Democrats argue ‘right matters’ in Trump impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic House prosecutors made an expansive case on Thursday at United States (US) President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that he abused power like no other president in history, swept up by a “completely bogus” Ukraine theory pushed by attorney Rudy Giuliani.

The Democrats yesterday pressed their final day of arguments before skeptical Republican senators, focussing on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress’ investigation.

As the audience of Senate jurors sat through another long day, and night, the prosecutors outlined the charge. They argued that Trump abused power for his own personal political benefit ahead of the 2020 election, even as the nation’s top FBI and national security officials were publicly warning off the theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

“That’s what Donald Trump wanted investigated or announced – this completely bogus Kremlin-pushed conspiracy theory,” said Rep Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is leading the prosecution, during Thursday’s session.

At the close of the evening Schiff made an emotional plea to senators to consider what was at stake as Trump is accused of seeking Ukrainian probes of political foe Joe Biden and Biden’s son while holding back congressionally approved military aid as leverage.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. PHOTO: AP

“Right matters,” he said, quoting Army officer Lt Col Alex Vindman who had testified in the House. “Otherwise we are lost.”

The President is facing trial in the Senate after the House impeached him last month, accusing Trump of abusing his office by asking Ukraine for the investigations while withholding the aid from a US ally at war with bordering Russia. The second article of impeachment accuses him of obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe.

Republicans, growing tired of the long hours of proceedings, have defended Trump’s actions as appropriate and cast the process as a politically motivated effort to weaken him in the midst of his reelection campaign. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and acquittal is considered likely.

The Democrats’ challenge is clear as they try to convince not just fidgety senators but an American public divided over the Republican president in an election year.

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, Democrats argued on Thursday that Trump’s motives were apparent.

“No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the senators. He said the nation’s founders would be shocked. “The president’s conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous.”

Democrats scoffed at Trump’s claim he had good reasons for pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden or other political foes. Rep Sylvia Garcia of Texas, herself a former judge, aid there is “no evidence, nothing, nada” to suggest that Biden did anything improper in dealings with Ukraine.

Trump, with Giuliani, pursued investigations of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on a Ukrainian gas company’s board, and sought the probe of debunked theories of what nation was guilty of interference in the 2016 US election.

On dual tracks, Democrats prosecuted their case while answering in advance the arguments expected from the president’s attorneys in the days ahead.

At one point, they showed video of a younger Lindsey Graham, then a South Carolina congressman and now a GOP senator allied with Trump, arguing during Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment that no crime was needed for impeaching a president. Trump’s defence team is now arguing that the impeachment articles against him are invalid because they do not allege he committed a specific crime.

The President’s defenders’ turn will come today.