Freed momentarily from the Senate's impeachment trial, several presidential candidates high-tailed it to Iowa on Saturday for a last-minute blitz of campaigning before the state's caucuses kick off the battle for the Democratic nomination.
Greeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren was one of the state's most coveted endorsements. The Des Moines Register called the Massachusetts Democrat "the best leader for these times." Adding that Warren "is not the radical some perceive her to be," the Register said Warren "has proven she is tough and fearless."
Warren as well as Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota planned to hold town halls, rallies and concerts across Iowa on Saturday to keep their supporters motivated heading into the final stretch of the caucus campaign. They'll join former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who don't have Senate obligations and have already spent much of the past week in Iowa.
The burst of campaigning comes as the contest for the Democratic nomination enters a critical — and volatile — phase. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Saturday showed Sanders with a slight edge over the other leading candidates, but the race remains competitive. Several polls show Biden, Buttigieg and Warren are still among the front-runners.
"There's still plenty of time for movement," said Kurt Meyer, chairman of the Tri-County Democrats in northern Iowa. "Every part of the ground game counts." Sanders hit the ground Saturday with confidence.
"I believe that our campaign, our energy, our grassroots movement, our agenda is the approach that will speak to working people who, in many cases, have given up on politics," he said in Marshalltown. He added that he's taking on Democratic Party powers "and the establishment is getting a little bit nervous."
Stuck in Washington for much of the past week, Sanders and his fellow senators in the race have flooded Iowa and other early voting states with top-shelf surrogates — rock star lawmakers, former Cabinet members, celebrities and spouses. The stand-ins aren't a guaranteed way to sustain excitement or win votes, but the campaigns see it as the best way to maximize their reach in a nominating fight that could turn on the narrowest of margins in Iowa and other early states.
Biden isn't bound to the Senate like some of his rivals, but he must navigate the trial nonetheless. House Democrats' charges that Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress are rooted in the president pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate discredited theories about Biden's foreign policy duties in Ukraine as vice president and his son Hunter's personal business dealings there.
Trump's defense team began its defense of the president on Saturday, and some Republicans are determined to frame the matter more around Biden than around the president.
After a brief trip to New Hampshire, the second state to vote in Democrats' nominating process, Biden planned to return to Iowa on Saturday evening and intended to remain in the state until caucus day. He began the day announcing an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who joined her fellow first-term congresswoman from Iowa, Abby Finkenauer, in backing Biden.
Ahead of his arrival in Iowa, Sanders sent progressive icon and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the state. She addressed dozens of Sanders volunteers at one of his field offices inside a stirp mall, before heading out to canvass in Cedar Rapids. She promised to wear her green "Green New Deal" baseball cap to join them on a clear but cold Saturday, amid snow drifts that piled along plowed roads, and melting ice.
"We are here to make a revolution that lasts," Ocasio-Cortez said.
She will later join Sanders and filmmaker Michael Moore for a Saturday night rally in Ames.
Sanders' wife, Jane, and actor Danny Glover were campaigning on his behalf in Nevada, which hosts the third nominating contest. Jane Sanders predicted a strong showing in the early voting states.
"I think we'll win Iowa," she told about 40 staff and volunteers. "I think we'll win New Hampshire. And then I think it's up to you whether we win Nevada. But it looks great."
Sanders' signs of strength in Iowa are enough for the Buttigieg campaign to respond. The campaign sent prospective donors a fundraising solicitation warning of the Vermont senator's strength.
"Bernie Sanders is raising tons of money, he's surging in the polls, and he has dark money groups attacking his competitors," the email said. "If things stay steady until the Iowa Caucuses in just nine days, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee of our party."
Warren has Julian Castro, the former Obama housing secretary and onetime presidential candidate, in Nevada. U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., another star of the House freshman class like Ocasio-Cortez, is in South Carolina to back Warren.
The Senate adjourned about noon EST Saturday, giving the presidential candidates time to return to Iowa for late-afternoon and evening events. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., was going to New Hampshire.
The weekend is critical for them, depending on how many more days the trial will extend this coming week. Warren's campaign on Saturday hit prospective donors with a frank plea. Fall short of her financial targets, the campaign wrote, and "we risk having to scale back our advertising plan during the most critical period of this election."
