A new phase of President Trump’s historic impeachment trial began Wednesday, with senators posing questions to the House managers and the president’s attorneys about Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.

A key moment came when defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz suggested that a president acting in the public’s interest can’t be impeached. He then argued that a president may believe his own reelection is in the country’s best interest.

Meanwhile, debate continues outside the chamber over whether to call witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton. In a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told colleagues he doesn’t yet have the votes to block witnesses.

Trump faces charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The crux of the case for his impeachment is the allegation that he withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

●McConnell tells senators he doesn’t yet have votes to block witnesses in Trump impeachment trial.

●In impeachment trial’s question time, both sides will press lawyers on their roles.

●Trump’s legal team has multiple arguments against impeachment. Letting the voters decide is the latest rationale.

4:30 a.m.
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Schiff returns to Sen. Collins’s pointed question

Late Friday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked the House managers a bit of a gotcha: A committee report submitted to the Senate asserted that President Trump committed the federal crime of bribery, but the articles of impeachment themselves say nothing about bribery. Why, she asked, was bribery omitted from the articles?

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) took the first swing at Collins’s curveball, arguing that Trump’s conduct was “akin to a crime” — meeting the standard set by White House defense counsel Alan Dershowitz. Collins, meanwhile, could be seen from the Senate gallery appearing to disagree with Jeffries’s response.

About a half-hour later, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) returned to Collins’s question to venture a more cogent answer.

“We could have charged bribery — in fact, we outlined the facts that constitute bribery in the article,” he said. “But abuse of power is the highest crime. The Framers had that in mind as the highest crime.”

The White House would have leveled different objections had the House chosen otherwise, he said, and defended the decision to bring an abuse-of-power article rather than a bribery article: “The important point is we charged a constitutional crime, the most serious crime. The Founders gave the president enormous powers, and their most important consideration was that the president not abuse that power.”

3:50 a.m.
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Dershowitz warns that removing Trump would ‘pose existential dangers’

Responding to a question from a group of GOP senators about what dangers impeachment poses to America, Dershowitz delivered a grave assessment.

“We live in extraordinarily dangerous times. I’m not suggesting that the impeachment decision by the House has brought that on us. Perhaps it’s merely a symptom of a terrific problem that we have facing us and likely to face us in the future.”

Dershowitz warned direly that the removal of Trump would further divide the country that would “last my lifetime, your lifetime and the lifetime of our children.”

3:45 a.m.
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Chuckles over Sen. Blunt’s case of mistaken identity

Rising to send a question to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) misspoke in a politically mortifying way.

“I send the question to the desk on behalf of myself, Senators McCaskill — McSally, rather.”

Claire McCaskill was Blunt’s colleague for eight years and the senior senator from Missouri when she lost in 2018 to Republican Josh Hawley. Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) was appointed to the Senate in late 2018 to fill the seat once held by Republican Sen. John McCain.

The room erupted in laughter, and a sheepish Blunt quipped, “What a terrifying moment.”

Moments later, McCaskill tweeted: “It’s simple. He misses me.”

3:15 a.m.
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Democrats agog over Philbin’s foreign interference claim

Responding to a question from Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) about Trump’s apparent public solicitation of compromising materials on his campaign rivals from Russia and China, White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin ventured a sweeping defense of the president’s remarks — claiming they did not, in fact, represent a violation of campaign finance laws that make it illegal to accept or solicit a “thing of value” from foreign sources.

“Mere information is not something that would violate the campaign finance laws,” he said. “If there is credible information, credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office, it’s not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light.”

That left Democrats nothing short of irate, accusing Philbin of engaging in a wholesale rewrite of federal law to cover for Trump.

“Apparently it’s okay for the president to get information from foreign governments in an election — that’s news to me,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a House manager. “As we go forward in this trial itself, we are creating additional dangers to the nation by suggesting that things that have long been prohibited are now suddenly going to be okay because they’ve been asserted in the president’s defense.”

Added Schiff, “We’ve witnessed over the course of the last few days and the long day today, a remarkable lowering of the bar to the point now where everything’s okay as long as the president believes it’s in his reelection interest.”

