The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump formally opened on Jan. 21 with the defense and prosecutors arguing over rules that will govern the proceeding.
The proceedings began with Trumps attorneys backing the rules for the trial proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) The Democrats objected to the rules, and, over lunch, McConnell heard similar protests from fellow Republicans. McConnell then loosened some of the rules, including easing plans for a tight two-day schedule for opening arguments and agreeing that additional House evidence will be included.
The senators also listened to arguments for and against two amendments to McConnells rules proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who called for the Senate to authorize subpoenas for documents from the White House and the State Department. The Republican majority rejected the amendment for a White House subpoena 53–47.
The arguments on McConnells rules and Schumers amendments presented dual visions of reality, with the presidents attorneys calling the impeachment a baseless, unconstitutional act, and the House Democrats alleging there was “overwhelming” evidence of wrongdoing.
In seeking to remove Trump from office, Democrats allege that the president abused the power of his office by pressuring the leader of Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and obstructing Congress after the alleged scheme was uncovered.
House Democrats voted to impeach Trump, charging him with “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress.” Trump denies wrongdoing and has cast down the proceedings as a hoax meant to derail his 2020 reelection.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trumps defense, attacked the foundation of the charges against the Republican president and said Democrats hadnt come close to meeting the Constitutional standards for impeachment.
“The only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said. “There is absolutely no case.”
House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who helped spearhead the House impeachment inquiry, summarized the charges against Trump and said the president had committed a “trifecta of constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”
Schiff said that although the evidence against Trump was “already overwhelming,” further witness testimony was necessary to show the full scope of the misconduct by the president and those around him.
Trumps attorneys rebutted Schiffs claims, pointing out that if the evidence was overwhelming, the House impeachment managers wouldnt be fighting for additional evidence and witnesses.
Trump counsel Jay Sekulow also recast Schiffs “trifecta” to underline the three due-process rights Trump was denied during the House impeachment inquiry: the right to cross-examine witnesses, the right to have counsel at hearings, and the right to access evidence. Schiff responded by saying the hearings had to be closed in order to prevent witnesses from coordinating their testimony.
Democrats want a number of current and former Trump administration officials, including Trumps former national security adviser John Bolton and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to testify.
McConnell unveiled a plan on Jan. 20 for what would be a potentially quick trial without new testimony or evidence. It would have given Democratic prosecutors and Trumps lawyers 48 hours, evenly split, to present their arguments over four days.
That plan was changed to give each side three days of opening arguments over two 24-hour periods. The rules also will allow the Houses record of the impeachment probe admitted as evidence in the trial, as Democrats had demanded.
“We discussed it at lunch. It was pretty much a [Republican] conference consensus that that made a lot more sense,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said.
Democrats had accused McConnell of trying to rig a trial with proposed rules that they said would prevent witnesses from testifying and bar evidence gathered by investigators. Both Schumer and Schiff accused the Senates majority leader of being part of a coverup.
McConnell has repeatedly said the rules would mirror those the Senate used in the 1999 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Republican senators havent ruled out the possibility of further witness testimony and evidence.
Under McConnells plan, lawyers for Trump could move early in the proceedings to ask senators to dismiss all charges, according to a senior Republican leadership aide, a motion that would likely fall short of the support needed to succeed.
Even if such a motion fails, Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the 100-member chamber, in which a Read More – Source