WASHINGTON – The House’s Democratic impeachment managers started the clock on their allotted 24-hour opening remarks in the Senate on Wednesday, moving forward with the second day of the trial without new witnesses or new documentary evidence.
Much of the day’s presentation was a formal recitation by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, of the evidence supporting the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
Schiff detailed Trump’s hold on an Oval Office meeting and military aid from Ukraine, which House Democrats deemed an abuse of power, by sharing some of the “extensive evidence” collected in their inquiry.
He argued that Trump should be removed from office after abusing “the power of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his re-election prospects at home.”
Trump exploited his power by requesting that Ukraine announce an investigation into former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Schiff asserted.
“And when he was caught,” Schiff said, “he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.”
Republicans appeared unswayed. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted an invitation to Trump to sit as his guest at the Senate trial to watch what he called “this partisan charade.”
During a break in the trial, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow told reporters his team was anxious to rebut the House Democrats.
“Notice what’s not in the articles of impeachment: allegations or accusations of a quid pro quo,” he said. “That’s because they didn’t exist.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted what he told reporters: “If you have the facts, you bang the facts. If you have the law, you bang the law. If you don’t have either, you bang the table. Today, we’ve seen a whole lot of table banging.”
Testimony from House hearings, as well as video recordings of Trump and other administration officials, were presented as exhibits supporting the House managers’ case for the president’s removal.
Over the coming days, Schiff said, the House managers will present additional evidence that “paints an overwhelming and damning picture” of Trump in the context of his relations with Ukraine to benefit his re-election campaign.
Both the House managers and Trump’s counsel have up to 24 hours over three days for their opening arguments.
Schiff again called for new evidence and witnesses, just as he and other Democrats did on the trial’s opening day as they debated the rules resolution that would govern the trial.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, proposed 11 amendments Tuesday — and into the early morning hours of Wednesday.
These amendments largely requested new evidence and possible witnesses to be considered at the start of the trial, instead of putting the prospect up to a vote following both sides’ opening statements. But the Republican-held Senate voted down all of the amendments.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, proposed an amendment to allow Chief Justice John Roberts, who’s presiding over the trial, to rule on requests for witnesses or documents.
“That’s how you address this in a fair and impartial manner if you’re not trying to rig the trial or cover up the evidence,” Van Hollen said Wednesday morning in a CNN interview.
Democratic senators complained of their disadvantage after losing the rules fights.
“My first simple reaction is you can’t have a trial without witnesses and without evidence, and zero witnesses plus zero documents equals zero justice,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said on CNN.
Some Republicans have suggested that they would be open to calling witnesses that Democrats are seeking, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, but only if they could call Joe and Hunter Biden. Democrats have rejected such a trade.
“This isn’t like some fantasy football trade,” Schiff told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s proceedings.
To contextualize the nitty-gritty details of Trump’s impeachable offenses, Schiff quoted constitutional Framers such as Alexander Hamilton to make the case that the president should be removed from office. The lead impeachment manager said the Framers “devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: impeachment.”
Schiff called upon the senators to act as impartial jurors and uphold the values of the Constitution.
“It is up to you to be the tribunal Hamilton envisioned,” he said. “It is up to you to show the American people and yourselves his confidence and those of the other Founders was rightly placed.”
More empty seats were spotted on the floor during the second day of the trial than the first. Senators on both sides of the aisle were seen coming and going from the chambers over the course of Schiff’s two-and-a-half-hour opening speech.
Order on the floor began to crumble as Schiff’s speech went on, with sidebar conversations taking place and senators coming and going as they pleased. Some chose to stand in the back of the room, while others were seen standing behind their chairs.
“The end is in sight,” Schiff said from the podium about 10 minutes before he wrapped up his opening statements.
Among the senators listening to the trial unfold were four Democratic candidates for president: Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Michael Bennet of Colorado — all off the road instead of campaigning in Iowa, where caucuses are scheduled on Monday, Feb. 3.
Schiff’s plea to senators also looked toward the future.
“If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among our branches of government, inviting future presidents to operate as if they too are also beyond the reach of accountability, congressional oversight and the law,” Schiff said.
Democrats hope the House managers’ presentation might convince a handful of Republican senators to break from their party and support Trump’s removal.
The first sign of dissent came from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who supported one of the Democrats’ amendments that would’ve extended the amount of time both sides had to file responses to motions.
“Adam Schiff’s speech was one of the most compelling I have heard,” Schumer told reporters during a recess. “It was a tour de force. A good number of my Republican colleagues heard the entire argument powerfully, succinctly and completely and I am hopeful that can begin to change minds.”
Trump commented on the trial from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling it “the greatest witch hunt.”
“It’s a disgrace. They talked about their tremendous case. And it’s all done — their tremendous case,” he said. “They had no case. It’s all a hoax. It’s a con job. Like Schiff – he’s a corrupt politician.”
Trump also appeared to boast that he had documents related to his impeachment case.
“I got to watch enough,” the president told reporters. “I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”