Impeachment Briefing: The Opening Ceremony

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This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weeknight.

  • In the Senate chamber, Representative Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, read aloud the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against President Trump, signifying the opening of the trial. “President Trump,” Mr. Schiff said, “warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”

  • Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in as the presiding officer of the trial, taking an oath to administer “impartial justice.” Chief Justice Roberts, who will play a mostly ceremonial role at the trial, then swore in the senators, who approached one by one to sign their names into a book of oaths, before adjourning the trial until Tuesday afternoon.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, was working Thursday on a resolution setting the parameters for the first phase of the trial. A draft version of his resolution, reviewed this week by Republican officials, said that after opening arguments and questioning from senators there would be votes on hearing testimony from witnesses.

    Read our full story on the day, more about the scene on Capitol Hill, about the possibility of the trial moving into a private session and other highlights from the trial’s opening. And here’s a video compilation of Thursday’s action.

The official start of the trial meant that Thursday featured at least as much pageantry as Wednesday, when the articles were passed by the House of Representatives and marched over to the Senate. Here’s how things looked on Capitol Hill.

An impeachment trial means more staff in and around a Senate chamber already brimming with lawmakers, managers and lawyers. Above, Architect of the Capitol employees delivered tables to a room off the Senate floor.

Capitol Police officers wore special uniforms for the occasion: ties are mandatory attire for an impeachment trial, in place of the typical turtlenecks.

Around noon, the House impeachment managers made another march across the Capitol to read the articles of impeachment in the Senate chamber. Mr. Schiff’s rendition of them could be considered impeachment’s equivalent of an Olympic torch-lighting ceremony.

Stanchions hung over a chair near the Senate floor, used to cordon off press. The Capitol Police and Senate sargeant-at-arms are cracking down on press access during the trial, a move that has alarmed reporters covering it.

Chief Justice Roberts made the (extremely short) trip from the Supreme Court to the Capitol this afternoon to be sworn in as the presiding officer of the trial. He donned his judicial robe in the Senate but left in a suit.

There was dramatic news out of Kyiv: Ukraine opened a criminal investigation after reports that allies of Mr. Trump had the American ambassador under surveillance. The news came after days of eye-opening revelations related to documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, that Democrats say call for more attention in the trial. Here’s a rundown of how we got here.

House impeachment investigators released a cache of text messages, photos and calendar entries that were turned over by Mr. Parnas and his lawyer. We saw text messages showing Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, referring to an effort to obtain a visa for a former Ukrainian official who leveled corruption allegations against Joe Biden. The documents also contain a series of exchanges between Mr. Parnas and a Ukrainian prosecutor helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Biden family.

The new evidence also showed that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine might have been under surveillance. In a series of cryptic text messages, Mr. Parnas talked to a man named Robert Hyde, who appeared to be monitoring the movements of the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump recalled under mysterious circumstances. F.B.I. agents have visited Mr. Hyde’s home and business, according to a law enforcement official.

Mr. Parnas said he was “betting my whole life” that Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Parnas expressed regret for having trusted Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani. His lawyer said he was eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Mr. Giuliani.

Ukraine said that the alleged surveillance was a possible violation of domestic and international law. The Internal Affairs Ministry said in a statement that “the published messages contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats on the territory of another state.”

Mr. Parnas could be a part of the trial. Mr. Schiff said Thursday that House impeachment managers would consider whether to press the Senate to call Mr. Parnas to testify.

  • The Government Accountability Office said that the Trump administration violated the law in withholding security aid to Ukraine. The agency said the Office of Management and Budget violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld nearly $400 million for a “policy reason,” even though the funds had been allocated by Congress.

  • Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, indicated that she would be inclined to vote to allow new witness testimony, but only after opening arguments and senatorial questions were completed.

  • Mr. Trump had some (factually questionable) thoughts on Thursday’s action in the Senate chamber:

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