President Donald Trump's lawyers plunged into his impeachment trial defense Saturday by accusing Democrats of striving to overturn the 2016 election, arguing that investigations of Trump's dealings with Ukraine have not been a fact-finding mission but a politically motivated effort to drive him from the White House.
"They're here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history," White House counsel Pat Cipollone told senators. "And we can't allow that to happen."
The Trump legal team's arguments in the rare Saturday session were aimed at rebutting allegations that the president abused his power when he asked Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and then obstructed Congress as it tried to investigate. The lawyers are mounting a wide-ranging, aggressive defense asserting an expansive view of presidential powers and portraying Trump as besieged by political opponents determined to ensure he won't be reelected this November.
"They're asking you to tear up all the ballots across this country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people," Cipollone said.
Though Trump is the one on trial, the defense team made clear that it intends to paint the impeachment case as a mere continuation of the investigations that have shadowed the president since before he took office — including one into allegations of Russian election interference on his behalf. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow suggested Democrats were investigating the president over Ukraine simply because they couldn't bring him down for Russia.
"That — for this," said Sekulow, holding up a copy of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which he accused Democrats of attempting to "relitigate." That report detailed ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia but did not allege a criminal conspiracy to tip the election.
From the White House, Trump tweeted his response: "Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is."
His team made only a two-hour presentation, reserving the heart of its case for Monday.
Acquittal appears likely, given that Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and a two-thirds vote would be required for conviction and removal from office. Republican senators already eager to clear Trump said Saturday that the White House presentation had shredded the Democratic case.
Several of the senators shook hands with Trump's lawyers after their presentation. The visitors galleries were filled, onlookers watching for the historic proceedings and the rare weekend session of Senate.
The Trump attorneys are responding to two articles of impeachment approved last month by the House — one that accuses him of encouraging Ukraine to investigate Biden at the same time the administration withheld military aid from the country, and the other that accuses him of obstructing Congress by directing aides not to testify or produce documents.
Trump's defense team took center stage following three days of methodical and passionate arguments from Democrats, who wrapped up Friday by warning that Trump will persist in abusing his power and endangering American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020 election. They also implored Republicans to allow new testimony to be heard before senators render a final verdict.
"Give America a fair trial," said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democratic impeachment manager. "She's worth it."
In making their case that Trump invited Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election, the seven Democratic prosecutors peppered their arguments with video clips, email correspondence and lessons in American history. At stake, they said, was the security of U.S. elections, America's place in the world and checks on presidential power
On Saturday morning, House managers made the procession across the Capitol at 9:30 to deliver the 28,578-page record of their case to the Senate.
Republicans accused Democrats of cherrypicking evidence and omitting information favorable to the president, casting in a nefarious light actions that Trump was legitimately empowered to take. They focused particular scorn on Schiff, trying to undercut his credibility.
Schiff later told reporters: "When your client is guilty, when your client is dead to rights, you don't want to talk about your client, you want to attack the prosecution."
The Trump team had teased the idea that it would draw attention on Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company Burisma, while his father was vice president. But neither Biden was a focus of Saturday arguments.
Instead, Republicans argued that there was no evidence that Trump made the security aid contingent on Ukraine announcing an investigation into the Bidens and that Ukraine didn't even know that the money had been paused until shortly before it was released.
Trump had reason to be concerned about corruption in Ukraine and the aid was ultimately released, they said.
"Most of the Democratic witnesses have never spoken to the president at all, let alone about Ukraine security assistance," said deputy White House Counsel Michael Purpura.
Pupura told the senators the July 25 call in which Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the Biden investigation was consistent with the president's concerns about corruption, though Trump never mentioned that word, according to the rough transcript released by the White House.
Pupura said everyone knows that when Trump asked Zelenskiy to "do us a favor," he meant the U.S., not himself.
"This entire impeachment process is about the house managers' insistence that they are able to read everybody's thoughts," Sekulow said. "They can read everybody's intention. Even when the principal speakers, the witnesses themselves, insist that those interpretations are wrong."
