Final day of Democrat’s arguments in Trump impeachment trial begins – latest updates

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WASHINGTON – House Democrats prosecuting the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump resumed their arguments Friday.

On the final day of impeachment managers’ opening arguments, they’ll focus on the charge of obstruction of Congress, and how rejecting witnesses in the trial would further obstruct Congress.

The lead manager, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said if Trump or his legal team claimed executive privilege to block testimony from witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, that would add to the obstruction.

The Senate rejected proposals to subpoena witnesses before the opening arguments on party-line votes of 53 to 47. The rules from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., call for more votes on witnesses after the opening arguments from the House and White House lawyers are over, and after up to 16 hours of questions from senators.

Fact-check:Fact-checking the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump

Schiff urged senators not to reject witnesses at that point.

“This is not a trial over a speeding ticket or shoplifting,” Schiff said. “This is an impeachment trial involving the president of the United States. These witnesses have important first-hand testimony to offer. The House wishes to call them in the name of the American people.”

House impeachment managers were given 24 hours for opening arguments in the trial. After two days of presentations, the managers started Friday with seven hours and 53 minutes left to make their case. Trump’s defense team begin their 24 hours of opening arguments on Saturday.

– Bart Jansen

Trump team to begin defense Saturday at 10 a.m. EST

Right before the House managers began their final day of arguments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced that the president’s team would begin its defense at 10 a.m. EST on Saturday and the session will run “for several hours.”

Like the House managers, the defense team has up to 24 hours spread over three days to make their case.

Rep. Jim Jordan, one of eight House lawmakers who are part of Trump’s defense team, told reporters Friday that the team is “very confident” because all of the facts are on the president’s side.

“I think this case is open and shut for the president,” Jordan said.

–Maureen Groppe

The witness question:Senators worry that asking for new impeachment trial witnesses could create lengthy executive privilege debate

Graham: ‘I admire Joe Biden’ but …

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had some kind words for former Vice President Joe Biden. Sort of.

The staunch Trump ally questioned his former Senate colleague’s judgment for allowing his son, Hunter, to join the board of Burisma Holdings in 2014 as the Ukraine gas company was under investigation because of its oligarch owner.

“As much as I like Joe Biden — and I do respect him and I do admire him. I’ve traveled the world with him,” Graham began.

“I think it’s bad foreign policy, if you’re going to be in charge of dealing with corruption in Ukraine, that your son hook up with the most corrupt company in the Ukraine and turn Ukraine into an ATM machine,” Graham said during a Friday morning news conference on Capitol Hill.

Biden has often cited his role in rooting out corruption in Ukraine during the Obama administration. 

When you put your family member in that situation, it’s not good folks,” Graham continued. “The vice president said he didn’t know anything about it. That questions how hard he was looking.”

One of the impeachment managers, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, spent her presentation Thursday trying to poke holes in that Republican argument.

She argued that Trump urged Ukraine to investigate a debunked theory that Biden was protecting his son from an anti-corruption effort because Biden was leading polls as the Democratic challenger to Trump.

“The entire premise of the investigation that the president wanted Ukraine to pursue was false,” Garcia said. “There is simply no evidence – nothing, nada – in the record to support this baseless allegation.”

– Ledyard King

Alexander says he’ll wait to decide on witnesses, documents

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a potential Republican swing vote on subpoenaing witnesses and documents, said Friday that he’ll wait to decide on whether additional evidence should be compelled until after the first stage of the trial.

Speaking after a briefing with health officials on the coronavirus outbreak, Alexander said that once the initial presentations from both sides are over, his question would be “do we need more evidence? Do we need to hear witnesses? Do we need more documents? And I think that question can only be answered then.”

“As the house managers have said many times, they presented us with a mountain of overwhelming evidence so we have a lot to consider,” he said.

Republicans control the Senate by a  53-47 majority, meaning at least four Republicans would have to join all Democrats to vote to call more witnesses and documents in the trial.

Alexander is one of a handful of GOP senators that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer presumably was appealing to Friday when he made a pitch to allow more witnesses and documents.

