Washington: Democrats told President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Thursday that he openly and dangerously abused his powers to gain political advantage.
House impeachment managers laid out the evidence for the first of two articles of impeachment against the US leader in the second day of arguments, methodically dismantling Republican claims that Trump did nothing wrong in soliciting electoral help from Ukraine last year.
As the 100 senators sat as jurors, the prosecutors played old videos in which two of the president’s closest defenders said that abuse of power is a clear impeachable offence, puncturing a key White House argument that the US constitution requires a specific crime to remove a president.
“President Trump used the powers of his office to solicit a foreign nation to interfere in our elections for his own personal benefit,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, one of the impeachment managers, told the chamber.
“Since President George Washington took office in 1789, no president has abused his power in this way,” Nadler said. “The president has repeatedly, flagrantly, violated his oath… The president’s conduct is wrong. It is illegal. And it is dangerous,” he added.
Democrats were planning to spend Thursday’s trial session arguing their case on the first impeachment charge, and take on the second – obstruction of Congress – Friday.
That will be the prosecution’s final day before Trump’s defense takes the Senate podium from Saturday to Tuesday.
Democrats are hoping to break Republican unity and vote with them to remove the president – an uphill battle given the Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the Senate and Trump’s ability to keep his party in line.
They are also hoping that, 10 months before national elections, the nationally televised hearings will sway voters dubious of impeachment that Trump is unworthy of reelection.
After reports that many Republicans were absent from much of Wednesday’s session, House Chaplain Barry Black opened the hearing Thursday with a invocation call to listen.
“Lord, help them remember that listening is often more than hearing,” Black said. “It can be an empathetic attentiveness that builds bridges and unity.”
Trump unleashed a barrage of tweets attacking the process as ‘loaded with lies and misrepresentations’. He attacked Adam Schiff, the chief House prosecutor who led the opening arguments Tuesday, in starkly personal terms, calling him ‘Shifty Schiff’, and retweeted criticism of the California lawmaker made by White House supporters to Fox News.