The opening of the US Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump saw 11 million TV viewers tune in to watch the historic proceedings on Tuesday.
Lawmakers sparred over witnesses and records for some 12 hours, till almost two in the morning, as Republicans rejected the Democrats’ bid to obtain evidence and call witnesses.
The Nielsen ratings data showed the number of viewers who engaged with the trial fell short of the roughly 13.8 million viewers who tuned in last November for the first day of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.
Tuesday’s figures covered 4.5 hours of daytime coverage across six networks that aired live, including Walt Disney Co’s ABC, ViacomCBS Inc’s CBS, Comcast Corp’s NBC and MSNBC, AT&T Inc’s CNN and Fox Corp’s Fox News.
The TV ratings do not include people who watched live coverage via online streaming or followed the event on social media.
The impeachment trial resumed on Wednesday, with opening arguments from the Democrats in what is the third presidential impeachment trial in US history.
House Democrats have opened arguments in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, appealing to Republican senators to vote to remove the US president from office to ‘protect our democracy’.
Mr Trump’s lawyers sat by, waiting their turn, while he blasted the proceedings from afar, threatening jokingly to face off with the Democrats by coming to ‘sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces’.
Democratic accusers say Mr Trump was the one with the ‘corrupt scheme’ to abuse his presidential power and then obstruct Congress’ investigation.
The challenge before the House managers is clear. Democrats have 24 hours over the next three days to prosecute the charges against Mr Trump, trying to win over not just senators sitting silently in the chamber but an American public, deeply divided over the president and his impeachment.
Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, appealed to senators not to be ‘cynical’ about the politics of impeachment, asking them to draw on the intent of the nation’s Founding Fathers who provided the remedy of impeachment.
‘Over the coming days, we will present to you – and to the American people – the extensive evidence collected during the House’s impeachment inquiry into the president’s abuse of power,’ said Mr Schiff, standing before the senators.
‘You will hear their testimony at the same time as the American people. That is, if you will allow it.’
The proceedings are unfolding at the start of an election year and there are few signs that Republican are interested in calling more witnesses or going beyond a fast-track assessment to bring a quick vote on charges related to Mr Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Mr Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House in December on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a key political rival, and for impeding the inquiry into the matter.
The president denies he has done anything wrong and is likely to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled 100-member Senate, where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.