2:15 a.m.
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Trump lawyer can’t say when Trump first discussed Bidens and Ukraine

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) circled back to a question first asked by GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) on whether Trump ever mentioned Biden and corruption in Ukraine before Biden became a Democratic candidate for president.

“Could you please give an accurate and truthful answer to the senators’ question? Whitehouse asked.

But Philbin could not, asserting that he was told not to discuss evidence that wasn’t already in the House impeachment report or the public domain.

“So I can’t, I’m not in a position to go back into things that the president might have said in private,” he said. “So I can’t go telling now about things that the president might have said to Cabinet members.”

Democrats have argued that Trump only began caring about Biden’s dealings with Ukraine when Biden became a formidable potential reelection opponent.

Dershowitz, in a subsequent answer, argued that even if Trump became interested in Biden after he announced his White House run, it makes sense because Americans should know if a presidential candidate has a corrupt son.

“His candidacy is a very good reason for upping the interest in his son. If he wasn’t running for president, he’s a has been,” Dershowitz said. “He’s the former vice president of the United States. OK. Big deal. But if he’s running for president, that’s an enormous big deal.”

2:00 a.m.
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Rand Paul wants to name alleged whistleblower in question

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is pushing to submit a question that would name the alleged whistleblower whose anonymous complaint about Trump’s Ukraine dealings triggered the impeachment inquiry, according to officials familiar with the matter.

Paul had drafted a question, which would be read by Roberts during the trial, that would name the whistleblower, according to three officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The chief justice has declined to read it, said two of the officials.

Conservatives and close Trump allies have made the whistleblower one target of their inquiries during the question-and-answer session that began Wednesday, but Senate GOP leaders are warning against messy battles, particularly in naming that person.

“We’ve got members, who — as you’ve all already determined, I think — who have an interest in questions related to the whistleblower,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “But I suspect that won’t happen. I don’t think that happens. And I guess I would hope it doesn’t.”

For his part, Paul told reporters that the hang-up with his question is “still an ongoing process.”

“It may happen tomorrow,” he said. His office did not respond to requests for comment seeking further details about his efforts to name the whistleblower, which was first reported by Politico.

1:50 a.m.
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Romney asks when and why Trump placed the military aid hold

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) asked Trump’s counsel on what specific date did the president first order the hold on military aid to Ukraine and what his reason was at the time.

Trump lawyer Patrick Philbin couldn’t answer. “I don’t think there is evidence in the record of a specific date,” he said.

Philbin said the president had been asking since late June about how much other countries spent supporting Ukraine and had raised concerns about corruption later in the summer — the issues the White House has claimed were the impetus for the hold.

“So the evidence in the record shows that the president raised concerns, at least as of June 24th, that people were aware of the hold as of July 3rd,” Philbin said.

1:20 a.m.
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Bernie Sanders asks why anyone should believe what Trump says

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running to face off with Trump in the 2020 presidential election, asked House managers why anyone should believe anything Trump says.

Sanders noted that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) have said Trump told them directly there was no quid pro quo for releasing the aid.

“Given the media has documented President Trump’s thousands of lies while in office, more than sixteen thousand two hundred as of January 20th. Why should we be expected to believe that anything President Trump says has credibility?” Sanders asked.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) responded, “The short answer is you can’t.”

“I think we have seen [Trump] will say whatever he believes suits his interests,” Schiff said. “Let’s rely on the evidence and rely on others — and one is just a subpoena away.”

1:10 a.m.
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White House warns of trial that runs for ‘many weeks’ if witnesses summoned

Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow warned that Trump’s impeachment trial could run for “many weeks” if all of the witness and document demands from Senate Democrats were accepted.

His answer was in response to a question from Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), who asked Trump’s legal team how long a trial would take had the nearly dozen motions pushed by Senate Democrats last week succeeded. Sekulow argued that it would take a “long time” just to get through those motions, and that Republicans would insist on their own desired witnesses.

“This would be the first of many weeks,” Sekulow said. “I think we gotta be clear. They put this forward in an aggressive and fast-paced way and now they’re saying, ‘well now we need witnesses.’ ”

Later, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) refuted Sekulow’s argument, saying that Roberts could swiftly make the determination himself whether to enforce a subpoena for Bolton.

