Trump sought to cheat to win re-election: Democrats
Washington DC: Democrats began laying out a detailed case on Wednesday for the removal of President Donald Trump, accusing him at his historic Senate impeachment trial of seeking to cheat to ensure re-election in November.
Adam Schiff, the head of the prosecution team from the House of Representatives, took the floor of the Senate for opening arguments after lawmakers were told by the sergeant-at-arms to remain silent "on pain of imprisonment."
"President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections, abusing the powers of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his re-election prospects at home," the California lawmaker told a hushed chamber.
"And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct," said Schiff, who headed the probe that led to Trump's December 18 impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House.
Schiff shrugged off Republican arguments that American voters -- and not the Senate -- should decide whether Trump should remain in the White House.
"The president's misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won," Schiff said.
"The president has shown that he believes he is above the law." Trump is accused of withholding military aid from Ukraine to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to announce an investigation into Democrat Joe Biden.
"It was a smear tactic against a political opponent President Trump apparently feared," Schiff said at the nationally televised Senate trial.
"President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his re-election," he said.
"In other words, to cheat.
"If this conduct is not impeachable, then nothing is." Interspersing his remarks with videos and graphics and references to the Constitution, Schiff appealed to the members of the Senate to put aside partisanship in deciding Trump's fate.
"These are politically charged times," he acknowledged. "Tempers can run high, particularly where this president is concerned." But, Schiff said, "the Constitution entrusts to you the responsibility of acting as impartial jurors."
Republicans, who hold a 53 to 47 edge in the Senate, have shown little inclination, however, to break ranks with a president who has a history of lashing out ferociously at his perceived enemies. A two-thirds majority -- or 67 senators -- is needed to remove Trump from office and a series of votes on the ground rules for the trial on Tuesday followed strict party lines. Republicans shot down repeated efforts by Democrats to introduce White House witnesses and documents at the start of just the third impeachment trial in US history. Trump, who was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos as the historic trial got underway on Tuesday, blasted the proceedings as a "witchhunt" and a "hoax" and said he expected the Senate to clear him "fairly quickly."
The president defended the Republicans' rejection of Democratic efforts to force former national security advisor John Bolton and others to testify at his trial saying of Bolton, for example, that it would present a "national security
The first night of arguments in favor of President Donald Trump's impeachment before the US Senate was judged not ready for prime time by many of the nation's television executives.
ABC, CBS and NBC all stuck with regularly scheduled programs like Chicago Med, Criminal Minds and Modern Family Wednesday evening instead of showing the House managers' evening session at the impeachment trial. That lasted about two hours, 15 minutes.
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