Impeachment Hearings Lose Millions of Viewers as Senate Trial Opens

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 22: A television screen shows House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) during the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump on January 22, 2020 in New York City. The trial, overseen by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, resumed today for its …
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Senate’s impeachment trial’s opening arguments drew 2.8 million fewer television viewers since the House began their own hearings in November, Nielsen ratings data show.

On Tuesday, the roughly 12-hour battle between President Donald Trump’s legal team and House Democrat impeachment managers attracted an audience on 11 million, down from 13.8 million from when the lower chamber took up the issue. The figures were garnered from 4.5 hours of coverage from six cable networks: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, NBC, and MSNBC. The ratings did not include those who watched the marathon hearing being lived streamed on social media.

The Senate launched its trial on Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introducing a resolution establishing the rules for the proceedings.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone kicked off the debate by lauding McConnell’s resolution and reaffirming President Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing. Cipollone also accused House Democrats of attempting to reverse the 2016 election results and interfering in the upcoming 2020 contest.

“Months from now, there’s going to be an election. Senators in this body, the last time, had very wise words,” he said. “They echoed the words of our Founders: ‘A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election.’ And that’s exactly what we have — take about the Framers’ worst nightmare! It’s a partisan impeachment that they delivered to your doorstep.”

“[Democrats] desperately need an illegitimate boost for their candidate in the 2020 election, whoever that may be,” he added. “Put simply, Democrats have no response to the President’s record of achievement in restoring growth and prosperity to the American economy, rebuilding America’s military, and confronting America’s adversaries abroad.”

When it was House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) time to speak, the lead Democrat impeachment manager urged Senate Republicans to allow for additional witnesses in order to have a “fair trial.”

“Why should this trial be different than any other trial? The short answer is it shouldn’t. But leader McConnell’s resolution would turn the trial process on its head,” Schiff said.

Last month, the House impeached President Trump in a partisan vote over his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he suggested allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, be taken into consideration. A partisan CIA officer, relying on second-hand information, filed a whistleblower complaint regarding the call, alleging that President Trump attempted to trade U.S. military aid with Ukraine for a probe into the Biden family. Reports indicate Hunter Biden was paid $83,000 monthly by Ukrainian energy giant Burisma Holdings while his father was vice president — despite having no experience in the industry. Hunter Biden is being considered as a possible witness in the Senate trial.

President Trump and Zelensky have rebuked claims that pressure was applied to investigate the Bidens. The White House released a transcript of their call as evidence that no wrongdoing took place.

Last month, a top Zelensky aide said Ukraine country never viewed that U.S. aid was tied to any investigations.

“We never had that feeling,” Andriy Yermak told TIME magazine. “We had a clear understanding that the aid has been frozen. We honestly said, ‘Okay, that’s bad, what’s going on here.’ We were told that they would figure it out. And after a certain amount of time the aid was unfrozen. We did not have the feeling that this aid was connected to any one specific issue.”

President Trump once more criticized the Democrats’ impeachment effort during a Wednesday news conference before departing Davos, Switzerland, where he delivered a speech before the World Economic Forum, calling it a “total hoax” and a “disgrace.”

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