California Sen. Dianne Feinstein made comments Tuesday about letting the 'people judge' – adding to the uncertainty over impeachment.
The longtime lawmaker from San Francisco made the comment just after lawyers for President Trump finished their defense, as Republicans sorted through an internecine fight over whether to allow witness testimony in the impeachment trial.
'Nine months left to go, the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge,' Feinstein told reporters Tuesday. 'That was my view and it still is my view.'
'The people should judge,' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who later clarified her comments and said Donald Trump withheld 'foreign assistance for personal political gain'
Feinstein immediately moved to clarify the comment. Even if Feinstein were to vote to acquit, it would not likely change the outcome. There is not evidence impeachment backers are anywhere near the two-thirds needed to remove a president.
Feinstein, 86, said what changed her opinion as the trial went on was realizing 'impeachment isn't about one offense. It's really about the character and ability and physical and mental fitness of the individual to serve the people, not themselves.'
Asked about voting to acquit, she said: 'We're not finished.'
After the Los Angeles Times reported the comments under a headline indicating Feinstein was a 'maybe' on acquittal, she tweeted Tuesday evening: 'The LA Times misunderstood what I said today. Before the trial I said I'd keep an open mind. Now that both sides made their cases, it's clear the president's actions were wrong. He withheld vital foreign assistance for personal political gain. That can't be allowed to stand,' she said.
Feinstein issued a statement seeking to clarify her comments after an LA Times report
Feinstein's comments caused confusion among press members closely watching the impeachment
The former Senate Intelligence chair retweeted a comment by an Axios reporter who asked the question of her. 'I think the @LATimes has this story backwards. I was the reporter who asked @SenFeinstein these questions. She told me she was initially going to vote against impeachment 'before this,' the reporter wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling members of his conference there aren't currently the votes to block witnesses in the president's impeachment trial – as a number of influential Republicans diminished the importance of revelations in John Bolton's book manuscript.
McConnell's warning came immediately after Donald Trump's lawyers rested their defense, as party leaders stood firm on the question of keeping out impeachment trial witnesses.
His acknowledgement came during a closed-door meeting with senators Tuesday after Trump's lawyers ended their defense, and was reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Senate Republicans huddled after Trump's lawyers made their final arguments that the president's conduct wasn't impeachable – using only half their allotted time in a chamber the GOP controls with a 53-vote majority.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said Bolton's revelations – which prompted a political battle over whether he should be believed – don't matter.
In this image from video, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Later, he told fellow Republicans the votes
'I don't think anything he says changes the facts,' Thune said. 'We're kind of confident' the Trump impeachment trial won't extend beyond Friday, he added.
'The consensus is that we've heard enough and it's time to go to a final judgement,' Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming told The Hill.
A small number of Republicans have either expressed potential support for hearing from witnesses, or said they were holding out until the end of the week. McConnell's comments is certain to focus minds – and potentially bring more outside pressure from President Trump, who has called the trial a hoax and wants it to end.
Senators acknowledge there is no deal yet on how to proceed, after Bolton's revelations prompted a series of potential proposals – including deals to pair witnesses for each party, or efforts to subpoena his manuscript without putting the witness himself under oath.
But with several key holdouts saying they are still waiting to make up their minds, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is telling colleagues he doesn't have the votes to dispense with witnesses.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, told Capitol reporters he won't make up his mind until the Senate spends Wednesday and Thursday taking written questions from senators. 'Then I'll make a decision about whether we need more evidence,' he said.
One Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, appeared to hedge on whether she wold vote to remove Trump from office, only to issue a clarification via Twitter.
Trump's defense team concluded its opening arguments Tuesday by taking a hit at Bolton's upcoming book, claiming it is 'unsourced' and insisting the manuscript of the memoir would not be admissible in the trial.
'What we are involved in here, as we conclude, is perhaps the most solemn of duties under our constitutional framework. The trial of the leader of the free world, and the duly elected president of the United States. It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,' attorney Alan Dershowitz said during the final day of the defense's opening arguments against the president's removal.
In the shortest day of the Senate impeachment so far, Trump's lawyers closed their opening defense arguing against the articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The Senate convened at 1:00 p.m. and the defense wrapped less than two hours later, only presenting the closing remarks of their opening arguments.
Dershowitz, along with the other all-star team of lawyers, including Ken Starr, Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, asserted that the articles being levied against the president are not actually impeachable offenses according to the Constitution.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton is writing a book, and in a leaked manuscript it was revealed that he detailed a conversation where he said Trump directly linked the freeze in millions of military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.
Donald Trump's defense team, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone (right) and the president's personal attorney Jay Sekulow (left) concluded their opening arguments Tuesday against removing Trump. They only spoke for about two hours, marking the shortest day, by far, of the trial since it began last Tuesday
Attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is part of Donald Trump's defense team, said John Bolton's forthcoming book is 'unsourced' and would be 'inadmissible' in the trial
Ousted National Security Advisor John Bolton is writing a book, set for release in mid-March – and senators cited revelations from the upcoming book as reasons they want to hear from him. He detailed a first-hand account of a conversation where he said Trump linked Ukraine aid to an investigation into the Bidens
Now that President Trump's lawyers have rested their defense, the Senate enters two consecutive days of question time – where lawyers will spar over questions that senators must submit in writing.
