The Democratic House managers used their final day of arguments on Friday — the fourth full day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — to make their case that President Donald Trump obstructed Congress in denying them witness testimony and documents.
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Highlights from the Senate trial
- Democrats finished hours of arguments in which managers called Trump a "dictator" and a danger to the nation with a plea to the Senate: "Give America a fair trial, she's worth it," lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff said.
- The White House is set to begin laying out Trump's defense Saturday morning.
- "Get rid of her": A voice appearing to be Trump's is heard on tape demanding Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's ouster.
- Schiff warned his fellow lawmakers that "the next time, it just may be you" who Trump targets.
- Democratic House manager Rep. Val Demings says the evidence is "pretty painful" for senators.
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Schiff outlines plan for Democratic arguments
Schiff outlined on Wednesday how the House managers plan to present their case. During the day's arguments, senators "will hear the details of the president's corrupt scheme in narrative form, illustrating the timeline of the effort through the testimony of numerous witnesses who came before the House, as well as the documents and materials we collected as evidence during the investigation."
In the following days, Democrats will discuss the constitutional framework of impeachment "as it was envisioned by the founders," Schiff said, adding that they would then "analyze how the facts of the president's misconduct and cover-up lead to the conclusion that the president undertook the sort of corrupt course of conduct that impeachment was intended to remedy."
Schiff: Evidence paints ‘overwhelming and damning picture’ of Trump's alleged misconduct
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House manager in Trump's impeachment trial, opened the Democratic arguments on Wednesday by telling senators that his team will present evidence that “paints an overwhelming and damning picture of the president's efforts to use the powers of his office to corruptly solicit foreign help in his re-election campaign and withhold official acts and military aid to compel that support."
The Democrats will present their case over several days; Trump’s lawyers then begin their defense.
GOP senator says his colleagues haven't read up on the Trump case
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., spoke candidly to NBC News on Wednesday about how much attention he thinks his colleagues have been paying as opening arguments kick off:
"If you poll the senators, nine out of 10 will tell you they have not read the transcript of the House hearings and the 10th is lying to you.
"So they are hearing the prosecution's case for the first time, and they're certainly hearing the president's case for the first time."
Schiff launches opening arguments with a case for impeachment over an election
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., kicked off Democrats’ opening arguments Wednesday by quoting founding father Alexander Hamilton (perhaps the hippest early American thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical) and articulating his belief that impeachment — and not just an election — is the appropriate way to deal with the president’s alleged actions.
“The House did not take this extraordinary step lightly,” Schiff said. “The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box for we cannot be assured the vote will be fairly won.”
Schiff claimed that Trump's solicitation of foreign interference in U.S. elections was a pattern — from "Russia if you're listening" in 2016, to his request for Ukraine to do a "favor" and look into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden — an action at the center of Trump's impeachment — to Trump's request in October for China to investigate the Bidens.
Schumer criticizes Republicans for their handling of the impeachment trial
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters that there was a "cloud of unfairness" over the Senate impeachment trial after Republicans voted down his amendments to allow evidence and witness testimony.
'It was like sitting on a tractor': Senators' impressions of the impeachment trial so far
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., on Wednesday opined on the marathon proceedings on the Senate floor Tuesday night, saying it was “unnecessary to spend all that time having roll call votes on essentially the same thing,” a reference to the protracted series of votes that went late into the wee morning hours on nearly a dozen Democratic amendments, which failed almost entirely along party lines.
Asked about President Donald Trump's remarks this morning about wanting to attend his own trial, Inhofe said, “That’s not going to happen.”
Trump told reporters at the economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday: "I'd love to go, wouldn't that be great? I'd love to sit in the front row and stare in their corrupt faces."
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., took the time Wednesday to praise Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House manager, for his arguments, calling him an “impressive leader.” Carper said the House managers gave a “stellar” performance.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who likewise has praised the work of the House impeachment managers, said he didn't think the White House defense team presented a strong case. Asked what it was like sitting on the Senate floor for so long on Tuesday, Tester said, “It was like sitting on a tractor.”
The plans so far for Trump's defense
Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial are on track to start today at 1 p.m., with House managers going first. Trump's legal team would be set to deliver their defense starting on Saturday.
Trump's team isn't expected to push back on a Saturday start time, according to multiple sources familiar with the thinking, because there’s a desire to get the trial over with in what they believe will be an acquittal rather than expend political capital on something they’re not too worked up about.
The defense team isn't anticipating the need to use all of their allotted 24 hours, according to a source familiar with the matter. One member of the team, Robert Ray, signaled as much this morning, saying 24 hours is “more than sufficient time” to make the case.
But the team is closely watching the impeachment managers’ opening remarks and will be fluid and flexible in response. If the House Democrats go long, you may see the defense team do something similar. Sources keep stressing the element of unpredictability and are wary of divulging too much by way of strategy in the event things change on the fly.
As for how Trump's team will lay out their arguments, here’s what we know: Multiple sources close to the team say the thinking is White House counsel Pat Cipollone will do the initial opening, where he will address “substantive and constitutional and procedural” positions. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow will likely go next with an overview from beginning to end on how they got here. Then, you’ll see other members of the defense team — Pam Bondi, Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Ray, etc. — address the points they’ve been brought on to make (Dershowitz and Ray, for example, are expected to make the “threshold” argument that the articles don’t hit the constitutional bar for impeachment).
How's Chief Justice Roberts handling two jobs?
During oral arguments in the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, Chief Justice John Roberts showed no sign of his late night (after 2 a.m.) across the street, presiding over the Senate impeachment trial of the president.
At the court, Robert participated in the questioning as usual, kept the argument on track and at one point even showed a flash of humor.
One of the arguing lawyers, faced with nearly two simultaneous questions, said in answering one he would then try to answer the other.
"It is recommended," Roberts said, producing laughter in the courtroom.
(Which says something about what's considered a knee-slapper in the Supreme Court.)
Trump travels from sunny Swiss retreat back to impeachment storm
President Donald Trump departed the sunny Swiss mountain retreat of the world’s elite in Davos on Wednesday morning for the storm raging in Washington.
After a mostly warm welcome, at least on the surface, from the crowd of business executives, financiers and foreign dignitaries gathered here for the annual economic forum, the president was set to land in Washington as Democrats prepared to make their formal case against him on the floor of the Senate.
For most of his less than 36 hours here, Trump had appeared inclined to keep the topic of impeachment at arm's length, counterprograming the first day of the trial with the image of a president hard at work on the international stage. It will most likely be one of the last times he’ll be able to do so for the next few weeks as the impeachment trial plays out on live television throughout the day and into the evening, consuming news coverage. But impeachment wasn’t far from the president's mind.
Here's more on what Trump thinks about the impeachment trial so far.