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We know the Trump impeachment trial was historic. Here are some moments that made it memorable.

John D'Anna, USA TODAY
·12 min read
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The historic impeachment trial of President Donald Trump formally began on a Thursday in January, when Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in to preside over the affair.

Over the course of three tumultuous weeks, senators – and the country – listened to hours of arguments from House impeachment managers and lawyers for the president. Senators got to pose questions. They rejected motions to call witnesses.

And then they moved to a vote on the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – that had been approved in December by the House of Representatives.

Here's a look at some of the memorable moments of the trial:

First-day fracas

As the marathon first-day rule-setting session dragged into the wee hours, tempers began to flare, which required the constitutionally anointed adult in the room, Roberts, to step in.

As the clock ticked toward 1:30 a.m., House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., argued passionately in favor of a Democratic amendment that would allow for witnesses to be called, including former national security adviser John Bolton.

It was one of 11 amendments Democrats offered, all of which were shot down, mostly on party-line votes.

Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that if senators voted against subpoenaing Bolton, they would be “part of the cover-up.”

“Either you want the truth and you must permit the witnesses or you want a shameful cover-up. History will judge and so will the electorate,” he said.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone took umbrage and demanded that Nadler apologize to the Senate, the president and “most of all, you owe an apology to the American people.”

“Mr. Nadler came up here and made false allegations against our team. He made false allegations against all of you. He accused you of a cover-up,” Cipollone told the senators. “The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you've addressed this body. This is the United States Senate. You're not in charge here.”

The fiery back-and-forth prompted Roberts to scold both sides.

"I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president's counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body," Roberts said. "One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse."

Sleeping senators, shaking heads: What you can't see on TV at impeachment trial

Goose, meet gander

Several days later, Nadler, D-N.Y., challenged the oft-repeated Republican argument that impeachment must allege a violation of statutory law.

To make his point, he played a 1999 video of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., an ardent Trump supporter, who was a manager 20 years ago in the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton.

Back then Graham offered his interpretation of Constitutional impeachment phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors," whose meaning has been debated during the Trump investigation.

“What’s a high crime?” Graham asked in the well of the Senate. “How about an important person hurting somebody of low means? It’s not very scholarly, but I think it’s the truth. I think that’s what they meant by high crimes. Doesn’t even have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you’ve committed a high crime.”

It was a classic "gotcha" moment. Not to be outdone, Trump's defense team drew from the same playbook.

As the defense concluded its side of the opening arguments, Cipollone said that lowering the bar for impeachment and removal from office would set a precedent that would leave presidents vulnerable to a Congress led by a different party.

To prove his point, he too set the WABAC Machine to 1999 and played a series of videos from Democrats decrying Clinton's impeachment .

One of them was from, wait for it, Nadler, who at the time warned against an impeachment of Clinton supported by one party. No Republicans have supported Trump’s impeachment.

“Such an impeachment will produce the divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come, and it will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions,” Nadler said.

“You were right,” Cipollone said to laughter in the Senate chamber. “But I’m sorry to say, you were also prophetic.”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said the consequence of being in politics for a long time was sometimes contradictory positions.

“That’s the irony of being here a long time, and all the different dynamics you might be part of,” Braun said.

Adam Schiff's speech

The Senate trial wasn't exactly a showcase for soaring oratory, but it had its moments. One was the concluding remarks by lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff, D-Calif., as his team wrapped up their opening arguments during the first week of the trial.

"If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost," said Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "Framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what (Trump) did was not right ... here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No Constitution can protect us, right doesn’t matter any more. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost."

His words went viral. By the next morning, the hashtag #RightMatters was trending on Twitter, and videos of the speech had been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

Even opposition Sen. James Inhoffe, R-Okla., conceded to reporters that “Schiff is very, very effective."

The glow didn't last. On Friday morning, Schiff drew a backlash from even moderate GOP senators when he referenced a CBS report that quoted an anonymous Trump confidante who reportedly warned that if Republican senators voted against Trump, "your head will be on a pike.”

Trump tweets, and tweets, and ...

For someone who kept tweeting about how boring the proceedings were, Trump sure seemed to be watching it a lot – at least when he wasn't rallying the base in Michigan, New Jersey and Iowa or signing his signature U.S.-Mexico Canada trade agreement.

We know this because he told us repeatedly at about 280 characters at a time via his favorite social media platform.

On the first day of opening arguments by House impeachment managers, Trump bested his personal record for most tweets as president in a single day with 142, which beat his old record of 123 set only a month earlier. Of course the new record might have an asterisk because Trump started the day at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which is six hours ahead of Washington.