Defense lawyers say Trump was a victim not only of Democratic rage but also of overzealous agents and prosecutors. Sekulow cited mistakes made by the FBI in its surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide in the now-concluded Trump-Russia election investigation, and referred to the multi-million-dollar cost of that probe.
"You cannot simply decide this case in a vacuum," he said.
One of the president's lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, is expected to argue next week that an impeachable offense requires criminal-like conduct, even though many legal scholars say that's not true. Sekulow also said the Bidens would be discussed in the days ahead.
The Senate is heading next week toward a pivotal vote on Democratic demands for testimony from top Trump aides, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, who refused to appear before the House. It would take four Republican senators to join the Democratic minority to seek witnesses, and so far the numbers appear lacking.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican ally of Trump's, said he thought the legal team had successfully poked holes in the Democrats' case and that the Democrats had "told a story probably beyond what the market would bear."
He said he had spoken to Trump two days ago, when he was leaving Davos, Switzerland.
Asked if Trump had any observations on the trial, Graham replied: "Yeah, he hates it."
Republicans in the Senate appear unmoved by the Democratic push for witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial despite persistent appeals from Rep. Adam Schiff and the other House prosecutors.
Over three days of arguments, Democrats warned that the senators will live to regret not delving deeper into Trump's dealings with Ukraine. One of the managers, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, even told them it was "treacherous" to vote against gathering more evidence.
Yet there's no indication the Democrats are moving closer to persuading four Republicans to break with their party in a critical vote expected next week — the minimum needed to reach a majority for subpoenas and extend a trial that seems on track for Trump's acquittal.
"As someone who has enjoyed really fairly strong working relationships with a lot of my colleagues, I've been struck by how little outreach and conversation there has been" about calling witnesses, said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who has often been at the center of bipartisan negotiations.
"I understand that we are in a very partisan and divided environment, but I'm hoping that some conversations will begin. But so far there have been strikingly few."
Most Republicans have solidified around the argument that the House should have sued for the witnesses who refused to testify on Trump's orders, rather than looked to the Senate to compel their testimony. Others have suggested that the case hasn't been convincing enough.
The central witness that Democrats are seeking is former national security adviser John Bolton, who was present for many of the episodes examined in the House's impeachment inquiry. Bolton, who often clashed with Trump, refused to talk to House investigators but has said he would testify in a Senate trial.
Republicans have little interest.
"We have heard plenty," said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Senate's No. 3 Republican. "They shouldn't need any more information to make the final decision."
A GOP senator who is in a tough re-election this year, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, also appeared to dismiss the idea Friday as he stood behind the closing doors of an elevator.
"We've heard from a lot of impeachment witnesses," Gardner said, referring to those who testified in the House.
Republicans say privately that beyond the potential for damaging information to come out about Trump, they don't believe it would benefit themselves politically to hear witnesses. One top GOP aide said there's no political gain in working with Democrats — and no reward inside the Senate for tackling the idea.
A senior Senate Republican said that the virtual certainty of a Trump acquittal, and that witnesses are unlikely to move public opinion, cements their views. Democrats only need a simple majority of the Senate to call witnesses, but two-thirds of the chamber must vote to convict. Both Republicans requested anonymity to discuss internal party deliberations.
Those dynamics could certainly change in a fast-moving trial where evidence has continued to come out. Democrats are hoping for a dramatic moment similar to when the late Sen. John McCain unexpectedly voted in 2017 against legislation that would have led to repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law, killing the bill.
And Schiff and the impeachment managers are working to convince Republicans, one by one.
"This is not a trial over a speeding ticket or shoplifting," Schiff told senators during arguments Friday. "This is an impeachment trial involving the president of the United States. These witnesses have important first-hand testimony to offer. The House wishes to call them in the name of the American people, and the American people overwhelmingly want to hear what they have to say."
According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 7 in 10 respondents — including majorities of Republicans and Democrats — said Trump should allow top aides to appear as witnesses. The poll showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable percentage, 14%, said they didn't know enough to have an opinion.
The battle for witnesses has been largely focused on four Republicans: Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate up for re-election who has said she is "likely" to want to hear from them; Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who has said he wants to hear from Bolton; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who worked with Collins to ensure there would be a vote on witnesses; and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has so far remained quiet on how he will vote.