“We’re seeking the truth at a momentous time in the American republic,” Schumer said. “It is on the shoulders of four Republican senators to join us in demanding it. We’ve made the argument forcefully. The American people have made the argument forcefully that they want to truth. Will four Republican senators, just four, rise to the occasion, do their duty to the constitution, to their country to seek the truth?”

Schumer did not name names, but the Republican senators seen as potentially open to more witnesses and documents include Alexander, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

– Nicholas Wu and Ledyard King

Trump not happy with Saturday TV slot for his team’s opening arguments 

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s beef with the impeachment schedule? His lawyers must start presenting his case on a Saturday – a bad day for television ratings.

In one of a series of Friday morning tweets slamming the Senate impeachment trial, Trump took aim not only at Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, but the timing of his side’s arguments.

“After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.,” Trump said in an early morning round of tweets Friday.

The former star of The Apprentice is no novice when it comes to understanding television ratings.

– David Jackson 

‘Truth matters’: Schiff sets up Friday arguments

“Right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”

With those words, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff Thursday night tried to drive home the abuse of power charge the House filed against President Donald Trump that’s at the center of the Senate impeachment trial. The trial resumes Friday at 1 p.m. with the California Democrat and other House managers laying out their case for the second impeachment article: obstruction of Congress.

Unbiased jury:Can senators who have already voiced opinions do ‘impartial justice’ at Trump impeachment trial?

Closing words:What was the Senate chamber like while Rep. Adam Schiff made his final Thursday speech?

In his closing speech Thursday, Schiff drew from U.S. Army Col. Alexander Vindman’s gripping testimony that he delivered to the House in November. In that hearing Vindman, a National Security Council official expressed deep concerns about the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including Joe Biden.

“If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the constitution is,” Schiff told the rapt chamber. “The framers could not protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter. And you know what (Trump) did was not right.”

Friday’s argument: Trump obstructed Congress

House Democrats will focus on the accusation that President Donald Trump obstructed Congress when they resume and complete their opening argument Friday in the Senate trial.

The seven prosecutors, who are called managers, spent Wednesday outlining the two articles against Trump and detailing the evidence they gathered for the accusations of abuse of power and obstruction. They spent Thursday outlining the legal and constitutional reasons that they said the evidence justified the charge of abuse of power.

Impeachment player:The middleman: How Lev Parnas joined Team Trump and became Rudy Giuliani’s fixer in Ukraine

On Friday, the managers will explain how the law and Constitution apply to the evidence for obstruction. Schiff, the lead manager, said Thursday that the arguments condensed hundreds of hours of depositions and testimony, but that there might be repetition in the presentations as more context is provided.

“We will now show you these facts and many others and how they are interwoven,” Schiff said. “You will see some of these facts and videos therefore in a new context, in a new light, in the light of what else we know and why it compels a finding of guilt and conviction. So there is some method to our madness.”

House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.

The third session of up to eight hours will complete the opening argument from House Democrats. Trump’s legal team is expected to begin Saturday up to 24 hours of opening argument spanning three sessions.

“We’re going to respond of course to what the House managers have put forward,” Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s private lawyers, told reporters Wednesday. “And we’re going to make an affirmative case defending the president.”

Republican senators eager to hear from Trump’s defense team.

“There’s all kinds of allegations that have been thrown up in the air and so they’ll have a chance to lay out their timeline, their version of events,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

In focusing on abuse of power Thursday, another manager, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Trump could have been impeached just for asking Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. But Nadler said Trump went further, withholding $391 million in vital military aid and a White House meeting.

“Since President George Washington took office in 1789, no president has abused his power in this way,” Nadler said. “No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections.”

Nadler said the accusation of obstruction stems from Trump directing his administration to defy all subpoenas for testimony and documents during the investigation.

“The articles are overwhelmingly supported by the evidence amassed by the House, notwithstanding the president’s complete stonewalling, his attempt to block all witnesses and all documents from the United States Congress,” Nadler said. “It puts even President Nixon to shame.”

Contributing: David Jackson

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