Most of Trump's posts consisted of retweets of Republican lawmakers deriding the impeachment process. He also shared posts from the Republican National Committee and campaign videos that were tweeted from the account of Dan Scavino, Trump's social media director who handles many of his posts.

He kept it up through out the trial, often repeating familiar themes.

"Washington Dems have spent the last 3 years trying to overturn the last election – and we will make sure they face another crushing defeat in the NEXT ELECTION. Together, we are going to win back the House, we are going to hold the Senate, & we are going to keep the White House!" one read.

A wing and a prayer

The Senate impeachment trial consisted of a lot of droning. A. Lot. Even by Senate standards. Fortunately, each day started with the dulcet baritone of Senate Chaplain Barry Black as he opened each session with the daily prayer.

In this image from video, as presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts listens Senate chaplain retired Navy Adm. Barry Black gives the opening prayer during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP) ORG XMIT: DCJE102
In this image from video, as presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts listens Senate chaplain retired Navy Adm. Barry Black gives the opening prayer during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP) ORG XMIT: DCJE102

With a voice that even the All-State commercial guy would envy, Black, a retired naval rear admiral and a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, used the platform to wish Roberts a happy birthday on one day, but mostly he exhorted the Senate to do what's best for the country.

"As our lawmakers have become jurors ... help them remember that patriots reside on both sides of the aisle, that words have consequences and that how something is said can be as important as what is said," he intoned on the first day of opening arguments. "Give them a civility built upon integrity that brings consistency in their beliefs and actions."

Whether any senators paid heed is anybody's guess, but it sure was a great way to start each session.

Rejecting Rand Paul

Nearly 200 question cards from the Senate were passed up to Roberts during the two-day question phase of the impeachment trial. Roberts swiped right on all but one of them.

It was submitted by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Roberts read the card, then said, “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”

He offered no explanation, but speculation immediately turned to whether Paul had tried to out the name of the whistleblower whose initial concern about the propriety of a phone call between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky led to the impeachment investigation.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Paul walked out of the chamber after Roberts declined the question. He told reporters his question didn’t name the whistleblower – although his question, which he wrote in a tweet, mentioned the name of an official some Republicans have speculated is the whistleblower.

Paul trends: #ArrestRandPaul trends on Twitter after he walks out

The question revived allegations from some Trump allies that the whistleblower “conspired” with a House committee staff member to reveal information that would lead to the president’s impeachment. Paul did not offer evidence for the claim.

“It was an incorrect finding to not allow a question,” Paul said, but he declined to say why he did not try to force a vote to overrule Roberts.

Before the question, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opened the question session by assuring Roberts that the Senate would respect his "unique position in reading in reading our questions."

“I want to be able to continue to assure him that that level of consideration for him will continue," he said.

Later, when senators each got 10 minutes to speak before the acquittal vote, Paul read his question verbatim, including the name of the person Roberts refused to read.

Bolton's bombshell

Despite complaints from Trump that his defense team's Saturday morning opening day time slot was "Death Valley" for television ratings, they breezed through in just two hours and signaled that they'd use nowhere near their allotted 24 hours of speaking time.

Then came the Sunday surprise.

The New York Times reported that a forthcoming book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton contained explosive revelations, namely that Trump personally told Bolton he had ordered a hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until its president agreed to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

National security adviser John Bolton.
National security adviser John Bolton.

The disclosure put wind in the sails of Democrats' efforts to call witnesses in the trial, something the Republicans had successfully thwarted. As the trial wore on, McConnell, wrestled with keeping more than three Republicans from siding with the Democrats on the issue.

House impeachment managers argued that Bolton's claims directly contradicted key elements of Trump's defense and that a fair trial required his testimony.

Who is John Bolton? Trump's former national security adviser became a focus in impeachment trial

Trump denied Bolton's account in a tweet and later in front of reporters at the White House. He and his defense team have argued that he withheld aid to get Ukraine to address its longstanding corruption problems and that it was unrelated to his desire for Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation into Biden.

Quote, unquote

“I would not put people in Gitmo through this to Wednesday – that would be violating the Geneva Conventions.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., after it looked as if the impeachment trial would drag out past its expected conclusion

"This is not a banana republic. It's the democratic republic of the United States of America. It's wrong." – House impeachment manager Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., on soliciting a foreign government's interference in elections

"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." – Trump impeachment defense attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz

"Richard Nixon once made this argument: 'When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.' He was forced to resign in disgrace. In America, no one is above the law." – Hillary Clinton on Twitter in response to Dershowitz

"I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense." – Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., explaining why he voted against calling witnesses

“The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming ... and the president has led a clear path for them to interfere, once again, in our election as they are currently doing.” – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment trial: Moments include Schiff, Paul, Roberts, tweets