WASHINGTON – House impeachment managers concluded their arguments against President Donald Trump on Friday by portraying his pressure campaign on Ukraine as part of a dangerous pattern of Russian appeasement that would continue to imperil American security if he remained in office.
Ending their three-day presentation in the Senate, the president’s Democratic prosecutors summoned the ghosts of the Cold War and the realities of geopolitical tensions with Russia to argue that Trump’s abuse of power had slowly shredded delicate foreign alliances to suit his own interests.
“This is Trump first, not America first, not American ideals first,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the lead House manager. “And the result has been, and will continue to be, grave harm to our nation if this chamber does not stand up and say this is wrong.”
Schiff and the six other managers prosecuting the president also tied up the facts of the second charge, obstruction of Congress, arguing that Trump’s attempts to shut down a congressional inquiry into his actions toward Ukraine was unprecedented and undermined the ability of the government to correct itself.
“He is a dictator,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. “This must not stand.”
But even as the managers pulled together their complex case, the Republican-controlled Senate appeared unmoved — not just on the question of whether to acquit Trump, which it expected to do, but also on the crucial question of compelling witnesses and documents that the president has suppressed.
“We have heard plenty,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican.
He said that many in his party had quickly soured on the soaring appeals by House Democrats to repudiate Trump’s behavior. As day turned to evening on the fourth full day of the trial, many senators unaccustomed to long hours in the Capitol appeared to have simply been numbed by the House managers and were anticipating the president’s defense, set to begin Saturday.
After three days of meticulous and often vivid narrative and painstaking legal arguments, the House managers appeared ready to rest their case that Trump sought foreign interference in the 2020 election on his own behalf by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, using vital military aid and a White House meeting as leverage. Yet the pool of Republican senators that had expressed openness to joining Democrats in insisting on witnesses or new documents appeared to be dwindling, not growing.
Comments by Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska suggested they may have cooled to the idea, although Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah gave no indication that they had shifted.
“Schiff was phenomenal,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, “but I’m skeptical he moved any votes.”
Inside and outside the chamber, the House managers and Democratic senators worked in tandem Friday to appeal to their consciences, hinting strongly at the political stakes if they failed to press for a more thorough airing of the charges against Trump.
“We’ve made the argument forcefully, the American people have made the argument forcefully that they want the truth,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “Will four Republican senators — just four — rise to the occasion, do their duty to the Constitution, to their country to seek the truth?”
Without an agreement to take new testimony or subpoena documents relevant to the case, Trump may be headed toward a historically speedy acquittal in as little as a week from now, before the Iowa caucus or his planned State of the Union address. That would make the third impeachment trial of a president in American history the shortest.
Trump’s defense team plans to open its arguments on Saturday, though senators were only expected to meet for an abbreviated, two- to three-hour session before adjourning the trial until Monday afternoon.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said his team would treat the weekend session like a “trailer,” providing an overview of their case for acquittal while holding back until Monday the president’s more television-friendly attorneys, former independent counsel Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz.
Democrats were on track to use every one of the 24 hours afforded to them by senators to make their case, determined to persuade American voters watching at home, if not senators.
On Wednesday, Schiff and each of the managers took turns introducing the facts of the case in narrative form, unfolding the tale of Trump’s alleged misconduct chapter by chapter. Beginning with the abrupt removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, they said that Trump empowered first his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and then U.S. officials to push Ukraine to announce investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats, before himself asking that country’s leader to “do us a favor.”
When the Ukrainians resisted, they added, he withheld a coveted White House meeting and almost $400 million in military aid the fledgling democracy badly needed to fend off a menacing Russia. And when Congress found out, he undertook an across-the-board campaign to block officials from testifying or producing records that would reveal the scheme.
On Thursday, Nadler lectured extensively on the constitutional and historical standards for impeachment, setting the stage for the managers to methodically argue that Trump’s actions toward Ukraine constituted an impeachable abuse of power that warrants his removal from office.
Schiff completed that case Friday, directly engaging the national security implications of Trump’s actions as he argued that the president was a serial offender in seeking foreign help for his own political benefit, allowing himself to be used as a tool of Moscow’s agenda in the process. As a candidate, Trump welcomed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to help him win the White House, Schiff noted, and then as president, he repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies about that interference. Later, Trump said outright that he would welcome foreign campaign assistance again.