WASHINGTON – As the House impeachment managers wrapped up their opening remarks Friday, senators were still largely divided along party lines on the need for new documents and witnesses to be subpoenaed before they decide the trial’s outcome. Democrats continue calling for additional evidence, while Republicans say they don’t see a need for it.
“The managers for the Democrats have said, ‘there’s overwhelming evidence. There’s a mountain of evidence.’ They said, ‘it’s rock-solid evidence,’” Republican Sen. John Barrasso from Wyoming told reporters before Friday’s proceedings. “They shouldn’t need any more information to make a final decision.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said that Republicans looking for “something new” in the House managers’ argument is “really quite hypocritical” after they voted down 11 amendments when debating the rules resolution that governs the trial, most of which would’ve admitted new documents and testimonies from witnesses.
“Don’t bury your head in the sand and then complain it’s dark,” she said in a news conference Friday morning.
Democrats have been urging their Republican colleagues to consider the gravity of the trial, just the third impeachment trial in United States history, when deciding their positions on hearing from new witnesses.
“This is not a trial for a speeding ticket or shoplifting,” lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff from California told reporters before his team started its final day of opening remarks. “This is an impeachment trial involving the president of the United States.”
Schiff also said the “American people overwhelmingly want to hear what (new witnesses) have to say.” An ABC News/Washington Post poll published Friday found that 66% of Americans support the Senate subpoenaing witnesses they have yet to hear from.
The same survey says the country is split — 47% in favor and 49% against — on whether the body should remove Trump from office. The president has been charged in two articles of impeachment with abuse of office and obstruction of Congress in connection with his withholding of military aid to Ukraine and an Oval Office meeting with that nation’s president in an effort to get Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and alleged Ukrainian interference with the 2016 U.S. election.
The Democrats’ House managers made the case that Biden’s conduct related to urging Ukraine to remove its corrupt prosecutor general and doesn’t warrant an investigation. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, disagreed.
“I am telling you now that I am going to look at this if nobody else does,” he told reporters. “And that doesn’t make me a Russian agent.”
New evidence continued to come to light as the trial unfolded. A recording heard by ABC News allegedly captures Trump calling for then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to be fired. The president’s comments were made at a private April 2018 dinner with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, former associates of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
After hearing that Yovanovitch believed the president would eventually be impeached, a voice that sounds like Trump’s says in the recording, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
Trump’s allies have been downplaying the recording, saying it’s characteristic of the president’s behavior.
“My guess is we’re probably not surprised that the guy, you know, who had a TV show where he talked about firing people is willing to recall the ambassador,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of the Republican House members advising Trump’s counsel, told reporters.
On the Senate floor Friday, the House impeachment managers argued Trump obstructed Congress by preventing any subpoenaed officials from testifying before the House or turning over requested documents.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is holding out hope that some of his colleagues from the other side of the aisle will break from their party and support hearing new evidence.
“Will four Republican senators — just four — rise to the occasion, do their duty to the Constitution, to their country, to seek the truth?” he questioned. Four GOP senators siding with the 47 Democrats and independents would produce the 51 votes necessary to subpoena documents and witnesses. Schumer failed on Tuesday to get that support on amendments that sought to compel Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Adviser John Bolton and others to come before the Senate to testify about their involvement in the Ukraine matter.
Senators will vote on whether new evidence will be admitted after the president’s defense team presents its opening statements, which are set to start Saturday, and after the senators direct up to 16 hours worth of questions to both sides.