The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — The House Democratic impeachment managers presented their case on Wednesday for convicting President Donald Trump and removing him from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, opening oral arguments in an already rancorous Senate trial.
Taking the lectern in the well of the Senate as senators sat silently preparing to weigh Trump’s fate, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the lead House prosecutor, accused the president of a “corrupt scheme” to pressure Ukraine for help “to cheat” in the election.
Invoking the nation’s founders and their fears that a self-interested leader might subvert democracy for his own personal gain, Schiff argued that the president’s conduct was precisely what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they devised the remedy of impeachment, one he said was “as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat.”
“If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate, and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government,” Schiff said in his opening remarks. “The president has shown that he believes that he’s above the law and scornful of constraint.”
The oral arguments began just hours after the conclusion of a lengthy fight over witnesses and documents that stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning and cleaved the Senate along party lines. It was dominated by bitter exchanges between the Democratic House managers and the president’s legal defense team that grew so hostile after midnight that they drew a reprimand from Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial.
Wednesday’s proceedings unfolded in more measured tones as Schiff methodically summarized the central charges that the House approved on a nearly party-line vote in December.
Schiff reprised the House case against Trump, asserting that the president sought help from Ukraine in the 2020 election, by pressuring the country to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden while withholding as leverage security aid for Kyiv and a White House meeting for its president. When he was caught, Schiff added, the president ordered a cover-up, blocking witnesses and denying Congress the evidence that could corroborate his scheme.
“Guarding against a president who undertakes official acts with the corrupt motive of helping himself is at the heart of the impeachment power,” Schiff said.