Trump’s conduct is not ‘America first’, Democrats argue at impeachment trial

 

Donald Trump put his personal political interests ahead of his country’s national security and free and fair elections, prosecutors at his impeachment trial on Capitol Hill said on Thursday, telling US senators: “This conduct is not ‘America first’. It is Donald Trump first.”Democratic impeachment managers, who are acting as the prosecutors bringing the case for Trump’s removal from office, were spending a second day in Washington laying out their case against Trump in only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House of Representatives’ judiciary committee, argued that Trump should be convicted of two articles of impeachment passed by the House last month – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden last year, and obstructing an investigation into the affair.Related: Case for impeachment fails to disturb McConnell’s sweet dreams of acquittal“This presidential stonewalling of Congress is unprecedented in the 238-year history of our constitutional republic,” Nadler told the Senate. “It puts even President [Richard] Nixon to shame.”

Republicans, for their part, have voted against taking witness testimony while complaining the trial was bringing no new evidence to light, and multiple Republicans called on Thursday for the testimony of Hunter Biden, the former vice-president’s son once employed by a Ukrainian gas company.

On Thursday, the impeachment managers sought to expose the hypocrisy, as they framed it, in Trump’s defense by using Republicans’ own past words against them.

Nadler played archival clips of Senator Lindsey Graham and Alan Dershowitz, a member of Trump’s legal team, arguing during the impeachment of Bill Clinton that an impeachable “abuse of power” need not be based on an underlying criminal offense. That is the mainstream view of constitutional scholars, but not Trump’s current defense argument.

To argue that Trump’s obsession with supposed Ukrainian hacking in the 2016 election was “far fetched and crazy”, in the words of manager Silvia Garcia of Texas, the managers played video of Trump’s FBI director, Christopher Wray; Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert; and Trump’s former top Russia expert, Fiona Hill, debunking the conspiracy theory.

“He must not remain in power one moment longer,” Nadler said of Trump.

In one video clip from last month’s House impeachment hearings, expert witness Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, testified: “I just want to stress that if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created the constitution, including impeachment, to protect against.”

Democratic House impeachment managers have a total of 24 hours over three days, which makes it likely that their case will continue into Friday.

But so far, all the signs are that Republicans are unmoved. Even as Schiff presented a meticulous and lengthy narrative on Wednesday, praised by the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, as a “tour de force”, the Republicans’ body language in the Senate chamber and public statements outside it expressed weariness and disbelief.

“I think it’s now clear we absolutely must call Hunter Biden and we probably need to call Joe Biden,” Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri, said during a break Thursday. “Based on the House managers’ presentation today, I think we probably are going to need to hear from the former vice-president if indeed we call witnesses.”

Jay Sekulow, a leader of Trump’s legal team, argued that nothing Democrats had said had changed the disposition of the case. He declined to comment on whether Trump’s team would take all of its allotted 24 hours to respond.

“We’re going to use a sufficient amount of time, to not only defend our case but to point out the inconsistencies in their case,” Sekulow said. “We’re not going to try to run the clock out.” Trump is not expected to appear at his own congressional trial.

A copy of a Senate draft resolution to be offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., regarding the procedures during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate is photographed in Washington, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. McConnell is proposing a condensed, two-day calendar for opening arguments in Trump's impeachment trial, ground rules that are raising objections from Democrats on the eve of the landmark proceedings. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)©

Provided by Associated Press A copy of a Senate draft resolution to be offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., regarding the procedures during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate is photographed in Washington, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. McConnell is proposing a condensed, two-day calendar for opening arguments in Trump’s impeachment trial, ground rules that are raising objections from Democrats on the eve of the landmark proceedings. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick) Schumer accused Republicans of “inventing shiny objects and so-called outrages” to deflect media and public attention from the fairness of the trial.The smooth rollout of the Democratic case had just one hiccup, shortly before the dinner break, when Schiff teed up a video clip of testimony by national security aide Alexander Vindman – but the video did not play.“Let’s hear Colonel Vindman,” Schiff said. “No? We don’t have that? Let’s not hear Colonel Vindman. We’ve heard enough from Colonel Vindman.”Trump has directed current and former administration officials, including the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the former national security adviser John Bolton, not to testify or provide documents. But a Reuters/Ipsos poll this week found that 72% of Americans – including 84% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans – want to see new witnesses testify in the trial.Schiff and other Democrats have told how Trump and his aides pressed the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender, and Biden’s son on baseless corruption charges as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Nearly $400m in US military aid to Ukraine was temporarily frozen.Trump seems almost certain to be acquitted by the 100-member Senate, where there are 53 Republicans and where a two-thirds majority of those present is needed to convict and remove him from office. But the political impact of the trial remains uncertain.Anticipated events in connection with impeachment of President Donald Trump.;© Provided by Associated Press Anticipated events in connection with impeachment of President Donald Trump.;

 

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