Democrats have been hammering against extreme Republican skepticism of the case against Trump. A rotation of managers on the Senate floor, led by Adam Schiff of California, have presented the 100 senators with video testimony from public hearings last month interwoven with recently unearthed evidence and analysis detailing Trump’s scheme.
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.