A Democratic push to force Republicans to accept witnesses at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate appeared to be flagging on Wednesday, raising the possibility he could be acquitted by the end of the week.
(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS, SAYING: "Mr. Chief Justice..." On the first of two planned days of the question and answer phase of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, senators on Wednesday - for the first time - got to pose their questions to the lawyers representing Trump and the Democratic House mangers prosecuting him.
(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SAYING: "The question from Senator Harris is for the House managers." The questions - conveyed through Chief Justice John Roberts - reflected the deep partisan divide in the chamber over allegations the president abused his power.
(SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SAYING: "Before he was elected, President Trump said, quote, when you're a star they let you do it.
You can do anything, end quote.
If the Senate fails to hold the president accountable for misconduct, how would that undermine the integrity of our system of justice." But it was a question from Senator Ted Cruz directed at Trump's legal team... (SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. SENATOR TED CRUZ, SAYING: "I send a question to the desk." ...that got the most talked-about answer... (SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SAYING: "...does it matter if there was a quid pro quo?" ...when high-profile defense attorney Alan Dershowitz argued that any action or quid pro quo by a politician to help their reelection cannot be impeachable.
(SOUND BITE) (English) TRUMP ATTORNEY ALAN DERSHOWITZ, SAYING: "Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest and mostly you're right, your election is in the public interest.
And 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." The lead House manager Adam Schiff gladly responded, prompted by a question from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, calling that argument from Dershowitz "very odd." (SOUND BITE) (English) U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF, SAYING: "...all quid pro quos are fine?
It's carte blanche?
Is that really what we're prepared to say, with respect to this president's conduct or the next?
Because if you are, then the next president of the United States can ask for an investigation of you.
They can ask for help in their next election from any foreign power... All quid pros are not the same.
Some are legitimate and some are corrupt and you don't need to be a mind-reader to figure out which is which.
For one thing, you can ask John Bolton." Democrats want to hear testimony from Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, as well as other White House officials.
But, so far, Trump's fellow Republicans in the Senate have resisted the idea of having any witnesses.
The New York Times reported this week that Bolton wrote in a yet-to-be-published book that the president told him he wanted to halt security aid to Ukraine until it pursued investigations into political rival Joe Biden and the former vice president's son Hunter - an allegation that strikes at the heart of the abuse of power charge against Trump.
The president on Wednesday blasted Bolton on Twitter, calling his book "nasty and untrue" and later tweeted a clip from Fox News of Bolton discussing in August of last year Trump’s “warm and cordial” calls with Ukraine's president - an apparent attempt to counter Bolton's recent claims. The White House also issued a warning to Bolton on Wednesday, telling him in a letter that his book could not be published in its current form because it appeared to contain "significant amounts of classified information." But, hours later, a lawyer for Bolton released a letter he had sent to the White House that said he and his client do not believe any information in a chapter on Ukraine in Bolton's book should be considered classified.
(SOUND BITE) (English) UKRAINIAN-BORN U.S. BUSINESSMAN AND RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE LEV PARNAS, SAYING: "Call the witnesses." Back at the Capitol building, Ukrainian-born, indicted businessman Lev Parnas, who says he worked with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, tried to enter the Senate trial.
He was turned away by police.
Meanwhile, inside the Capitol, many Democratic senators used their questions to underscore the importance of calling witnesses, but any Republican support for hearing new testimony appeared to be waning.
Senior Republican Senator John Barrasso told reporters the GOP seemed to have the "momentum," raising the possibility the president could be acquitted as early as Friday.