What happened on Day 1 of Trump's Senate impeachment trial

Image: Chuck Schumer
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to the members of the media during a recess on Capitol Hill on Jan. 21, 2020. Copyright Manuel Balce Ceneta AP
By Dareh Gregorian with NBC News Politics
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It was a battle over how to fight the war as the trial began in earnest Tuesday.


President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial began in earnest Tuesday, with prosecutors from the House of Representatives and lawyers for the White House tangling over how the case should proceed.

Votes over changes to the trial format showed Democrats and Republicans split along party lines, but last-second, handwritten changes to the proposed rules gave Democrats hope some Republican senators will consider their requests for documents and witnesses later on.

Here are five key things that happened during Tuesday's trial proceedings so far.

Democrats try and fail to change McConnell's rules

As expected, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., offered several amendments to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's organizing resolution — essentially a blueprint for how the third presidential impeachment trial in United States history would proceed. The first, which would allow the Senate to subpoena White House records was defeated along party lines, 53 to 47. A second, to subpoenaState Department documents related to the charges against the president, was also defeated along party lines, 53 to 47, Tuesday evening. Schumer immediately proposed a third amendment, to subpoena documents from the White House Office of Management and Budget, which was taken up for debate.

A preview of coming attractions

The House managers and lawyers for the White House used the time they had to argue for and against the Schumer amendments to give sneak previews of their opening arguments. House managers repeatedly referred to evidence they collected from Trump administration officials about the withholding of millions of dollars in military aid to the Ukraine, underscoring the White House's refusal tohand over any documents related to the freeze while blocking key witnesses from testifying. The unusual aid freeze, prosecutors argued, was part of a larger pressure campaign directed by Trump to get the country's leader to announce investigations that would benefit the president personally and politically.

White House lawyers contended the president didn't do anything wrong, and argued their client was denieddue process in the House investigation.

The writing is on the resolution

Two items that had initially caused a stir in McConnell's resolution were apparently changedshortly before the document was read into the record Tuesday. A provision that would have given both the House managers and lawyers for the White House just two days to deliver their allotted 24 hours of opening statements was changed to give them each three days. McConnell also tweaked another provision criticized by Democrats that would have barred all the evidence against Trump gathered during the House Democrats' inquiry from being automatically entered into the Senate record. The changes were written by hand on the resolution, with other lines crossed out.

Clinton's precedent looms

A spokeswoman for Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said the changes to the resolution were made after she and other Republicanscomplained that the rules strayed too far from the ones used in the Senate trial of President Bill Clinton.

Trump reacts

Trump was inDavos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, but weighed in on Twitter with a single demand.

"READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!" he tweeted, possibly referring to the White House record of his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (the document notes it is not an exact transcript).

During that call, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate possible 2020 rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and well as a conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election. Read the full record here.

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