What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial
House Democrats are poised Thursday to dig deeper into their impeachment case that President Trump is unfit for office, focusing the second day of the Senate trial on the charge that Trump abused his power in office.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the impeachment managers team plans to use the evidence laid out Wednesday to support their first article of impeachment: Abuse of power.
“Tomorrow, we will go through the law, the Constitution and the facts as they apply to Article I,” Schiff said at the conclusion of the arguments on Wednesday night. “We’ve introduced the case, we have gone through the chronology and tomorrow we will apply the facts to the law as it pertains to the president’s abuse of power.”
If the first day of arguments is any indication, Democrats will spend more than eight hours — sprinkled with a couple breaks — arguing that Trump should be removed from office over charges that he sought to recruit a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 election. Trump, the Democrats contend, pressed Ukrainian leaders last summer to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender in the presidential race, to boost his own reelection prospects.
“His scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason: to help him win reelection in 2020,” Schiff said earlier in the day. “But the effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections and place our national security at risk.”
The Senate trial is expected to start at 1 p.m., meaning it should conclude roughly around 10 p.m., according to the schedule the proceeding has followed thus far. Senators are expected to have closed-door caucus lunches before the trial starts, giving them a chance to plot strategy before they sit silently on the floor for hours on end.
On Wednesday, while other impeachment managers took to the podium for short shifts throughout the session, Schiff — the lead impeachment manager — handled the brunt of the presentation himself.
Schiff, prior to taking the Senate floor, said the House Democrats planned to go into “extensive detail” as they lay out the “factual chronology” of Trump’s alleged pressure campaign to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open the politically motivated investigations.
Among the points Democrats hammered Wednesday: Trump asking Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to do him a “favor” and look into Biden, the timeline for freezing nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, the alleged pressure campaign by the Trump administration to get Kyiv to investigate Biden, the involvement of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the subsequent release of additional information since the House impeached Trump.
“The president used official state powers — available only to him and unavailable to any political opponent — to advantage himself in our democratic election,” Schiff said in his opening remarks.
Democrats again utilized clips of past witness testimony from the House impeachment inquiry as well as a series of public statements from the president himself to support their case.
The opening arguments are building to a showdown next week over whether or not the Senate will call witnesses.
Conservative allies of Trump’s have floated the idea of “witness reciprocity,” meaning if Democrats are able to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, then the White House should be able to call Biden’s son Hunter Biden, who has emerged as a fixation for Republicans because of his employment at a Ukrainian energy company.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), noting that Schiff had referenced Hunter Biden in Wednesday’s arguments, argued that the new mention “not only made his testimony relevant, which it already was, but it is now critical.”
But Democrats closed the door to the idea on Wednesday, with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) describing it as “off the table.”
“You know, we don’t need to have witnesses that have nothing to do with this that are trying to distract Americans from the truth,” Schumer said.
Democrats want to call four witnesses, including Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
It’s unclear how much movement the second day of arguments will have within the Senate Republican caucus. Democrats need four GOP senators to vote to call witnesses, but a majority of GOP senators have already said they will vote to acquit Trump.
“I didn’t hear anything new at all … No new material presented,” Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican senator, told reporters after roughly six hours of testimony.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Democrats were using their floor time to create a “rehashing” of its months-long inquiry, which he called a “charade.”
However, at least one GOP senator indicated that he thought his colleagues were learning something new with the House presentations.
“[They’re] hearing the prosecution’s case for the first time,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “If you poll the United States Senate, 9 out of 10 senators will tell you they have not read a transcript of the proceedings in the House. And the 10th senator who says he has is lying.”
Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, said the White House team is being “fluid,” but they are preparing for Democrats to use their full eight hours on Thursday and Friday, which will be the final day of the managers’ opening arguments.
“You tell me? Are they moving too slowly?” Sekulow asked reporters. “They have 24 hours to put their case forward [and] it looks like they will take all 24 hours.”
Sekulow indicated on Wednesday night that the White House will not try to dismiss the case — a procedural move GOP leadership said lacked the 51 votes needed in order to pass.
When asked why they weren’t making a motion, Sekulow replied: “Because I want to let them try their case, and we want to try our case because we believe without a question the president will be acquitted.”
Alexander Bolton and Mike Lillis contributed