Impeachment trial: House managers make opening arguments


Schiff, Nadler interaction dissected on trial’s sidelines

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

One hour into the trial, Adam Schiff is continuing to give a history lesson in the origins of impeachment as well as a careful summary of House Democrats’ findings during last year’s impeachment inquiry.

Yet outside the Senate, many are focused on dissecting an earlier interaction between Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, Schiff’s Democratic colleague in the House and a fellow House manager in the impeachment trial.

Earlier on Tuesday, a CNN reporter attempted to ask Mr Nadler about some of the criticism he had been receiving from Republicans. However, Mr Schiff prevented Mr Nadler from answering, stating that he — not Mr Nadler — would be responding to questions.

Mr Nadler, along with White House counsel, were chided by Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday night for using language that was “not conductive to civil discourse”. Mr Nadler had accused Republican senators of “voting for a coverup” by not supporting an amendment to allow additional witnesses to testify. Mr Nadler also called Republicans’ vote “treacherous”.

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday rebuked Mr Nadler for the remark. Meanwhile, Mr Trump, speaking in Davos, called Mr Nadler “a sleazebag”.

Read up on Adam Schiff and his role in impeachment push

You can read more about Mr Schiff’s role in Democrats’ impeachment push here. The FT’s Lauren Fedor writes about how Mr Schiff became the de facto leader of the investigation:

For Democrats, the former prosecutor represents a safe pair of hands to steer the politically precarious proceedings. For Republicans, Mr Schiff is now public enemy number one, having even earned the dubious distinction of his own Twitter nickname from the president: “Shifty Schiff.”

And in this piece, Edward Luce looks back at Mr Schiff’s career in politics.

Schiff delivers opening remarks

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

The clock has started on the 24 hours allotted to Democratic lawmakers to make their case against President Donald Trump.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic lawmaker and lead House manager, began his remarks by thanking Chief Justice Roberts and the Senate for enduring a long day and late night on Tuesday, before going on to quote Alexander Hamilton, one of the US founding fathers.

“When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold his temper … despotic in his ordinary demeanour – known to have scoffed in private the principles of liberty”.

The founding fathers put the power of impeachment “in the constitution for a reason”, Mr Schiff argued.

In broad brushstrokes, Mr Schiff outlined the thrust of Democrats’ case: that Mr Trump used the power of the presidency to unfairly try to influence the 2020 election, and get Ukraine to produce information that would be damaging to Joe Biden, his potential Democratic opponent.

Schiff quashes talk of Hunter Biden witness swap

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

Adam Schiff, the Democratic House manager, poured cold water on the idea Joe Biden’s son could be deposed in the impeachment trial in exchange for Republicans allowing additional witnesses to testify.

Mr Schiff dismissed the idea Democrats would agree to depose Hunter Biden – the son of former vice president Joe Biden – as part of the impeachment trial, if Republicans agreed to allow witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, to testify.

“This isn’t like some fantasy football trade…Trials aren’t trades for witnesses,” Mr Schiff said.

He asserted that Donald Trump’s legal team wanted “to use this trial to smear the Bidens. That’s not the purpose of the trial”.

Mr Schiff noted that Democrats had made the case for additional witnesses to be deposed and documents to be made available during the trial. On Wednesday, the House managers would go through the “factual chronology” of their case against Mr Trump, going to “extensive detail” about the actions of the US president and his associates in the Ukraine case.

Senate back in session as impeachment trial continues

House impeachment managers have begun their opening arguments.

Trump’s Davos comments draws fire from House impeachment manager Demings

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

Donald Trump’s remarks in Davos on Wednesday generated a strong response from one of the House lawmakers leading the impeachment charges.

Val Demings, one of the seven Democratic lawmakers serving as the House’s impeachment managers in the trial, quickly seized on a comment Mr Trump made at the World Economic Forum, alleging that it indicated the White House was deliberately stonewalling and preventing evidence from getting out.

