View From the Gallery: Senators Pack Up Desks as Impeachment Trial Nears Its End

February 4, 2020by Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
In this screengrab taken from a Senate Television webcast, House manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks during impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Senate Television via Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer tightly hugged Rep. Adam B. Schiff just after the closing argument in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, then spoke directly into the House lead manager’s ear for about 10 seconds.

Before the New York senator let go, he gave Schiff three loud pats on the back, as a line of other Senate Democrats waited to hug the California Democrat or shake his hand.

Just feet away, White House counsel Pat Cipollone stood alone for the scene, until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky approached alone and said something that made both men smile.

It was the 11th day in the chamber for the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, and the 100 senators had to power through just a few hours of closing arguments with soaring rhetoric but little new information.

A few senators reacted when they appeared in videos that Trump’s defense team played, including a series of clips from Democratic lawmakers thanking or praising the president for signing bipartisan legislation.

The video started with Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts praising Trump for signing legislation designed to stem the inflow of illegal drugs into the country. Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, who sits right next to Markey, conversed with Markey as the clip played.

Both men smiled as the video moved on to a speaking role from Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire about the same law. The video later showed Chris Coons of Delaware directly praising Trump in the Oval Office for signing a law to boost women entrepreneurship.

When that clip ended, Coons turned to Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and raised his eyebrows. Klobuchar, in turn, patted him on the shoulder.

Patrick J. Leahy had a copy of former President John F. Kennedy’s book, “Profiles in Courage,” sitting on the left side of his desk.

The Vermont Democrat showed off the book to reporters as he walked through the Senate basement to the chamber, and said: “There are too many who say they know what they should do but don’t really do it.”

But there were indications that few senators hadn’t already made up their minds. Several Democratic senators were gone while Trump’s legal team made its closing arguments, and likewise some Republicans were gone when Schiff spoke.

That included vocal Trump defender and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who missed all of Schiff’s final words.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent the weekend campaigning in Iowa ahead of Monday’s caucuses that kick off the Democratic presidential primary contests, appeared tired. He took his glasses off to rub his eyes and let out a big yawn.

His wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, watched from the family gallery. That means she’s not stumping as a campaign surrogate in Iowa, where Sanders, Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Michael Bennet of Colorado compete tonight for the Democratic nomination.

Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and David Perdue of Georgia weren’t taking any chances with whatever coughing, sniffling bug their colleagues are trading around. Both Republicans’ back-row desks are stocked with hand sanitizer, which Perdue used early in Monday’s session. Cassidy placed a large bottle on top of his desk, perhaps as a beacon to encourage other senators to use it.

Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden packed up his binders and folders and put them on his lap as Schiff began to speak, ready to make an exit as soon as arguments finished. The folders and binders were covered in doodles and scrawls, pen markings everywhere and circular drawings visible from the balcony.

Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, two Republicans who voted in favor of hearing witnesses, met in the aisle of the chamber after arguments wrapped up. They greeted each other with a smile, and Romney nudged Collins’ arm while they exchanged a few words.

Republicans seated in the back row of the Senate chamber did a major desk cleanout in anticipation of the impeachment trial being over later this week, when they’ll spend significantly less time at their assigned desks.

Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Ted Cruz of Texas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Cassidy all had the tops of their desks lifted open and started taking huge stacks of binders and papers and folders out. They tossed some things in the trash, piled others together to bring back to their offices and sorted out the items to keep in their desks.

Arizona Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema carried a small white piñata in the shape of a unicorn after the court of impeachment adjourned. Its white body had a colorful fringe along the edges. She brought it into the cloakroom, and when she returned to the chamber it was stuffed into her purse.

After Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. adjourned the court of impeachment, Republicans Roy Blunt of Missouri and Jerry Moran of Kansas conferred for several minutes. Both senators were wearing red ties the day after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl.

Moran hadn’t been in his seat for Schiff’s argument, and only stepped back into the chamber from the cloakroom after Schiff wrapped up.

When the Senate returned to regular business, there was confusion about who would preside over the session.

Missouri Republican Josh Hawley was ready to go, sitting dutifully at his desk. But staff and leadership were figuring out how to transition President Pro Tempore Charles E. Grassley of Iowa out of the presiding officer’s chair.

“I’ve just been sitting here,” Hawley told Blunt and McConnell aide Laura Dove, signaling that he was ready whenever they were.

The trial was all over, save for the vote Wednesday.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Visit CQ Roll Call at www.rollcall.com

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