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2 Things That Made Bernie Sanders Smile at the Impeachment Trial

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

It looked like it might have been the happiest moment in the day for Sen. Bernie Sanders, as the House impeachment managers were making their unpersuasive case last Wednesday for removing President Donald Trump.

A man rose up in the visitor's gallery at the back of the Senate chamber. As loud as he could, he yelled the Lord's name.

As he attempted to speak further -- in words I could not decipher -- the police dragged him from the chamber.

At the same moment, many of the reporters sitting in the press seats above the front of the chamber got up and quickly made their way toward the door in the center of the wall behind them.

Perhaps they were heading back to their laptops or cellphones to quickly report this "breaking news" of a man shouting in the Senate chamber. Or perhaps they were headed to the hallway on the other side of the chamber to discover who the shouter was and why he was shouting.

For a few moments, it was possible within the chamber to hear this detained protestor's now-muffled shouting from wherever the police had taken him.

Down on the Senate floor, Sanders was looking up -- not toward the door where the police had dragged out the shouting protestor, but toward the door where the anxious reporters were all scrambling to voluntarily leave the chamber.

There was a broad smile on his upturned face.

Sanders seemed to enjoy watching this spasmodic reaction by the congressional press corps.

On Wednesday, according to the videos posted by C-Span, the Senate impeachment proceedings -- including recesses -- lasted about 8 hours and 39 minutes. They began at 1:04 p.m. with Chief Justice John Roberts calling for the chaplain to lead the chamber in prayer and closed at 9:43 p.m. with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking for unanimous consent that the trial be adjourned until the next afternoon.

On Thursday, the proceedings -- including recesses -- went on for 9 hours and 30 minutes, beginning with the prayer at 1:02 p.m. and ending with McConnell's call for adjournment at 10:32 p.m.

Most of the senators on both sides of the aisle during the impeachment proceedings last Wednesday and Thursday -- when this writer had the opportunity to observe part of the event from the press gallery -- did their best to at least look attentive.

But were they?

McConnell may have been the most stoic person in the chamber. He almost always sat upright in his chair with his hands folded together and resting on his lap. His eyes appeared fixed on the impeachment managers, who spoke from a podium just a few feet in front of his desk.

Just across the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer presented a different image. He sometimes slouched in his chair, slid his feet under his desk and put his hand on his head.

On Thursday, Schumer even slipped his shoes off once.

At 3:09 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, when House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff was two hours and one minute into his opening statement, Bernie Sanders got up and left the chamber. He did not come back until 3:25 p.m., when Schiff -- now 2 hours and 17 minutes into his opening statement -- was still speaking.

To be sure, Sanders was not the only juror who felt compelled to take a break and leave the chamber as the House impeachment managers were making their arguments for why the president of the United States should be removed from office.

It may be a biological impossibility for most senators to be trapped in a seat that long.

Or to remain silent that long.

He and other senators also mitigated the length of the proceedings by quietly exchanging words with the senators seated next to them.

At 9:08 p.m. on Wednesday, Schiff took the podium yet again. His first words were: "So, we have about 20 minutes left in the presentation tonight."

Five minutes later, Sanders was standing at the back of the chamber near the door. At 9:19 p.m., he returned to his desk and sat down.

At 9:28 p.m., Schiff showed no sign of stopping -- 20 minutes into a final presentation he said would last about 20 minutes.

At 9:35 p.m., Sanders tapped the arm of Sen. Ben Cardin, who sits to his right, and said something to him.

At 9:37 p.m., Schiff said, "And let me just conclude -- "

With these words, Sanders turned his head to his left, away from Schiff, and with a big smile stretching across his face, appeared to silently laugh.

It was almost over. Schiff might finally stop.

I cannot know for sure what Bernie Sanders thought at that moment. But I suspect it might have been one time he truly had it right.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of

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