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Senate impeachment trial live updates: Democrats make ‘abuse of power’ case

uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) — When the Senate trial of President Donald Trump resumes Thursday afternoon, lead House manager Adam Schiff says Democrats “will go through the law, the Constitution and the facts as they apply to Article One” — the article of impeachment that accuses the president of ‘abuse of power.

On Wednesday, after laying out the timeline of Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine, including withholding military aid to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, Schiff argued that the president violated the Constitution.

Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard Law professor who is playing a role on Trump’s defense team, is expected to argue, as he’s been doing on tv, that a sitting president cannot be impeached for ‘abuse of power’ as Democrats charge.

Also on Wednesday, the first of three days of opening arguments, Democrats flatly dismissed the notion of offering Joe or Hunter Biden as witnesses in exchange for Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, “That trade is not on the table.”

The day also revealed at least one protester, three milk-drinkers and several chatty senators — among although such moments in the chamber weren’t seen on camera because of long-standing restrictions on what Senate-controlled cameras can show.

Democrats have roughly 16 hours left to use over two days before the president’s legal team takes the Senate floor on Saturday to begin their 24 hours of opening arguments over three days.1:39 p.m. Nadler speaks of the ‘ABCs of impeachment’

Nadler boils down the Democratic case to the “ABCs of impeachment.”

“Abuse: We will show that President Trump abused his power when he used his office to solicit and pressure Ukraine to meddle in our elections for his personal gain. Betrayal: We will show that he betrayed vital national interests, specifically our national security, by withholding diplomatic support and military aid from Ukraine even as it faced armed Russian aggression. Corruption: President Trump’s intent was to corrupt our elections to his personal political benefit. He put his personal interest in retaining power above free and fair elections and above the principle that Americans must govern themselves without interference from abroad.

“Article One thus charges a high crime and misdemeanor that blends abuse of power, betrayal of the nation, and corruption in elections into a single unforgiveable scheme. That is why this president must be removed from office, especially before he continues his effort to corrupt our next election,” Nadler says.

Citing legal scholars who agree with the House case, Nadler cites the former Harvard Law School professor who will argue for Trump on the Senate floor that the Constitution does not support that a president can be impeached for abuse of power.

“Another who comes to mind is professor Alan Dershowitz. At least Alan Dershowitz in 1998. Back then here is what he had to say about impeachment for abuse of power,” Nadler says before showing a video clip of Dershowitz from 1988.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don’t need a technical crime,” Dershowitz says in the clip.

“But we need not look to 1998 to find one of President Trump’s key allies espousing this view. Consider the comments of our current Attorney General William Barr, a man known for his extraordinarily expansive view of executive power. In Attorney General Barr’s view, as expressed about 18 months ago, presidents cannot be indicted or criminally investigated, but that’s okay because they can impeached. That’s the safeguard,” Nadler says as a memo written by Barr in June 2018 appears in exhibits.

“And in an impeachment, Attorney General Barr added, the president is answerable for any abuses of discretion and may be held accountable under law for misdeeds in office. In other words, Attorney General Barr, who believes along with the office of legal counsel that a president may not be indicted believes that that’s okay, we don’t need that safeguard against a president who would commit abuses of power. It’s okay because he can be impeached. That’s the safeguard for abuses of discretion and for his misdeeds in office,” Nadler quotes Barr as writing.

“When the president betrays our national security and foreign policy interests for his own personal gain, he is unquestionably subject to impeachment and removal,” Nadler continues. “The same is true of a different concern raised by the framers, the use of presidential power to corrupt the elections and the office of the presidency. As Madison emphasized, because the presidency was to be administered by a single man, his corruption might be fatal to the republic.”

Anticipating another of the arguments from Trump’s defense team — that no specific crime is alleged — Nadler says, “In a last ditch legal defense of their client, the president’s lawyers argue that impeachment and removal are subject to statutory crimes or to offenses against established law, that the president cannot be impeached because he has not committed a crime. This view is completely wrong. It has no support in constitutional text and structure, original meeting, congressional presence, common sense or the consensus of credible experts. In other words, it conflicts with every relevant consideration.”

