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Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2020 @ 8:29 PM
— As Senators began questioning House prosecutors and President Donald Trump's attorneys in the President's impeachment trial, a famous legal expert on the White House legal team told the U.S. Senate on Wednesday that no matter what a President does in the pursuit of re-election, that person cannot be impeached and removed from office.
"If a President does something which he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," Dershowitz argued.
Democrats panned the contention as patently ridiculous.
"Dershowitz's argument was just false," said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
"Dershowitz's argument was beyond absurd," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "It makes the President's case laughable."
Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz: "If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." https://t.co/jKErQcS1Iy pic.twitter.com/zo4rL6Zbla— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2020
Rep. Adam Schiff pushes back on argument by Trump attorney that "abuse of power" is not an impeachable offense, saying that is "the most dangerous argument of all."— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2020
"Even 60-year-old Alan Dershowitz doesn't agree with 81-year-old Alan Dershowitz." https://t.co/jKErQcS1Iy pic.twitter.com/aOJJHq0myT
"The White House lawyers have adopted an extreme position where public officials can do almost anything for their reelection," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
Much of the day centered on calls by Democrats for witnesses, and wrangling over the claims of former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
"If we call John Bolton, I promise you, we are calling Hunter Biden," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to reporters.
"Let's call John Bolton, let's call Mick Mulvaney," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), as Democrats turned aside GOP arguments that they never tried to get testimony from Bolton and other White House officials.
"Yes, we should be able to call witnesses, and so should the President," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead House prosecutor.
"We would expect if they are going to get witnesses, we will get witnesses," the President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow said on the Senate floor.
Question from Dem. Sen. Ed Markey: "So that the record is accurate, did House impeachment investigators ask Mr. Bolton to testify?"— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 29, 2020
Rep. Adam Schiff: "Yes. Of course we asked John Bolton to testify in the House. And he refused." https://t.co/fGLWCMjIXu pic.twitter.com/JyV3z8dXTN
Questions from Senators often were softballs lobbed at their side's legal team, allowing them to score points in the arguments over the President's impeachment - or even just to rebut the most recent statement of the other side.
"Would you please respond to the answer just given by the President's Counsel?" Democrats asked at one point.
Under a system also used for the Clinton impeachment trial, Senators submitted their questions to Chief Justice John Roberts - alternating between Republicans and Democrats - and then each side would have five minutes to answer.
It also left the Chief Justice in a somewhat interesting position, as he reads the question, instead of one of the Senate reading clerks.
For example, one question from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) resulted in the Chief Justice reading a query which said that President Trump had told "thousands of lies."
And there were others.
This is perhaps one of the most wild things I’ve ever seen, @KamalaHarris having United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts read into the record Trump’s Access Hollywood comments: “When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” pic.twitter.com/0b6nDv58tm— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) January 29, 2020
Eight more hours of questions by Senators are anticipated on Thursday, then the Senate is expected to confront the major question of this trial - will the Senate call witnesses?
If witnesses are voted down, Republicans want to move quickly to a final vote to acquit President Trump.
That could take place as soon as Friday.