View From the Gallery: Senators’ Personal Habits on Full Display as Week 2 Begins
WASHINGTON — Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander fought off sleep as President Donald Trump’s legal team discussed a history of subpoena litigation, eyes closed, his cheek resting on his hand, his chin sometimes dropping toward his orange sweater.
When deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin announced he was ready to wrap up his portion of Trump’s presentation, Alexander studied his watch.
It was only 4:30 p.m., and there were about 4 1/2 hours left in Monday’s session.
Alexander and Kansas Republican Jerry Moran, who had just yawned into the back of his hand, were among at least seven senators who departed their desks for a cloakroom as soon as Philbin concluded.
It was the sixth full day in the chamber for the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, and the 100 senators dealt with a new crop of Senate pages and showed signs of restlessness during a Trump presentation with long stretches of discussion about constitutional standards.
Videos that Trump’s team played got reactions from some senators, who largely appeared to pay close attention throughout the day.
During a video of a Hunter Biden television interview, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham put his thumb and pointer finger on the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes and shook his head.
As a video played of a 2012 presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, a few of his GOP colleagues looked over at the Utah Republican. Romney kept a straight face, but a hint of a smile crossed his mouth.
Romney has been in the crosshairs during the impeachment trial, as one of the few Republicans calling for the Senate to hear from witnesses.
Alexander, also noted as a moderate Republican to watch on questions of whether the Senate will vote to allow more witnesses to testify at the trial, was one to watch Monday instead for bending trial rules about cellphones and eating.
Alexander returned from the cloakroom after Philbin’s presentation with food in a small metallic wrapper, pouring the contents into his hand and then shoveling it into his mouth as he stood at the back of the chamber. He went to his desk and continued eating.
When Alexander finished the food, he folded the wrapper and slipped it into his desk drawer, and in one motion pulled his cellphone from the desk. He slipped the contraband into his right jacket pocket and departed for the cloakroom.
When he returned, he was holding food in his lap, breaking off discreet bites to bring to his mouth.
Other senators violated the food rule, including South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, who reached down several times with his right hand to pull some small snack from his left hand and bring it to his mouth. After he finished, he wiped the hand that was holding the forbidden treat off on his pants.
There were some tense moments between the teams.
As Eric D. Herschmann criticized lead House manager Rep. Adam B. Schiff for “running away” from the transcript of the Trump call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and “making up” a conversation, Schiff sat just feet away and stared right at him, completely still, with his left leg crossed over his right and his fingers laced over his left knee.
The California Democrat’s face didn’t move as Herschmann repeatedly attempted to discredit him.
Later in the evening, Herschmann and Schiff were in a sort of stare down as Trump’s lawyer once again invoked Schiff and directed his arguments squarely at the House Democratic managers, rather than the senators in the chamber.
Senators found ways to stretch out while seated.
West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III used the shelf under his desk as a footrest. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders used his feet to push the front legs of his chair off the ground and rocked back and forth a bit on it — a dangerous proposition considering the senators’ chairs are all on wheels.
Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, as the presentation continued after dinner, chewed gum and took a minute to study the chamber’s ceiling.
Although the senators settled in for the second week of the impeachment trial, a fresh new class of Senate pages was thrown into service Monday.
The new pages moved tentatively through the chamber as the president’s defense team gave their arguments against impeachment, no doubt afraid of spilling water or misidentifying someone.
Their predecessors had come to know which lawmakers like ice in their water and had memorized the seating chart.
But the fresh new crop of high schoolers were still being trained on opening and closing the chamber doors as senators flowed in for the trial.
Before the proceedings began, Oklahoma Republican James M. Inhofe chatted with two pages manning the center aisle doors, giving one a pat on the back.
During a break, Maine Independent Angus King chatted up four pages sitting at the front of the chamber, asking them where they are from and introducing himself.
“Welcome, you’ve come at an amazing time,” he told the four teens. “Keep it up.”
One of the most obvious signs that the pages were still getting acquainted came in the 2 p.m. hour when Manchin placed what appeared to be the first milk order of the day. The West Virginia Democrat signaled a male page over to his desk and then whispered instructions in his ear, ticking off two fingers as he talked. The page started to back away when Manchin grabbed his attention to ask for one more thing.
The page within minutes returned with the three things Manchin requested — a glass of water, a plastic container of milk and a small white envelope.
Manchin immediately recognized the page’s mistake with the milk, signaling to his water glass to show the page he should have poured the milk into one before bringing it out.
As the page returned the plastic container to the cloakroom, Manchin opened the white envelope, pulled out a cough drop, unwrapped it and plucked it in his mouth, depositing the wrapper in a trash can located behind him.
The page then returned with Manchin’s milk in a glass. But that wasn’t his final trip. The page stopped by Manchin’s desk a fourth time to deliver a coaster for the milk glass that he forgot the first two times into the cloakroom.
Speaking of coasters, former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, who seemed to enjoy himself as he delivered the day’s closing presentation for Trump’s impeachment defense, snuck himself a souvenir.
He took a sip of water while waiting to speak and noticed the standard Senate coaster. He admired it for a second, before placing it on top of his expanding legal folder.
After his presentation, Dershowitz slipped the three old legal books he brought into the folder, then slipped the coaster inside with them.
Patrick Kelley and Chris Marquette contributed to this report.
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