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View from the gallery: Restless senators eager to flee impeachment court for weekend

Chief justice silences senators for the first time in the trial

From left, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., leave the Senate Republicans’ caucus meeting in the Capitol during a recess in the Senate impeachment trial proceedings on Friday evening. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
From left, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., leave the Senate Republicans’ caucus meeting in the Capitol during a recess in the Senate impeachment trial proceedings on Friday evening. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton accidentally voted the wrong way on a procedural vote late Friday during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, so when he got the next vote right he turned to his colleagues and took a dramatic bow.

Georgia Republican David Perdue missed his queue to vote twice because he was chatting with Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who offered to take the blame.

By the final vote Friday night, senators grew rowdy, laughing and talking with one another before the roll call was finished. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. slammed the gavel and called for order for the first time in the trial, which silenced lawmakers.

It was the 10th day in the chamber for the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, and the 100 senators appeared relieved that the trial was on its way to a conclusion.

The sides had just come back from a break and agreed on procedures to allow quick votes, a free Saturday and a final vote Wednesday.

On one side of the chamber, Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California shared a laugh. On the other side, Republicans Martha McSally of Arizona, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota chatted and laughed.

Whatever Jerry Moran of Kansas said to Richard M. Burr of North Carolina left the Republicans smiling. Kansas Republican Pat Roberts was wearing a large back brace Friday, wrapped and fastened over his dress shirt, but under his suit jacket.

He’s not the only lawmaker feeling the impact of entire days confined to chairs that are more decorative than ergonomic. A few other lawmakers have been spotted with lumbar support cushions or rolling up a shawl or blanket for some back support.

Earlier in the day, most senators paid attention and took notes during the closing arguments presented by House impeachment managers, despite the fact that earlier that day many senators had announced how they would vote on calling witnesses or on acquittal.

Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska appeared to pay attention and take regular notes during the arguments from lead House manager Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif.

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham missed at least the first hour of action Friday. More than a dozen Republicans left the chamber for a significant portion of the closing arguments presented by House impeachment managers. Graham and Cruz returned for the end of Schiff’s arguments.

Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, were frequent visitors of their cloakroom throughout arguments. Several Republicans invaded the Democratic cloakroom during the day.

At one point, Klobuchar opened the Democratic cloakroom’s door to leave, but she immediately ran into Missouri Republican Roy Blunt who was seeking to enter the rival party’s safe haven. Klobuchar decided to chat with him in her cloakroom instead of returning to her desk.

Throughout the afternoon, Blunt became a Democrat whisperer, chatting during the break with Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Chris Coons of Delaware, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sanders, an independent.

Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse and Cruz also entered the Democrats’ cloakroom.

Later in the afternoon, a 20-minute quorum call ended up lasting around an hour — and turned into something of a bipartisan happy hour.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York chatted for several minutes. Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota and former whip John Cornyn of Texas joined the conversation and the two became messengers for what was said between McConnell and Schumer.

The current and erstwhile whips huddled with GOP senators throughout the lengthy quorum call, likely relaying McConnell’s plans. At one point, Thune called over McConnell’s aide Laura Dove to address Republicans Jim Risch of Idaho, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema seemed as comfortable on the Republican side of the chamber. Sinema walked to the opposite side of the chamber where she talked with Utah Republican Mitt Romney for several minutes before approaching the area of the floor where GOP leadership sits, chatting up Thune and Cornyn.

Senators from the same states used the break to catch up as Sullivan greeted Murkowski and Alabama Democrat Doug Jones made his way to Alabama Republican Richard C. Shelby’s desk.

During the quorum call, the front row of the gallery — where Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and wife of Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, was sitting — became populated with a trio of senators. Brown sat next to her talking for over 20 minutes, at times her hand gently resting on his shoulder.

Michael Bennet came up next, where he greeted Brown and gave Schultz a hug. The Colorado Democrat proceeded to shake the hand of a priest sitting behind him, sat down and spoke with those sitting in the second row.

Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, became the final senator to join, sharing a conversation with someone seated to his left.

Brown and Bennet egressed in tandem. Tillis returned to the floor minutes later.

Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy had his phone openly on his desk at the start of Friday’s arguments, laying screen-side up on top of a white legal pad on the right-hand side of his desk. On the other side, Cassidy scrawled something on a yellow sticky note, affixed it to his lower lip, and then reached into his briefcase for a different notebook and marked a page.

While Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas advocated for witnesses, Republican David Perdue of Georgia and Cassidy spoke loudly in the back row, putting no effort into whispering. Their chatter was audible to reporters on the balcony, but the topic was not discernible.

Drew Hammill, communications director for Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an appearance, sitting in the back row of the visitors’ gallery. He yawned and wiped his face with his hands at one point.

Cassidy rolled his chair backward away from his desk, gripping the armrests as he scooted past his neighbor Perdue and finally saddled up at the desk of Cruz. The two had a close whispered conversation before he scooted back around to his own desk.

New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand munched on an apple in the cloakroom just a moment into a break. Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson is not a chocolate fiend like many of his colleagues, but has instead regularly reached for what look like small packages of Sour Patch Kids or other fruity gummies.

Booker is back on his page game. The New Jersey Democrat is known for being friendly with the teenage helpers, chatting with them, taking selfies and making them laugh.

Booker took time during a long break in the arguments to talk with Democratic pages, asking them questions and roping in colleagues to also introduce themselves and join the conversation. He pulled Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a doorkeeper and a Capitol Police officer over to have a laugh with the teens. Booker gave one page a big hug.

Michael Macagnone and Chris Marquette contributed to this report.

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