WASHINGTON — Rep. Adam Schiff laid out a detailed map of the case against President Donald Trump as Democratic House managers began arguments that the Senate must convict him to protect this year’s election, the Constitution and America’s national security.
Schiff’s two-and-a-half-hour presentation kicked off the 24 hours that House Democrats have over three days to persuade the public and a handful of Republicans to demand the Senate allow witnesses and documents in the trial and, ultimately, remove Trump from office.
“We’re trying this case to two juries: The Senate and the American people,” said Schiff as he and the other six House managers headed into the Senate chamber at the 1 p.m. start of the third day of the impeachment trial.
Democrats argue that Trump abused the power of his office by coercing Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, by withholding $391 million in security aid and a White House visit for his own political benefit. They also charge Trump then blocked all testimony and documents in an unprecedented sweeping refusal to comply with subpoenas and requests.
Schiff opened by thanking Chief Justice John G. Roberts and appealed to senators after Roberts took the remarkable step at 1 a.m. of admonishing both House managers and Trump’s lawyers for uncivil discourse not worthy of “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
But most Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have already committed themselves to acquitting the president and share Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone’s view of the trial expressed Tuesday night: “It’s time for it to end.”
Here are highlights of the Senate trial on Wednesday.
Schiff: Trump cheats
Schiff painted a broad picture of Trump’s strong-arming of Ukraine to help him win the 2020 election, comparing it to how Trump welcomed and used help from Russia’s hacking of Democrats’ emails in the 2016 election. “President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the power of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home,” Schiff said as he launched the House prosecution of Trump. “President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his reelection. In other words, to cheat.”
'They’re not stupid'
Schiff sought to knock a key Trump defense: President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters he felt no pressure to announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter’s post at Ukrainian power company Burisma. Schiff cited Ukraine’s dependence on the United States in its fight against Russian aggression, Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s insistence that Zelensky’s anti-corruption statement include probing Burisma and the 2016 election, and U.S. diplomats telling Zelensky and his aides that he had to make the announcement of the probe to get the $391 million in aid and a White House visit. “Imagine if this country were dependent on a more powerful country for our defense … and much to our astonishment, we couldn’t even get a meeting with our allies, much to our astonishment they were holding aid from us,” Schiff said. “Do you think we would feel pressure? Of course, we would.” He added, “They’re not stupid.”
Fight for witnesses continues
All 53 Republicans voted Tuesday to block amendments to subpoena documents and testimony by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials Michael Duffey and Robert Blair. But Democrats haven’t stopped lobbying. “You will hear from witnesses that have not yet testified, like John Bolton, Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Blair and Mr. Duffey … that is, if you allow it,” Schiff said. “You will see dozens of new documents providing new and critical evidence of the president’s guilt … if, in the name of a fair trial, you will demand it.”
Graham attacks Democrats
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mounted a staunch defense of Trump in a news conference just before the trial began Wednesday, echoing the tone and rhetoric of Trump lawyers Cipollone and Jay Sekulow — who won’t present their defense until Saturday. “They’re on a crusade to destroy this man, and they don’t care what they destroy in the process of trying to destroy Donald Trump. I do care,” Graham said. “So to my Democratic colleagues, you can say what you want about me, but I’m covering up nothing. I’m exposing your hatred of this president to the point that you would destroy the institution. Nobody would be saying this about a Democratic president if a Republican House had done this.”
Republicans’ eyes glaze over
Democrats praised Schiff’s two-and-a-half-hour presentation as a stemwinder. Not so Republicans. By the end of Schiff’s presentation, at least eight Republicans had left their seats. That trend continued as other managers delivered their argument. “I think we’re already beginning to lose certainly the television audience and maybe the press to some extent,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “But, certainly, senators are struggling to try to see why we have to sit there — sit hearing the same arguments over and over and over and over again.” Meanwhile, Democrats have two more days — about 16 hours — to present their case.