Democrats pushed forward with their impeachment case against Donald Trump on Thursday, attempting to undermine the president’s defences as they laid out the evidence for his removal from office.
The House impeachment managers — six Democratic representatives acting as prosecutors in the Senate trial — presented arguments late into the evening on the third day of proceedings in the historic impeachment of Mr Trump.
With debates about the call of witnesses largely parked until after both sides have made their case, the Democrats delved deep into the details of their claims that Mr Trump abused his powers by trying to force the Ukrainian president to announce investigations that would help him in the 2020 US election.
Here are the highlights:
Democrats tackle the Biden question head on
Joe Biden, the former vice-president who is vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, is central to the impeachment saga. Much of the case against Mr Trump revolves around the president’s attempts to give credence, through an announcement of an investigation, to his claims of corrupt dealings by Mr Biden and his son Hunter Biden in Ukraine. On Thursday, Democrats did not shy away from that fight, framing those allegations as an attempt by Mr Trump to smear a possible rival in 2020.
“The president asked Ukraine for this investigation for one reason and one reason only: because he knew it would be damaging to an opponent who was consistently beating him in the polls, and therefore, it could get him re-elected in 2020,” Sylvia Garcia, a first-term representative from Texas, said on the floor of the Senate.
The tactic is significant as Mr Biden is a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. One risk Democrats have had to grapple with in impeaching Mr Trump has been the possibility that they amplify the very allegations liberals regard as a smear intended to politically benefit the president. Having come this far, however, Democrats decided they had no choice but to attack the issue directly.
And take aim at other Republican talking points
Throughout the day, the House impeachment managers peppered their presentations with refutations of the Republican responses to their case. Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat from New York, took on Mr Trump’s oft-repeated defence of “Read the transcript,” a reference to the record of his July 25 call with Volodymr Zelenksy, the Ukrainian president, which the White House released last year.
The document showed Mr Trump telling his Ukrainian counterpart he wanted “a favour, though” immediately after Mr Zelenksy brought up wanting to purchase more weapons from the US.
“Read the transcript, President Trump says. We have read the transcript and it is damning evidence of a corrupt quid pro quo,” said Mr Jeffries, a House impeachment manager. “The evidence against President Trump is hiding in plain sight.”
Republicans attempt to sow boredom
The long hours and absence, so far, of new witnesses or documents, have provided Republicans with a talking point they returned to throughout the day: the trial is repetitive and boring.
Though new evidence could be presented if Republicans, who have a majority in the Senate, voted for it, their most frequent attack line was not a defence of the conduct at issue but a criticism of Democrats for covering ground they said was well-trodden.
“We’ve heard the same story: rinse it, recycle it and repeat it,” Tim Scott, Republican from South Carolina, told reporters. James Lankford of Oklahoma hit the same theme: “Same story, same videos, all over again.” Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, took a similar line: “We are hearing the same things over and over. That’s the way they are going to do their case”.
Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, showed his disdain in a morning tweet that referenced the convention that allows senators to drink milk during an impeachment trial: “Hour 23 of redundant impeachment arguments. For those following at home: Drinking game — every time House Dems say ‘drug deal’ or ‘get over it’ . . . drink a shot of milk!”
A more courteous tone from Democrats
Earlier in the week, Democrats faced pressure after Jerrold Nadler, the House judiciary chair and one of the impeachment managers, accused the Republican senators of engaging in a cover-up after they voted down an initial move to call witnesses and subpoena documents.
On Thursday, the impeachment managers took pains to show respect. Hakeem Jeffries began his remarks with a light-hearted joke about baseball that segued into comments about the “sanctity” of the US constitution being the only thing more American than “baseball and apple pie”.
“We do want to thank you for your courtesy and your patience in extending to us the opportunity to present,” he said.
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