The period represents the first opportunity for individual senators to shape the debate, outside of the Capitol hallways where only a fraction of them have been addressing reporters who have been assembled in pens during the impeachment trial.
Sen. Mitch McConnell
The rules only define how the general outlines of how the action will proceed. There are no limits on the topics that the senators may choose – although in practice leadership has the ability to screen and order the questions.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the outlines of the process for the first time after Trump's lawyers wrapped up their defense Tuesday.
'I remind senators that their questions must be in writing and be submitted to the chief justice. During the question period of the Clinton trial, senators were thoughtful and brief with their questions and the managers and counsel were succinct in their answers. I hope we can follow both of these examples during this time,' said McConnell.
Notably, he said he worked out the basics with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. The two men did not negotiate over the rules for the trial, which Republicans passed on a party-line vote.
Chief Justice John Roberts addressed the Clinton impeachment – where 100 senators from both sides had reached agreement on the rules.
'Chief Justice Rehnquist advised counsel, quote: 'Counsel on both sides, that the chair will operate on a rebuttable presumption that each question can be fully and fairly answered in five minutes or less,' Roberts said.
'The transcript indicates that the statement was met with quote laughter, end quote,' he noted. He said the Rehnquist limit 'was a good one and [he] would ask both sides to abide by it.'
During the Senate's Clinton trial in 1999, then majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi described how he and minority leader Tom Daschle would work to divide time evenly between the two parties. Lott took the prerogative to deliver the first question, which a Senate staffer delivered then to Roberts.
'Senator Daschle and I will try to make sure that the time stays pretty even as we go through the day,' said Lott. He said Rehnquist would make sure that 'deliberations and the answers are fair' – indicating the chief justice had a role in seeing how the debate went forward.
McConnell said there would be second eight-hour session on Thursday, as laid out in the rules.
Dershowitz claimed the information detailed in the book would not be admissible, attempting to deter Democrats for subpoenaing a copy of the unpublished manuscript.
'The vice president's chief of staff issued a statement,' Dershowitz said, then quoted: 'In every conversation with the president and the vice president, in preparation for our trip to Poland,' – remember that was the trip that was being planned for the meeting with President Zelensky – 'the president consistently expresses frustration that the United States was bearing the lion's share of responsibility for aid to Ukraine and that European nations weren't doing their part. The president also expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine, and at no time did I hear him tie Ukraine aid to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma.'
'That was the response,' Dershowitz continued. 'Responding to an unpublished manuscript that may be, some reporters have an idea of what it maybe says. That is what the evidence – if you want to call that evidence, I don't know what you would call it. I would call it inadmissible, but that's what it is.'
'To argue that the president is not acting in our national interest and is violating his oath of office which the managers have put forward is wrong based on the facts in the way the Constitution designed,' he continued.
Immediately following the conclusion of opening arguments Tuesday, the seven Democratic impeachment managers, who presented the prosecution last week, held a press conference on the House side of the Capitol.
Schiff called the ending to the defense 'abrupt' and said Trump's team of lawyers were still shaken up from the revelations in Bolton's book.
'I want to begin this afternoon with a few observations on the rather abrupt end to the president's case. It's clear today, I think, that they are still reeling from the revelation of John Bolton's book and what he has to say,' leade impeachment manager Adam Schiff said.
H added that Bolton's testimony would be 'relevant' to the case.
He also referenced that Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly came out Tuesday claiming he believed Bolton's account of his interaction with the president.
'As I'm sure you've seen, the president's own former chief of staff, General Kelly, has stated that he believes John Bolton, and more importantly – and that is extraordinary in and of itself, that the president's own former chief of staff believes John Bolton, and by implication does not believe the President of the United States that he worked closely with for such a long time. But more importantly he also recognizes the importance of calling John Bolton as a witness,' Schiff said.
The next step following the conclusion of opening statements if that the Senate will spend the next two days on the questioning period, including a resolution on whether to allow the defense and prosecution to call new witnesses to testify in the trial.
The president's defense presented a case against the articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – claiming they are not actually impeachable offenses, according to the Constitution.
Trump's legal team opened up an all-out attack on Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden's son, on the second day of its defense Monday, unleashing White House advisor Pam Bondi to accuse him of cashing in on his powerful father.
'We would prefer not to be talking about this,' Bondi said of the Bidens in the trial where primarily the Democrats and prosecution brought up the father-son duo to make the case that Trump held up millions in security aide to Ukraine to get an investigation of his political rival.
'We would prefer not to be discussing this,' the former Florida attorney general continued in her argument on the Senate floor Monday. 'But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it.'
She then opened up an attack on Hunter, whose personal struggles have drawn headlines amid disclosures about his work for the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
Dershowitz, and the rest of the defense team, also argued that the articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – are not impeachable offenses as outlined by the Constitution
Herschmann suggested that it could have been used to impeach Obama then read his version of the first article of impeachment - abuse of power - changing Trump's name for Obama's and the Ukraine aid allegations for what Obama said.
Bondi described how Hunter Biden joined the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings as a board member even after warning signs about it, and chose not to