Impeachment Briefing: Day 2 of the Democrats’ Case

This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weeknight.

  • Democratic managers continued making opening arguments in the trial, concentrating on the first impeachment article accusing President Trump of abuse of power. The lawmakers incorporated constitutional references, reams of texts and deposition transcripts, and countless video clips to break down how Mr. Trump tried to coerce Ukraine’s president into announcing politically motivated investigations into the Bidens.

Read our full story about the day, some key highlights and an analysis of how the managers are using video of Mr. Trump at the trial.

The House managers divided their arguments in thematic ways, with each member taking on different features of Mr. Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign and applying them to the idea that the president abused his power.

Representative Jerry Nadler of New York began the presentation with an hourlong speech on the constitutional history of impeachment. He argued that the history of the Constitution made it clear that a criminal violation was not necessary to impeach a president, citing past comments from some of Mr. Trump’s firmest allies: Attorney General Bill Barr and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Representative Sylvia Garcia of Texas used her time to explain what she called “groundless” corruption accusations against the Bidens. Ms. Garcia’s presentation was aimed at pre-empting Mr. Trump’s lawyers and proving that there was no basis to the assertions that former Vice President Joe Biden had acted corruptly by demanding the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor, or to the president’s claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, which Ms. Garcia said “muddled the waters.”

Representative Adam Schiff of California explained how he thought Mr. Trump had appropriated Russian propaganda for his pressure campaign. He accused Mr. Trump of weaponizing Russian talking points to help himself, through conspiracy-based investigations that he wanted Ukraine’s president to announce. “The Russians not only got him to deflect blame from their interference in our democracy, but they got him to withhold military aid,” Mr. Schiff said. “Now of course, there was this convergence of interest between the Kremlin and the president.”

Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York displayed logs of text messages and other correspondence involving American diplomats. He sought to show how a back-channel of foreign policy directly influenced Mr. Trump’s communications with Ukraine’s president, capping each sequence with the phrase “this for that,” a reference to what Democrats believe was a quid pro quo — in this case, restoring military aid in exchange for the announcement of Ukrainian investigations into the Bidens.

Our photographer Erin Schaff had exclusive access to the prep meeting that the Democratic managers held this morning in a room off the Senate floor, where they and their staff members prepared for another long day together.

Mr. Schiff, Mr. Nadler and Representative Jason Crow of Colorado listened to Mr. Jeffries, who consulted one of the many binders that the managers have had with them at the trial.

Representative Zoe Lofgren of California and Mr. Nadler are two of the longest-serving members of the House. Ms. Lofgren participated in the Nixon and Clinton impeachment inquiries. Here, accompanied by packs of Skittles, the two lawmakers prepared for the trial just a few minutes before it opened at 1 p.m.

Representative Val Demings of Florida, a former police chief and a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, argued at the trial today that “this moment is about ensuring that every voter, whether a maid or janitor, whether a nurse, a teacher or a truck driver, whether a doctor or a mechanic, that their vote matters and that American elections are decided by the American people.”

This week has intertwined the two dominant elements of American politics: the presidential campaign and impeachment. That has made the lives of a few Democratic senators near the top of the 2020 polls — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — a little complicated.

My colleague Lisa Lerer, who is covering the presidential race and writes our On Politics newsletter, reported this week on the senators’ competing demands. I asked her about how the trio is coping.

Lisa! It’s so nice to finally have you here. I am all for newsletter cross-pollination. One aspect of the trial we haven’t spent too much time discussing is this group of senators who want to run against the president they’re also hoping to impeach. The Iowa caucuses are just days away. What do they do?

This is a situation where there are no good choices. You absolutely cannot skip the impeachment hearing. And while impeachment is not a topic that comes up a ton at their campaign events, it’s red meat for Democratic primary voters. They expect you to be there every day during the trial.

At the same time, at this point in the campaign, candidates are doing six events in Iowa a day. I talked to David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s former senior adviser, today, and he estimated that in 2008, Mr. Obama probably talked to well over 1,000 voters a day there leading up to the caucuses.

I’ve been wondering for days now: Do Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders want to be in D.C.? The White House counsel said on Tuesday that he imagined they wanted to be in Iowa.

This is a historic moment! If you are a senator, this is one of the few moments when you’re really living history, considering how little the Senate seems to be doing these days. I think they sincerely want to be here in Washington. But it’s really a Sophie’s choice.

The days end up being so long for them. If you’re stuck in the trial from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., the next morning you have to squeeze in Senate and campaign activity, starting early. The schedule will be even more demanding when you fly overnight on Saturday for one day of campaigning in Iowa. Several of them are flying private. On Sunday, we already see they’re packing in events.

You’ve been covering this campaign. Do you think being trapped in their Senate chairs will actually hurt them politically?

The classic term for this period is “M vs. O”: momentum vs. organizing. The Sanders and Warren people will make the argument that the organization of the campaign has been set in place, and it’s the organization that will carry the day.

But everyone knows Iowans would rather have the star of the show rather than a stand-in. This isn’t like campaigning in California or even New York City. It’s a place where people expect to see you in person, in their living rooms. I spoke to a woman in Iowa today who said she’d seen 19 candidates in person. They want to meet you and touch you and shake your hand.

What are some ways that the senators are making up for their Iowa absences? I saw that Mr. Sanders is having Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stump for him in Iowa.

No one has developed a hologram yet. But they’re doing tele-town halls. They’re sneaking out during dinner and coffee breaks in the trial and calling supporters. Ms. Klobuchar has been going on MSNBC, CNN and multiple local news outlets in New Hampshire and Iowa. They’re doing Twitter takeovers — Ms. Klobuchar’s daughter took over her accounts, since the senators can’t tweet from the Senate chamber during the trial.

At least one of the candidates is trying to stay in campaign shape. On Tuesday, Ms. Warren spent her trial breaks rushing to the restroom, talking to her colleagues and trying to eat food in her hideaway. They had pizza and salad. She only ate the salad, which shows an impressive amount of stress-eating discipline.

Lisa’s newsletter, On Politics, is a daily dispatch about the people and issues shaping the 2020 election. You can subscribe to it here.

  • Mr. Graham said that there would be “a lot of pressure” on him next week to subpoena the Bidens and the whistle-blower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry. But Mr. Graham said he would not “give in to that pressure, because I don’t think it will serve the Senate and the country well.”

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi has closely managed Mr. Trump’s impeachment from the beginning, and she’s not letting up during the Senate trial, even calling Mr. Schiff to check in as she wound her way through Jerusalem en route to a state dinner. Think of her as the eighth impeachment manager, my colleague Nick Fandos writes.

  • Two days into the Democrats’ presentation, restlessness has set in for the senators. My colleague Catie Edmondson chronicled the ways that lawmakers were passing the time: by doodling, chewing gum, doing crosswords, playing with Apple Watches (electronics ban be damned) and sneaking into the Senate cloakroom to check their phones. During a lunch break today, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina passed out fidget spinners for his 52 Republican colleagues.

  • Impeachment rules allow for only a few fixed cameras to be in the Senate chamber for the trial, giving us an extremely limited visual sense of the proceedings. So to make up for it, our graphics team produced a 3-D model of what the chamber looks like now.

  • Even the managers have to eat:

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