Then, he uses a video clip of GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I might say the same thing of then House manager Lindsey Graham who in President Clinton’s trial flatly rejected the notion that impeachable offenses are limited to violation of established law,” Nadler says before playing a clip from Graham on the Senate floor in Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trail.

“What’s a high crime? How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means? It’s not very scholarly, but I think it’s the truth. I think that’s what they meant by high crimes. Doesn’t even have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you have committed a high crime,” Graham says in the clip.


This is how the day is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.

1:39 p.m. Nadler speaks of the ‘ABCs of impeachment’

Nadler boils down the Democratic case to the “ABCs of impeachment.”

“Abuse: We will show that President Trump abused his power when he used his office to solicit and pressure Ukraine to meddle in our elections for his personal gain. Betrayal: We will show that he betrayed vital national interests, specifically our national security, by withholding diplomatic support and military aid from Ukraine even as it faced armed Russian aggression. Corruption: President Trump’s intent was to corrupt our elections to his personal political benefit. He put his personal interest in retaining power above free and fair elections and above the principle that Americans must govern themselves without interference from abroad.

“Article One thus charges a high crime and misdemeanor that blends abuse of power, betrayal of the nation, and corruption in elections into a single unforgiveable scheme. That is why this president must be removed from office, especially before he continues his effort to corrupt our next election,” Nadler says.

Citing legal scholars who agree with the House case, Nadler cites the former Harvard Law School professor who will argue for Trump on the Senate floor that the Constitution does not support that a president can be impeached for abuse of power.

“Another who comes to mind is professor Alan Dershowitz. At least Alan Dershowitz in 1998. Back then here is what he had to say about impeachment for abuse of power,” Nadler says before showing a video clip of Dershowitz from 1988.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don’t need a technical crime,” Dershowitz says in the clip.

“But we need not look to 1998 to find one of President Trump’s key allies espousing this view. Consider the comments of our current Attorney General William Barr, a man known for his extraordinarily expansive view of executive power. In Attorney General Barr’s view, as expressed about 18 months ago, presidents cannot be indicted or criminally investigated, but that’s okay because they can impeached. That’s the safeguard,” Nadler says as a memo written by Barr in June 2018 appears in exhibits.

“And in an impeachment, Attorney General Barr added, the president is answerable for any abuses of discretion and may be held accountable under law for misdeeds in office. In other words, Attorney General Barr, who believes along with the office of legal counsel that a president may not be indicted believes that that’s okay, we don’t need that safeguard against a president who would commit abuses of power. It’s okay because he can be impeached. That’s the safeguard for abuses of discretion and for his misdeeds in office,” Nadler quotes Barr as writing.

“When the president betrays our national security and foreign policy interests for his own personal gain, he is unquestionably subject to impeachment and removal,” Nadler continues. “The same is true of a different concern raised by the framers, the use of presidential power to corrupt the elections and the office of the presidency. As Madison emphasized, because the presidency was to be administered by a single man, his corruption might be fatal to the republic.”

Anticipating another of the arguments from Trump’s defense team — that no specific crime is alleged — Nadler says, “In a last ditch legal defense of their client, the president’s lawyers argue that impeachment and removal are subject to statutory crimes or to offenses against established law, that the president cannot be impeached because he has not committed a crime. This view is completely wrong. It has no support in constitutional text and structure, original meeting, congressional presence, common sense or the consensus of credible experts. In other words, it conflicts with every relevant consideration.”

Then, he uses a video clip of GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I might say the same thing of then House manager Lindsey Graham who in President Clinton’s trial flatly rejected the notion that impeachable offenses are limited to violation of established law,” Nadler says before playing a clip from Graham on the Senate floor in Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trail.

“What’s a high crime? How about if an important person hurts somebody of low means? It’s not very scholarly, but I think it’s the truth. I think that’s what they meant by high crimes. Doesn’t even have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you have committed a high crime,” Graham says in the clip.

1:09 p.m. Nadler: Trump ‘puts President Nixon to shame’ in abusing power

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the lead House impeachment managers takes the floor after Schiff to begin outlining the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“President Trump used the powers of his office to solicit a foreign nation to interfere in our elections for his own personal benefit. Note, that the act of solicitation itself, just the ask, constitutes an abuse of power. But President Trump went further,” he says.

