WASHINGTON – Democrats who will prosecute the case against President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial said there was “overwhelming” evidence that he was guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and called him a danger to the country’s national security.
“President Trump’s misconduct presents a danger to our democratic processes, our national security, and our commitment to the rule of law. He must be removed from office,” the seven House managers wrote a 111-page filing summarizing their opening arguments for the trial.
Trump’s new legal team, meanwhile, told the Senate on Saturday that the House impeachment drive is an attempt to overturn the 2016 election and that the two articles of impeachment are legally defective.
“This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election – now just months away,” the filing said.
The House document mirrored arguments made in previous reports by House Democrats in the impeachment process.
“President Trump abused the power of his office to solicit foreign interference in our elections for his own personal political gain, thereby jeopardizing our national security, the integrity of our elections, and our democracy. And when the President got caught, he tried to cover it up by obstructing the House’s investigation into his misconduct,” the House managers said.
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Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named seven House members as “managers,” or members who will lead the prosecution against Trump: Reps. Jason Crow, Sylvia Garcia, Hakeem Jeffries, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Val Demings, and Zoe Lofgren. Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, is the lead manager.
The two articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18 accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Democrats allege Trump abused his power by withholding nearly $400 million of security assistance and an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the Ukrainians into announcing an investigation of his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats said the Trump administration stonewalled their inquiry into his conducted by refusing to allow key administration officials to testify and provide documents.
“His effort to gain a personal political benefit by encouraging a foreign government to undermine America’s democratic process strikes at the core of misconduct that the Framers designed impeachment to protect against. President Trump’s abuse of power requires his conviction and removal from office,” the House managers wrote.
Democrats referenced the option the Senate has in calling former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial. Bolton has offered to testify if subpoenaed. Democrats argued that his testimony could help prove that American officials saw the pressure campaign as “improper and political” given the “public reporting of his repeated, yet unsuccessful, efforts to convince the President to lift the hold (on military aid to Ukraine).”
White House lawyers have a deadline of noon on Monday to file a brief outlining their argument defending the president, and Democrats will file another brief in response by noon Tuesday.
In their Saturday filing, attorneys for Trump argued he wanted Ukraine to investigate corruption with his country. They said concern about corruption is the reason the administration held up military aid temporarily and added that the money was eventually released in September.
Saying the president “has done nothing wrong,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said he “looks forward to the end of this partisan and unconstitutional impeachment” with an acquittal by the Senate.
Trump’s legal team also raised procedural complaints against the House impeachment, saying the president did not receive due process – though House members repeatedly pointed out that the White House refused to participate in the investigation.
The filing said the White House withheld witnesses and documents because the information is protected by executive privilege, and Congress is not entitled access to internal deliberations within the executive branch.
Within minutes of the filings, Trump tweeted out a claim about his popularity among Republicans and an attack on the Democratic presidential nomination process.