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5 takeaways from the Trump impeachment trial

This artist sketch depicts House Democratic impeachment manager

This artist sketch depicts House Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) addressing the Senate during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. Credit: Dana Verkouteren via AP

WASHINGTON — The Democratic House managers on Thursday presented their case in the historic Senate impeachment trial that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office in his dealings with Ukraine for his own political benefit.

On the second of their three days to make their arguments, Democrats said Trump’s actions matched exactly the kind of crimes by a president that the country’s founders feared and was a reason they included impeachment in the Constitution to correct.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House manager, apologized to the senators ahead of time about the repetition of testimony and factual records they would be hearing — but the managers went ahead with replaying videos and showing emails as they made their arguments.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and some other Republican senators said they had already made up their minds and hinted they were bored by the Democrats’ repetitive case. “It reminds me of the shopping channel, the hits of the ‘80s, you hear it again and again and again and again,” he said. “I can almost recite the testimony.”

Here are the highlights from Thursday’s trial.

Trump actions 'dangerous,' 'Illegal'

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) made the main argument that the Senate should remove Trump from office for abusing his power by coercing Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden — an act of inviting foreign intervention to help him win reelection in 2020. “First, he withheld the release of $391 million in vital military assistance appropriated by Congress on a bipartisan basis which Ukraine needed to fight Russian aggression. And, second, President Trump withheld a long sought-after White House meeting which would confirm to the world that America stands by Ukraine in its ongoing struggle,” Nadler said. “The president's conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous.” He added, “No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections.”

'Nada' evidence against Biden

House manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.) ripped Trump’s justification for asking Ukraine for an investigation of Biden. Trump accuses the former vice president of withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine in 2016 to force it to oust its prosecutor general, who had probed the Ukrainian company that paid his son Hunter. “Every witness with knowledge of this issue testified that Vice President Biden was carrying out official U.S. policy,” Garcia said. “All of our European allies also supported this action. There is simply no evidence, nothing, nada, in the record to support this baseless allegation.” Why did Trump call for a Biden probe three years later? Biden led Trump in 2020 presidential election polls last March, she said. “In April, Biden officially announces his candidacy,” she said, “and that is when the president gets worried.”

Garcia: Trump helps Russia   

Garcia asserted that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate whether Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to lift the cloud over the legitimacy of his 2016 election and to help him in his 2020 election. “There is no dispute among the intelligence community that Russia attacked our 2016 election. The Senate's own Intelligence Committee published a report telling us that as well,” Garcia said. “This theory that the Russians are promoting [is] to interfere yet again in our democratic process and deflect blame from their own attacks against us. But what is so dangerous is that President Trump is helping them perpetuate this. Our own president is helping our adversary attack our processes and to help his own reelection.”

Schiff: You can't trust Trump

Schiff closed the second day’s arguments with a scathing critique of Trump. Trump asked Russia to hack emails of his rival Hillary Clinton in 2016 and last year urged China to investigate his rival Joe Biden. “What if China does overtly or covertly start to help the Trump campaign?” Schiff asked. “You know you can't trust this president to do what's right for this country. You can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump. He will do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months and he’ll do it in the next election if he is allowed to,” Schiff said. “This is why if you find him guilty, you must find he should be removed.”

Trump’s lawyers vow 'vigorous defense'

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, Trump's personal attorney, have no choice but to sit and listen for three days as Democratic House managers lay out their case in great detail. But they'll have their turn Saturday, when their 24 hours begins. “I will assure you this: We will be putting on a vigorous defense of both fact and rebutting what they’ve said,” Sekulow said. "Our job here is to defend the president, the office of the presidency and the Constitution. We’re going to do that.” But that defense might not last three days to shorten the trial, he hinted. “We’re not going to try to run the clock out,” he said. “We’re going to do what we think — what our legal them thinks — is appropriate.”

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