“The president’s conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous, and it captures the worst fears of our founders and the framers of the Constitution,” Nadler says. “No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections. Prior presidents would be shocked to the core by such conduct, and rightly so.

“This presidential stonewalling of Congress is unprecedented in the 238-year history of our constitutional republic. It puts even President Nixon to shame. Taken together, the articles and the evidence conclusively establish that President Trump has placed his own personal political interests first. He has placed them above our national security, above our free and fair elections, and above our system of checks and balances. This conduct is not America first, it is Donald Trump first,” Nadler says.

“Donald Trump swore an oath to faithfully execute the laws. That means putting the nation’s interests above his own, and the president has repeatedly, flagrantly violated his oath.”

1:05 p.m. Schiff: ‘There is some method to our madness’

Schiff again took the lead as Democrats begin a second of opening arguments.

But first he offers some humor, possibly referring to reports of restless senators talking and walking around the chamber — and some leaving.

“I am not sure the chief justice is fully aware of just how rare it is, how extraordinary it is for the House members to be able to command the attention of senators sitting silently for hours or even for minutes for that matter. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the morning starts out every day with a sergeant at arms warning you that if you don’t, you will be imprisoned.”

Then he outlines how House managers will go through the first article and what he says are the constitutional underpinnings of abuse of power.

“You have now heard hundreds of hours of deposition and live testimony from the House condensed into an abbreviated narrative of the facts. We will now show you these facts and many others and how they are interwoven. You will see some of these facts and videos therefore in a new context, in a new light, in the light of what else we know and why it compels a finding of guilt and conviction, so there is some method to our madness.”

12:38 p.m. Graham compliments Schiff on presentation of House case, but asks ‘will it stand up?’

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to reporters shortly before Thursday’s proceedings begin, and when asked about a reported he had with Schiff after Wednesday’s trial session ended, Graham confirms that he complimented Schiff, a fellow former prosecutor, on his presentation.

“He’s well-spoken, did a good job of creating a tapestry, taking bits and pieces of evidence and emails and giving a rhetorical flourish making the email come alive,” he says. “Quite frankly, I thought they did a good job of taking bits and pieces of the evidence and creating a quilt out of it,” he says. “But will it stand up?”

“The point is: let’s see what the other side says then we’ll make a decision about what the president actually did or didn’t do,” he adds. “All I can do tell you is it from the presidents point of view, he did nothing wrong, in his mind.”

“There are bunch of people on my side who want to call Joe Biden and Hunter Biden. I want to end this thing sooner rather than later,” Graham says, explaining he will not vote for witness and documents. “I want the American people to pick the next president not me, and so what I think is the best thing to happen is to have oversight of Ukrainian potential misconduct and move on to the election. I am not going to use my vote to extend the trial,” Graham continues.

“I love Joe Biden, but I can tell you, if the name was ‘Trump’ a lot of questions would be asked.”

11:48 a.m. Schumer says a Trump acquittal will have ‘zero value’ if not witnesses

At a morning news conference, without saying their names, Schumer calls again on four Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — to join Democrats in calling for witnesses and documents, before directly addressing the president and his GOP allies.

“I will say this to president than any of my Republican friends: if the American people believe this is not a fair trial, which right now they seem to believe because there were no witnesses and documents, acquittal will have zero value to the president or to the Republicans,” he says.

“The bottom line is the president is clearly covering up, his people are covering up, and the question is: Will our Republican colleagues rise to their constitutional mandate to create a fair trial?” Schumer adds, “and I don’t think it will sit very well with history or with the American people if they don’t.”

Asked about reports of possible deal on witnesses, Schumer says not a single Republican has approached him on the subject — further shutting down the idea.

“No Republicans are talking to us about deals. We want these four witnesses … they go to the truth,” he says. (Yesterday, when asked a similar question, Schumer said witnesses should be relevant to the case, seeming to say a deal involving Biden testimony would be off the table for him. Today’s answer seems a bit more open-ended.)

–ABC’s Sarah Kolinovsky

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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