Alexander is thought to be the the least certain of the four. "I think the question is, do we need more evidence? Do we need to hear witnesses? Do we need more documents?" Alexander said Friday. He said "that question can only be answered" after both the prosecution and the president's defense finish their arguments, likely the middle of the next week.
Collins and Murkowski also took issue late Friday when Schiff repeated an anonymously sourced report that the White House would punish Republicans who voted against Trump.
As Democrats see it, they are only one or two votes away from a trial that could bring heaps of new evidence against Trump. There are 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the Senate, and a tie vote would mean the failure of a motion to call witnesses.
The Republican resistance to hearing more evidence has been infuriating to Democrats who say the GOP is trying to cover up Trump's wrongdoing. The two articles of impeachment charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after he pushed Ukraine to announce investigations of Democrats. At the time, Trump was withholding military aid to the country.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, says he doesn't see any kind of bipartisan group forming to negotiate the witness question, and charged that his Republican colleagues won't stand up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The GOP leader has strongly supported Trump and signaled that he doesn't want to prolong the trial with new documents and testimony.
"This place is replete with head fakes that 'we're going to stand up to McConnell," said Brown, referring to Republicans. "And in the end it looks like 52 sheep and McConnell."
The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey climbed to 21 Saturday, with more than 1,000 people injured, emergency officials said.
Rescue workers were continuing to search for some 30 people buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Elazig province and neighboring Malatya, said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. He warned that the death toll could rise.
Emergency workers and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in the affected areas. Mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories were opened for hundreds who left their homes after the quake.
"The earthquake was very severe, we desperately ran out (of our home)," Emre Gocer told the state-run Anadolu news agency as he sheltered with his family at a sports hall in the town of Sivrice in Elazig. "We don't have a safe place to stay right now."
The quake hit Friday at 8:55 p.m. local time (1755 GMT) at a depth of 6.7 kilometers (around 4 miles) near Sivrice, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said. Various earthquake monitoring centers gave magnitudes ranging from 6.5 to 6.8.
AFAD said it was followed by 228 aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.
At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed, said Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum. Hundreds of other structures were damaged and made unsafe.
AFAD said in a statement that 17 people were killed in Elazig and four in Malatya. Some 1,030 people were hurt.
Television footage showed emergency workers removing two people from the wreckage of a collapsed building in the town of Gezin. Another person was saved in the city of Elazig, the provincial capital, and two more from a house in Doganyol, Malatya.
AFAD said 28 rescue teams were working around the clock. More than 1,300 personnel from 39 of Turkey's 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site.
"Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise," Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said.
Communication companies announced free telephone and internet services for residents in the quake-hit region, while Turkish Airlines announced extra flights.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said emergency work was proceeding under the threat of aftershocks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter overnight that all measures were being taken to "ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many provinces is overcome with the least amount of loss."
Neighboring Greece, which is at odds with Turkey over maritime boundaries and gas exploitation rights, offered to send rescue crews should they be needed.
Elazig is some 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.
A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.
Now that 2020 is underway, China and the United States are expected to "work towards a relationship of coordination, cooperation, and stability," a senior Chinese diplomat has said.
In a welcome speech at a gala dinner celebrating the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday, Chinese Consul General in New York Huang Ping expressed his good wishes and expectations for the two countries and their peoples in the Year of the Rat.
Noting that he considers 2020 "a year of new beginnings and renewals," he hopes both China and the United States make new progress together, with their bilateral relationship taking "a new turn for more positive and win-win results."
"As we hail the Year of the Rat, I hope our two peoples can move up on a pleasant note, and the two nations can work towards a relationship of coordination, cooperation, and stability," he said.
Speaking about his resolutions for the year ahead, the diplomat expects the U.S. and China to show more mutual trust, enhance understanding of each other, and create happier lives for their respective peoples.
"Forty years into diplomatic ties, our relationship has been continuously enriched by different shades of exchanges, and still enjoys great potential for growth. In this New Year of the Rat, let's keep up our efforts for the mission of our friendship, and bring new tangible benefits to our two peoples and beyond," Huang added.
A spectacular fireworks display followed the gala dinner, lighting up the sky above the Hudson River as part of the evening's celebrations.