WASHINGTON – In their final day of opening statements, the Democrats’ House impeachment managers argued Friday that President Donald Trump threatened national security when soliciting investigations by Ukraine and remains a threat. They made the case that he should be removed from office after obstructing Congress in its inquiry into his actions.
“The threat that he will continue to abuse his power and cause grave harm to the nation over the course of the next year…is not hypothetical,” warned Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the lead manager and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “Merely exposing the president’s scheme has not stopped him from continuing this destructive pattern of behavior that has brought us to this somber moment. He is who he is.”
“The obstruction of Congress is a constitutional crime in progress,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colorado.
The House managers claimed Trump endangered U.S. ally Ukraine when he withheld military aid and a White House meeting after its president wasn’t willing to do Trump a “favor.” Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t announce investigations into his nation’s alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and former Vice President Joe Biden’s connections to Ukraine.
“If someone sacrifices the national interest in favor of his own and is not removed from office, our democracy is in jeopardy. It’s just that simple,” Schiff told the Senate.
Schiff called Ukraine a small country with a big impact. He explained that the former republic of the Soviet Union is pursuing reforms and shares with the United States the common goal of fighting authoritarianism.
“At least, that used to be our fight,” he said. “And God help us if it isn’t our fight still.”
Democrats hope their case is persuading at least four Republican senators to join them in voting for witnesses and additional documents.
“What I want right now is the witnesses,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a presidential candidate, told MSNBC.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told reporters during a recess that he hoped Congress would soon turn its focus to the actions of the Democrats as well.
“To my Democratic friends,” the senator said, “I stood with you when you called for an outside entity to look into President Trump. I’m now asking you to allow somebody outside of politics to look at what happened with the Bidens… when it comes to the Ukraine, because we’re not going to live in a country where only Republicans get looked at.”
Graham, who worked with Biden when he was a senator, said he doesn’t want to investigate his former colleague, but will if he has to, according to NBC.
“You know why I don’t want to do it? Because I love Joe Biden,” Graham said.
Democrats repeatedly have dismissed probing Biden as a distraction, irrelevant to the charges against Trump.
Trump’s defense team is expected to begin its arguments Saturday morning.
The president, an avid consumer of television ratings, decried the timing in a tweet before Friday’s proceedings opened: “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.”
Schiff took on a Republican argument that removing a president from office so close to an election was taking the decision out of the hands of voters.
“The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box,” he said. “For we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, tweeted in response: “I could not disagree more strongly with Schiff and his managers that we can’t trust American voters to decide who should be their president. They could do without his disdain for opinion of the American people and for the durability of our representative republic.”
The House Democrats spent less time on the obstruction of Congress article than the abuse of power article, devoting just part of Friday afternoon and the early evening to the issue. But they insisted the offense was no less serious.
Not even Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton blocked administration officials from testifying during impeachment hearings, the Democrats noted. Nor did they make blanket refusals to turn over any documents, as Trump has done. President Barack Obama, too, agreed to allow testimony and documents in a GOP probe of his handling of the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
“Trump’s wholesale obstruction of Congress strikes at the very heart of our Constitution and democratic system of government,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Florida. “We would not allow any member of state or local governments to use the official powers of their office to cover up crimes and misdeeds.”
Several Republican senators were spotted playing with fidget spinners passed out by Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, on Thursday, according to Business Insider.
Other senators have resorted to reading while the trial is in session. Responding to a tweet from Washington Post contributor Jennifer Rubin, calling her lack of attentiveness during the trial “shameful,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, tweeted which book she’s been reading while in the trial.
“I’m reading Resistance (At All Costs) by Kim Strassel… the chapter on obstruction,” Blackburn said.
Schiff urged senators to take a broader view of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, to consider that such behavior is part of a pattern.
“I’ll tell you something, the next time it just may be you — it just may be you,” Schiff said. “Do you think for a moment that any of you, no matter what your relationship with this president, no matter how close you are to this president, do you think for a moment that if he felt it was in his interest, he wouldn’t ask you to be investigated?”
“And if somewhere deep down below you realize that he would,” the congressman insisted, “you cannot leave a man like that in office when he has violated the Constitution.”