“We’ve got a perfectly good chief justice sitting right behind me who can make these decisions in real time,” Schiff said.

Schiff also added: “I’m no fan of John Bolton, although I like him a little more than I used to.”

12:50 a.m.
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Trump counsel says it learned what was in Bolton manuscript from news story

Democrats asked Trump’s lawyers to clarify when they learned of the allegations Bolton makes about Trump and Ukraine in his book.

Jay Sekulow said they found out the way the rest of the public did, a New York Times article on Sunday.

The senators also asked whether the decision by the National Security Council to block the book’s publication based on claims it contained classified information was made by career officials or political appointees.

Sekulow said it was his “understanding” that career officials at the NSC reviewed what was classified in the manuscript, but noted that the White House counsel’s office isn’t involved in those decisions.

“So I’m not in a position to give you full information on that,” he said. “My understanding is what is being done by career officials, but it is not being done by lawyers in the White House counsel’s office.”

12:40 a.m.
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Democrats ask if Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump should be under same scrutiny as Hunter Biden

A group of Democrats asked the House managers if the Republicans are concerned about Hunter Biden’s conflict of interest working in Ukraine, then shouldn’t there be an investigation into the foreign dealings of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) began by noting that she was a mother and that many people in the chamber have children and grandchildren they think the world of. She then implored the senators to stay focused on the issue at hand: whether to remove Trump.

“The reason why we’re here has nothing to do with anybody’s children,” Demings said.

At the end of her answer she repeated, “This doesn’t have anything to do with the president’s children or the Biden’s children. This is about the president’s wrongdoing.”

12:20 a.m.
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Van Hollen will file motion to require Chief Justice Roberts to rule on witnesses

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) intends to file a motion on Friday that would give Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is presiding over the trial, the job of deciding on witnesses and use of new evidence.

“No Republican can question the fairness of this approach — the Chief Justice oversees the highest court in our land and was nominated by a Republican President. And, given his authority to rule on questions of privilege, they should not fear a drawn-out process. I urge my colleagues to seek out the truth and the facts and to vote in support of my motion. Anything else constitutes an effort to hide the truth,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

The text of the motion is: “I move that for this trial the presiding officer shall issue subpoenas of any witness or any document that a Senator or a party moves to subpoena if the presiding officer deems them likely to have probative evidence relevant to either article of impeachment, and, consistent with his authority to rule on all questions of evidence, shall rule on any assertion of privilege.”

11:30 p.m.
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Dershowitz accuses his Harvard Law colleague of bias

Responding to a question from Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), Trump defense counsel Alan Dershowitz took aim at his Harvard Law School colleague Laurence Tribe, who has advised House Democrats on constitutional matters.

Dershowitz defended his position that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense, countering Democrats who argued that his position is ill-founded and outside of the academic consensus. He did so by accusing academia of bias, specifically naming Tribe.

“They simply do not give objective assessments of the constitutional history,” Dershowitz said. “Professor Tribe suddenly had a revelation himself at the time when [Democratic President Bill Clinton] was impeached — he said, ‘Oh, the law is clear; you cannot charge a president with a crime while he’s the sitting president.’ Now we have the current president. Professor Tribe got woke, and with no apparent new research, he came to the conclusion, ‘Oh, but this president can be charged while sitting in office.’ That’s not the kind of scholarship that should influence your decision.”

Schiff responded: “I don’t think you can write off the consensus of constitutional opinion by saying they’re all Never Trumpers, all the constitutional law professors,” before playing a video clip of Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University law professor who testified on Republicans’ behalf in the House, backing the argument that abuse of power is impeachable.

11:15 p.m.
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Trump tweets ‘GAME OVER!’ with clip of old Bolton interview

Trump tweeted a clip of Bolton on Fox News in August 2019 discussing Trump’s “warm and cordial” calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Republican National Committee released it with the subject line: “BOLTON BOMBSHELL.”

Then Trump shared the video with the tweet: “GAME OVER.”

It’s unclear why Trump and his allies think the video absolves Trump.