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House impeachment case in Senate ends Thursday session

Updated January 23, 2020 - 8:13 pm

WASHINGTON — House Democrats laid out the constitutional case to remove President Donald Trump from office and bar him from future federal service Thursday during the second day of opening arguments in the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.

In an emotional closing, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House impeachment manager, told senators that it was clear from evidence that Trump had disregarded U.S. policy and bullied Ukraine to provide him the political leverage to win re-election.

“He’s dangerous to us,” Schiff told the Senate. “This is why he needs to be removed.

“There is no mulligan here when it comes to national security.”

Schiff said that even though some senators cannot speak publicly about the duplicity of Trump, they know he is out for his own personal gain. “You can’t count on him.

“The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first,” Schiff said.

Earlier, Republicans complained House Democrats presenting the case against Trump have been repetitive in their presentation to convince senators of the need to remove a sitting president in an election year.

“I hope this isn’t going to be a series of repetitious arguments just to try to fill the time allotted. That’s sort of what it feels like right now,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Cornyn, a former Senate GOP whip and other Republican lawmakers told reporters the repetitive nature feels like an attempt by the Democrats to use up 24 hours of time granted before they cede the floor to Trump’s legal team.

Senate Democrats, however, said House managers did an impressive job in explaining how Trump coerced and withheld military aid in order to force Ukraine to announce political investigations to help the president’s re-election bid.

Television ratings show 11 million people watched the hearings Wednesday, giving Democrats hope they can pressure Republicans to call additional witnesses and obtain documents that were blocked by Trump.

Nothing new here

“The same Republicans saying they ‘heard nothing new’ just voted nine times on Tuesday to hear nothing new,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“The documents are sitting there all compiled, all ready to go. Vote with Democrats to call relevant witnesses and documents,” Schumer said.

For his part, Trump blasted the proceedings in a Thursday morning tweet, declaring them the “Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!”

Schiff opened the Thursday trial acknowledging repetition.

But Schiff explained that the narrative Wednesday of the corrupt scheme the president used to undermine the 2020 election would be followed with the constitutional framework designed to remove a president who poses a threat to our democracy.

House Democrats focused on the first article of impeachment: abuse of office.

The charge stems from a July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Trump’s request that he announce an investigation into political rival Joe Biden, and a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

As the July request was made, Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to fight Russian-backed separatists. Eventually, the aid was released to Ukraine and no investigation into Biden was announced.

No crime, no removal

Trump’s legal team, supporters, and GOP senators have argued that while the conduct was questionable, no crime occurred, and Democrats have not demonstrated cause to remove the president.

But House managers used a clip of one of Trump’s strongest backers in the Senate to refute the GOP argument that impeachment and removal from office requires a provable crime.

They played a 1999 clip of the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, where then-Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., served as a House manager and argued the Constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is broad.

“It’s just when you’re using your office in a way that hurts people, you’ve committed a high crime,” Graham argued then.

Graham, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, now backs efforts to immediately dismiss charges against Trump because no crime occurred.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Senate that four constitutional scholars testified at the impeachment hearings, including Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, a Republican witness.

Nadler said the scholars agreed no crime was needed for impeachment.

Attacking liberty’s foundations

Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law School professor, said the president seeking foreign government intervention while withholding military aid was conduct that sought a quid pro quo and was an impeachable offense, Nadler explained.

“A president who uses his office to ask for, or even worse, to compel foreign nations to meddle in our elections is a president who attacks the very foundation of our liberty,” Nadler said.

House Democrats have until Friday to make their case before the Trump legal team takes over with equal time to lay out its defense of the president.

“We are going to use a specific amount of time to make our case,” Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer, told reporters. He hinted that it would not take the three days that House managers are expected to use.

“We are not going to run the clock out,” Sekulow said.

Trump’s legal team will make the case that regardless of the appearance of the president’s action, nothing was done to reach the threshold needed to impeach and remove a president from office.

“The actions of the president don’t reach that level,” Sekulow said.

No Ukrainian meddling

To dispel a conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, Democrats offered up past comments by FBI Director Christopher Wray, appointed by Trump, who dismissed the claim and pinned the meddling on the Russians.

The Trump team is expected to focus on Biden, and his son, Hunter, who served on a board of directors of Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Trump has hinted, without offering evidence, that there were questionable actions in the Ukraine by Biden when he served as vice president.

In a pre-emptive attempt to undermine that defense, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, showed the Senate public opinion polling from FOX News.

The polling shows Biden, at the time of the Ukraine telephone call, was beating Trump, suggesting a motive for the president to have his rival discredited.

Garcia also challenged the defense mounted by some of the president’s supporters that Trump had legitimate reasons to ask Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption. “There was no basis for the investigation the president was pursuing and pushing. None. He was doing it only for his own political benefit,” Garcia declared.

Democrats are pushing Republicans to vote later in the trial to call witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who was highly critical of a shadow operation in Ukraine run by the president’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was pushing for the Biden probe announcement.

Republicans, and at one time Trump, threatened to subpoena the Bidens to testify in the Senate trial.

Talk of a witness trade, Hunter Biden for Bolton, took place this week among senators in both parties.

A trade was flatly rejected a second day by Schumer, who said earlier this week that such a swap was “off the table.”

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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