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Finger pointing, accusations mark conclusion of impeachment trial

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Jan 29, 2020 - 10:49:38 AM

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presides over the opening of the impeachment trial. Photos: MGN Online

WASHINGTON—The legal team of President Donald J. Trump wrapped up its case in the Senate trial of the impeachment of the commander-in-chief in the aftermath of House managers laying out its arguments days prior. Their case has been based on speculation, assumptions and third hand information, argued Jane Raskin, on of Mr. Trump’s attorneys in her Jan. 27 remarks.

The defense presentation came just as reports circulated that John Bolton, former Trump national security advisor allegedly revealed in a manuscript to a book he is writing that the president indeed wanted to continue freezing aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into the Democrats.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Jan. 25.
House managers were adamant Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses. “You know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) House Intelligence Committee Chair and lead manager of the impeachment prosecution said, Jan. 25 in remarks concluding the House presentation against the president.

After 21 hours, over three days, of meticulous presentations by the seven-member House team, the evidence of Mr. Trump’s guilt is overwhelming, said Mr. Schiff, who said Mr. Trump’s removal from office is a necessary step toward protecting the U.S. Constitution and the national interest. The only remaining question, he continued, is: “Does he really need to be removed?” The answer, he said unequivocally is yes.

Mr. Trump, he insisted, is “dangerous to this country.”

“You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed,” he said.

“If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is,” Mr. Schiff said. “It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. Doesn’t matter how well written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost,” he continued.

Despite presenting what Democrats considered to be a mountain of evidence, even receiving praise for their presentation from some GOP senators, Mr. Trump is expected to be acquitted after a brief trial. The two-thirds majority required to remove the president from office is unlikely in the Republican-majority Senate. In preliminary votes over witnesses, for example, 11 separate Democratic proposals were voted down along straight party lines by a 53-47 margin.

The crux of the House Democrats’ case is the allegation that Mr. Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Trump 2020 political rival; and then he unlawfully blocked all congressional requests and subpoenas for evidence when an investigation was launched; this after a whistleblower revealed Mr. Trump’s suspicious conversation with the Ukrainian president last July 25.

The conclusion of the trial will likely feature no material witnesses, and will not see thousands of pages of potentially relevant documents, all of which were blocked from the House investigation by the White House. The trial, being presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts, may even conclude before Feb. 4, Mr. Trump’s scheduled State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

Volodymyr Zelensky, 6th President of Ukraine since May 2019
After three eight-hour sessions by the Democrats, which required all 100 Senators to be present, with no cell phones or computers to distract from the presentations, the president’s defense team made their first presentation an abbreviated one, to outline their case, arguing that the president had done nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine and that Democrats had presented a selected record.

In his opening, White House attorney Pat Cipollone complained that during their 21-plus hours, the seven House managers played the same video clips over and over; and they were trying to “muddy the waters” in the debate. Mr. Trump’s first day of defense was abbreviated in part because he complained that his defense opening would be at the worst time to reach the public—Saturday, Jan. 25 being “Death Valley” for television viewers, the president complained.

Mr. Cipollone even argued that it was the Democrats, and not the president who were hiding evidence, evidence he said Democrats did not present because they did not want the total story to be known.

“They try to overcome the devastating evidence against them by apparently claiming to be mind readers,” Mr. Cipollone said. “They know what’s in President Zelensky’s mind better than President Zelensky does. President Zelensky said he felt no pressure. The house managers tell you they know better, and this is really a theme of the House case, said Mr. Cipollone.

“I want you to remember this. Every time the Democrats say that President Trump made demands or issued a quid pro quo to President Zelensky on the July 25 call, they are saying that President Zelensky and his top advisors are being untruthful and they acknowledge that that’s what they’re saying,” he continued.

But Democratic manager Val Demings (D-Fla.) disputed the Republicans. “Regardless of what you say, the truth still matters and the evidence against this president is overwhelming,” she said on ABC’s “This Week” Jan. 26. She said via social media, “whenever you hear the President’s lawyers attacking us instead of defending the president, it’s a good sign they have no case.”

“They don’t contest the facts. They’re trying to deflect, distract from, and distort the truth. And they’re continuing to cover it up by blocking documents and witnesses,” said Mr. Schiff.

Republicans have remained in lockstep loyalty to their flawed president, in part out of fear Mr. Schiff suggested, with an ominous warning. “CBS news reported last night that a Trump confidant said that GOP senators were warned, vote against your president, to vote against the president, and your head will be on a pike. I don’t know if that’s true. Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike. I have to say when I read that, and again, I don’t know if that’s true, but when I read that, I was struck by the irony, by the irony,” he said.

“I hope it’s not true, but I was struck by the irony of the idea when we’re talking about a president who would make himself a monarch, that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was proposed by a monarch—a head on a pike,” he said.

Mr. Trump responded viciously. Writing on Twitter Jan. 26, the morning after his abbreviated defense, attacking Mr. Schiff as “a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” warning, “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” When asked by “Meet The Press” moderator Chuck Todd: “Do you take that as a threat?” “I think it’s intended to be,” Mr. Schiff replied.

But Black people in this country should take a lesson from this impeachment, according to Dr. Greg Carr, chairman of the Department of African American Studies at Howard University. The impeachment trial, said Dr. Carr, “continues to reveal to those who haven’t thought about it, the extent to which the only binding element of ‘The American People’ is a shared federal system. There is no shared national identity, ideology or culture. The nativists are playing with fire.” “#GOP senators will not defend the idea of ‘American democracy.’ They will defend their Mad King,” Dr. Carr said.

But one senator participating in the trial was hopeful that the meaning and importance of the occasion was understood by all. “As I sat there looking over at my Republican colleagues, I just kept thinking of one simple thing. And that is our Constitution does not say ‘we the ruling party,’ it says ‘we the people,’” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and a presidential candidate said, according to published reports.