Trump Impeachment Hearings: Highlights From Today’s Trial

The seven House impeachment managers, led by Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, resumed oral arguments on Thursday, with 16 hours and 42 minutes remaining, and started to build out their legal case that President Trump abused the power of his office — one of two articles of impeachment against him.

The Democratic-led House also charged Mr. Trump with obstruction of Congress for preventing current and former Trump administration officials from testifying during the House inquiry and ignoring requests for relevant documents. Managers plan to address that charge on Friday.

At the start of Thursday’s session, the Democrats had 16 hours and 42 minutes left to convince Republican senators that Mr. Trump should be removed from office.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which drafted the articles of impeachment, cited constitutional law experts who testified last year that Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine rose to the level of impeachment.

“If what we are talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” Mr. Nadler said, echoing Michael J. Gerhardt, a constitutional law expert who testified in a House hearing in the fall.

For the second straight day, House impeachment managers repeatedly referenced Russia, and its influence over the president in particular, as they presented an argument that Mr. Trump should be removed from office for a Ukraine pressure campaign.

“This theory was brought to you by the Kremlin,” Mr. Schiff said at one point Thursday afternoon as he described to senators a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked into Democrats’ emails in 2016 with the goal of helping Hillary Clinton win the election. The House managers have argued that Mr. Trump’s interest in bolstering that theory played a central role in his interactions with Ukraine, Russia’s adversary.

“The Russians not only got him to deflect blame from their interference in our democracy, but they got him to withhold military aid,” Mr. Schiff said. “Now of course, there was this convergence of interest between the Kremlin and the president.

“The president wasn’t pushing Kremlin talking points just to do Vladimir Putin a favor,” he continued. “He was doing it because it helped him.”

Russia, and in particular its role in the 2016 presidential election, remains a sore subject for many senators. Democrats had once expected the president to be impeached for his dealings with Russia in 2016, and Republicans denounced a special counsel inquiry into the matter, accusing Democrats and senior law enforcement officials of pushing this narrative because they wanted to undermine Mr. Trump’s victory. The final report from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, stopped short of concluding whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice and threw to Congress the fate of his investigation.

The House managers made a strategic decision on Thursday to focus extensive attention on the actions of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden.

The lengthy presentation — by Representative Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas, one of the House managers — was aimed at proving that there was no basis to Mr. Trump’s assertions that the former vice president and his son did improper things in Ukraine.

“Common sense will tell us that this allegation against Joe Biden is false,” Ms. Garcia told the senators.

But allies of Mr. Trump quickly pounced on the extended discussion about the Bidens to insist that the impeachment trial should include scrutiny of their actions, and potentially a move to call them as witnesses.

Mr. Trump’s Republican defenders have long argued that the president’s demand that Ukraine announce investigations into the Bidens was not improper because he was merely interested in rooting out corruption in that country.

At least one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers suggested the Democrats made a mistake in focusing on the former vice president and his son.

“They have opened the door,” said Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump and a member of his impeachment legal defense team. “It’s now relevant.”

— Michael D. Shear

Mr. Nadler worked on Thursday to undermine an argument from Mr. Trump’s defense team that a president can be impeached only for committing an ordinary crime, and that abuse of power does not qualify. While constitutional scholars have disputed that interpretation of the Constitution, Mr. Nadler chose to highlight past statements of two of Mr. Trump’s most prominent defenders.

Senators were shown a news clip featuring a member of Mr. Trump’s current defense team, Alan M. Dershowitz, from 1998, when President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment. In the clip, Mr. Dershowitz disputed the idea that a president needed to commit a “technical crime” to be impeached.

“It certainly doesn’t have to be a crime,” Mr. Dershowitz said at the time. “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.”

Mr. Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, offered a different view only days ago.

“Without a crime, there can be no impeachment,” he said Sunday on CNN. Mr. Dershowitz is expected to make the same argument when he takes to the Senate floor in the coming days.

The managers also went after Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, with a clip from 1999, when he was an impeachment manager during Mr. Clinton’s trial.

“It’s just when you’re using your office in a way that hurts people, you’ve committed a high crime,” Mr. Graham said at the time.

Impeachment managers used Mr. Trump’s own words against him on Thursday as they argued that he should be removed from office for abuse of power.

In trying to make the case that some administration officials understood what the president wanted of Ukraine and “just how wrong it was,” Mr. Schiff let the defendant do the talking.

At one point, a video clip from October aired in the Senate Chamber showing Mr. Trump answering a reporter’s question about what he really wanted from Mr. Zelensky.

“I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said in the clip. “It’s a very simple answer.”

In another clip, Mr. Trump referred to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered with his campaign in 2016.

“There was a lot of corruption having to do with the 2016 election against us, and we want to get to the bottom it, and it’s very important that we do,” Mr. Trump said.

“He’s not concerned about actual corruption cases,” Mr. Schiff said of the clip, “only matters that affect him personally.”

Back from Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum, Mr. Trump used Twitter on Thursday morning to lob insults at Democrats and to quote people on Fox News who lobbed insults at Democrats.

And while his afternoon is packed with travel, the president found time to continue to offer his own commentary as Mr. Nadler was addressing the Senate, suggesting that Mr. Trump was, indeed, watching the proceedings live.

The president left the White House on Thursday afternoon to travel to Florida for the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, set to be held at one of his family’s properties.

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