House managers focus on Trump’s ‘defiance’ in closing of impeachment presentation

Trump’s defense team will make the president’s case Saturday

House impeachment managers Zoe Lofgren and Adam B. Schiff, center, walk through the Ohio Clock Corridor on Friday on their way to a news conference before the start of the day’s impeachment trial proceedings. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House impeachment managers Zoe Lofgren and Adam B. Schiff, center, walk through the Ohio Clock Corridor on Friday on their way to a news conference before the start of the day’s impeachment trial proceedings. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 24, 2020 at 8:27pm

House impeachment managers on Friday concluded their third and final day of arguments to remove President Donald Trump from office by focusing on the House investigation and appealing to authority and emotion.

Lead manager Adam B. Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, forcefully laid out the House’s case in his closing statement, arguing that Trump would “remain a threat to the Constitution” if he were allowed to remain in office. 

The California Democrat argued that the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, is vital to preserving the power of Congress to investigate and impeach a president. There would never be another Article One, abuse of power, if the Senate does not convict Trump on Article Two, Schiff said.

“In the history of the republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry,” Schiff said, referring to the president’s refusal to comply with subpoenas for documents and witnesses.

Earlier in the day, Schiff tried to make the case — built around Trump’s attempts to tie military aid to Ukraine to the launch of a politically motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden — personal for senators.

“Let’s imagine it wasn’t Joe Biden. Let’s imagine it was any one of us. Let’s imagine the most powerful person in the world was asking a foreign nation to conduct a sham investigation into one of us. What would we think about it then?” the congressman said, looking pointedly toward the seated Republican senators.

Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, then brought up former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy in a July 25 phone call.

A White House summary of the call shows that Trump said Yovanovitch would be “going to go through some things.” Trump later recalled her from her post.

“One day someone releases a transcript of a call between the president of the United states and a foreign leader and the president says ‘there’s gonna be something happening to you,’ or to you, or to you, or to you or to you,” Schiff said, pointing toward the seated senators with every “you” he uttered. “How would you feel about the president of the United States? Would you think he was abusing the power of his office?”

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Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, a freshman lawmaker and former Army Ranger, kicked off the day highlighting the importance of the delayed $391 million military aid package to Ukraine.

Crow specifically took aim at Republican arguments that the aid was eventually delivered to Ukraine, a country fighting a Russian invasion, so no harm was done.

“The delay wasn’t meaningless,” Crow told the Senate. “Just ask the Ukrainians sitting in trenches right now.”

Crow walked senators through the House’s findings, showing how that aid package was blocked until a few days after a whistleblower raised concern about Trump using the aid as leverage to investigate Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The House Democrats serving as impeachment managers are working to win over the public and to convince enough GOP senators to vote to subpoena White House documents and to hear from witnesses.

Florida Rep. Val B. Demings focused on Trump’s obstruction of Congress.

“President Trump directed the entire executive branch not to cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry,” Demings told the Senate. “Only one person in the world has the power to issue an order to the entire executive branch. That person, senators, as you know, is the president.”

Demings is the first non-lawyer to ever be an impeachment manager, but she knows the law well through her nearly three decades in law enforcement, a fact she brought up Friday.

“Senators, I know that this is not easy. I don’t take this moment lightly. These are tough times,” Demings said. “I remember quite a few tough times during my 27 years as a law enforcement officer. But we must stop this president.”

New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler argued that Trump’s “blanket defiance” of impeachment inquiry subpoenas made him a historical “outlier,” referencing precedents on executive branch compliance set by George Washington, James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson and others.

Even former President Richard Nixon “understood that he must comply with subpoenas for information relating to his misconduct,” Nadler said, highlighting Nixon’s public declaration that every senior White House aide who was called to testify during the impeachment inquiry into the Watergate affair should do so voluntarily.

After three days absorbing the House’s arguments, Trump’s legal team Saturday morning will make their case in defense of the president. The president’s lawyers didn’t reveal much about their legal strategy, but suggested that their Saturday presentation would last around two to three hours with a more robust presentation to come when the Senate reconvenes Monday.