“The second article of impeachment was for obstruction of Congress: covering up witnesses and documents from the American people. This morning the President not only confessed to it, he bragged about it,” Ms Demings tweeted.

She posted a video of Mr Trump saying he had been pleased with his defence team’s performance on the first day of the trial and suggesting his lawyers had the upper hand in the trial.

“I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly we have all the material –they don’t have the material,” Mr Trump said.

We are expecting to hear more from the other House managers shortly.

Chief justice issued rebuke after heated exchange during debate

A heated exchange yesterday between congressman Jerry Nadler of New York and Donald Trump’s defence team prompted a warning from Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.

“It is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Mr Roberts said. “One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner, and using language, that is not conducive to civil discourse.”

The rebuke came after Mr Nadler, in arguing for a proposal to subpoena John Bolton, claimed it would amount to a “cover-up” if Republicans voted against the amendment.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone gave a sharp retort, telling the senators that Mr Nadler had made false allegations against them and the president. “The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr Nadler, is you, for the way you’ve addressed the United States Senate.”

Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Mr Trump, also criticised Mr Nadler for referring to the president’s use of executive privilege as “nonsense”.

“These are privileges recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States,” Mr Sekulow said. He added: “The Constitution doesn’t allow what just took place. Look what we’ve dealt with for the last, now 13 hours. And we hopefully are closing the proceedings, but not on a very high note.”

Trump slams Democrats’ impeachment effort: ‘They can’t beat me in the election’

Philip Georgiadis

The question of impeachment was never far from Donald Trump in Davos, even as he used his appearance at the gathering of political and business leaders to tout his country’s economic strength at the start of election year in America.

Speaking to reporters at the World Economic Forum earlier on Wednesday, the president said he had managed to watch “enough” of the marathon session in the Senate, and that he thought his legal team had done “a very good job”.

Mr Trump said the impeachment proceedings were a “hoax” cooked up by Democrats who are scared they will be unable to beat him at the ballot box.

“They are looking at this tremendous success, the likes of which they have never seen before in this country, and it has driven the Democrats crazy … They can’t beat me in the election,” he said.

He also repeated his urge for people to read the transcripts of his July 2019 telephone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, which sparked the impeachment inquiry.

“Everyone would say: ‘you mean that’s an impeachable event?’ If that’s impeachable Lyndon Johnson would have had to leave office on his first day.”

Schumer blasts White House counsel for ‘factual errors’

Courtney Weaver, US political correspondent

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer teed off ahead of today’s impeachment hearing, lambasting the White House defense lawyers for “demonstrable factual errors” in their opening statements on Tuesday.

Mr Schumer alleged that the White House defense – which includes Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump’s personal legal team, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone – were “unprepared, confused and totally unconvincing”, resorting instead “to the kind of histrionics you see on Fox News evening broadcasts…”

Mr Schumer also accused the lawyers of making “inflammatory and factual errors” against the House impeachment managers – the seven Democratic lawmakers who are charged with making the case against the president. Mr Cipollone, for instance, incorrectly accused Adam Schiff, the lead House manager, of refusing to allow Republicans to access closed-door depositions during the impeachment inquiry.

Separately, Mr Schumer also laid into his Republican Senate colleagues for refusing to back amendments to subpoena additional witnesses, before the opening arguments are concluded, as well as seek additional documents. Republicans “don’t want a fair trial that considers all the evidence,” Mr Schumer alleged.

He added: “The impeachment trial of President Trump begins with a cloud hanging over it – a cloud of unfairness.”

Welcome to day two of the FT’s live coverage of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump

Yesterday, the president’s defence team and Democratic impeachment managers from the House debated a series of proposals from Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, to subpoena additional documents and witness testimony. Each amendment was rejected in a party-line vote.

Be sure to read this story by Demetri Sevastopulo and Lauren Fedor, who write that Senate Republicans remained unified on the road to ultimately approving the rules for the trial.

Stay tuned for more news and analysis from our team of reporters in Washington today, as impeachment managers and Mr Trump’s defence team begin oral arguments.

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