyst, who was attacking the Democrats’ case. In one post, Mr. Jarrett accused Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager, of lying about the evidence.
Over the next several hours, he retweeted articles by breitbart.com; Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business Network host; Ben Ferguson, a conservative commentator; Dan Bongino, the host of a conservative radio talk show; and several Republican lawmakers, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader in the House.
Later in the morning, Mr. Trump started tweeting his own attacks on the impeachment trial. In addition to complaining about the expected weekend start for his lawyers, Mr. Trump said he had “to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud and deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer and their crew.”
The House managers prosecuting the case against President Trump will wrap up their arguments on Friday with a focus on the second article of impeachment: the accusation that the president obstructed Congress by blocking witnesses and documents in an attempt to cover up his misconduct.
It will be their last opportunity to appeal to a handful of moderate Republican senators on the question of seeking additional witnesses and documents before the president’s lawyers take center stage. Debate on that vital question is expected to happen early next week, after the conclusion of the arguments and a period of questions about the case from senators.
In the meantime, the Senate trial has tested the patience of senators, who have sat restlessly in their seats for more than 16 hours over two long days. Despite being admonished that they must remain silent and at attention “upon pain of imprisonment,” some have doodled, traded notes, whispered with their neighbors, or even nodded off.
Mr. Trump’s legal defense team is scheduled to begin their presentation on Saturday, angering the president, who complained on Twitter on Friday morning that “my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.”
There have been discussions in the Capitol that senators could start the Saturday session earlier than the usual 1 p.m., which could give them the chance to leave earlier, especially if the White House lawyers decide to reserve more of their presentation for Monday.