Politics

Trump impeachment trial: Democrats to shine spotlight on Trump's alleged obstruction on last day of arguments

Key Points
  • Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to bore in on how they say President Trump obstructed Congress' investigation into his dealings with Ukraine.
  • It's the final day for the seven House managers, led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, to state their case that Trump should be convicted and removed from office.
  • Schiff gave an impassioned speech at the close of the Senate impeachment trial Thursday night, folding a searing attack on the Trump's character into a sweeping appeal to senators' common sense.
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Phase 2 of Dems' case against Pres. Trump focuses on the Constitution

Democratic House impeachment managers are expected to argue Friday that President Donald Trump obstructed Congress' investigation into his dealings with Ukraine.

It's the final day for the seven House managers, led by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to state their case that Trump should be convicted and removed from office.

On Thursday, Democrats laid out their arguments that Trump met the standard for impeachment by pushing Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce probes into his political rivals and a debunked conspiracy about the 2016 presidential election while millions of dollars in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.

Schiff gave an impassioned speech late Thursday at the close of the day's proceedings, folding a searing attack on Trump's character into a sweeping appeal to senators' common sense.

In America, Schiff said, "Right is supposed to matter."

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Democrats detail case that President Trump abused his power

"It's what's made us the greatest nation on Earth. No Constitution can protect us if right doesn't matter anymore, and 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."

The proceedings ended around 10:30 p.m. ET. When the Senate convenes at 1 p.m. Friday, Democrats are expected to detail their argument that Trump, by refusing to hand over any documents to the House and by pressuring witnesses not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, is guilty of obstruction of Congress.

The Democrats have 24 hours total, spread out over three days, to state their case. Trump's lawyers will have the same time to present the president's defense. They are expected to start Saturday — a time slot that Trump grumbled about on Twitter as "Death Valley in T.V."

Senators, who are required to remain silent during the trial proceedings, will then have 16 cumulative hours to ask questions of the House managers and the defense team in writing.

Under Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's rules, the Senate will then get to vote on whether to produce documents and witnesses in the trial that Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for.

Amendments to issue subpoenas beforehand for a slew of documents and witnesses were shot down Tuesday. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pressed Republicans to support calling witnesses when it comes up for a vote.

Democrats need four Republicans to vote with them. Even if they win that battle, it remains unlikely that two-thirds of the Senate will vote to convict and remove the president from office.

House impeachment managers Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., are seen in the Capitol before the continuation of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Thursday, January 23, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call | Getty Images

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., spent a large chunk of time arguing that Trump's conduct is impeachable, even if it doesn't violate a specific criminal law.

Impeachment, Nadler said, "exists to address threats to the political system, applies only to political officials and responds not by imprisonment or fines, but only by stripping political power."

"No one anticipated a president would stoop to this misconduct, and Congress has passed no specific law to make this behavior a crime," Nadler added. "Yet this is precisely the kind of abuse that the framers [of the Constitution] had in mind when they wrote the impeachment clause."

Nadler cited several historical and modern sources to support this point — including a 1999 argument from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close Trump ally and one of the Senate's most vocal critics of the impeachment proceedings.

"What's a high crime? How about an important person hurting somebody of low means?" Graham asked in the Senate in 1999.

"It's not very scholarly, but I think it's the truth. I think that's what they meant by high crimes. Doesn't even have to be a crime. It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people, you've committed a high crime," Graham said in the clip.

An all-caps chyron above Graham in the clip read: "LINDSEY GRAHAM: IMPEACHMENT DOES NOT REQUIRE A CRIME."

The Democrats also spent a significant amount of time establishing that Trump wanted Zelenskiy to announce probes into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in order to help Trump's reelection prospects.

Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, argued that Trump had been unconcerned about corruption in Ukraine until Biden announced his presidential bid.

"The president asked Ukraine for this investigation for one reason and one reason only: because he knew it would be damaging to an opponent who was consistently beating him in the polls and therefore it could help him get reelected in 2020," Garcia said.

Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's attorneys, told reporters that by bringing up the Bidens in the trial, Democrats have "kind of opened the door to that response. So we'll determine as a defense team the appropriate way to do it."

Trump's lawyers argue that the president has done nothing wrong.

On the last day of the Democrats' opening presentations, Trump is scheduled on Friday to become the first sitting president to speak at the March For Life, an annual gathering in Washington of thousands of anti-abortion activists and organizations.