Democrats link Trump to Nixon as they lay impeachment case to rest

‘Where’s the Whistleblower? ... Where’s the informer?’ president roars as his acquittal nears

John T. Bennett
Monday 03 February 2020 19:24 GMT
Donald Trump supporters deny being in denial about present's impeachment

House Democrats have closed their case against Donald Trump with pleas to Republican senators to vote to remove the president over an “insidious” and “unprecedented” cover-up of his attempts to “defraud” an election – while his lawyers urged senators to leave the matter to voters in November.

House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff had the last word for his side, warning senators that “Donald Trump has betrayed his oath to defend the constitution”. Minutes before, fellow impeachment manager Val Demings summed up Democrats’ case by saying Mr Trump and some of his aides “wielded the powers of the presidency” in a way that allowed him to “hijack the tools of our government to serve his own personal interests”.

“History will not be kind to Donald Trump,” Mr Schiff said. “Your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history.”

Lawyers on the president’s legal team argued House Democrats undertook a “partisan” and “political” investigation and noted Monday’s session is on the same day as the Iowa caucuses. White House counsel Pat Cipollone spoke about the American people’s “right to vote”, part of the team’s contention that voters should decide if Mr Trump gets a second term.

As he closed the defence team’s case, Mr Cipollone bemoaned what he described a “endless investigations” of the president. “At the end of the day, we put our faith in the Senate,” he said, adding of Mr Trump and November’s election: “He is eager to go in front of the people.” But Mr Schiff argued near the end of the trial’s final day that, if acquitted, he would again try to solicit foreign help to win a second term, saying: “He will not change. And you know it.”

Ms Demings was referring to his 25 July telephone conversation with Ukraine‘s new president, during which he asked him to “do us a favour though” and suggested Volodymyr Zelensky launch investigations of top US Democrats right after they discussed a $391m military aid package that Mr Zelensky’s government was counting on in its standoff with Russia.

Ms Demings criticised Mr Trump for circumventing national security and foreign policy officials – and his own appointed officials – by establishing a shadow policy process run by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Where other commanders in chief relied on their government advisers, she said Mr Trump’s true motives – to secure the announcement of probes of former vice-president Joe Biden and other Democrats as the 2020 election cycle was kicking off – were clear in his instructions to aides when they inquired about anything Ukraine: “Talk to Rudy.”

Mindful of their audience – all Senate Democrats would need to vote to convict and remove Mr Trump, joined by 20 Republicans – the House managers talked of former president Richard Nixon being forced from office by GOP senators who grew fatigued by the Watergate scandal while also quoting Abraham Lincoln, a Republican president.

“There are only so many lies you can take and now there has been one too many,” GOP senator Barry Goldwater once told Nixon.

Congressman Jason Crow read that quote aloud early in Democrats’ closing argument on Monday morning.

GOP senators stood by Nixon for years, Mr Crow said, because he was a “popular conservative president and his base was with him, so they were too”.

Seeking to paint Mr Trump as a modern-day Nixon, Mr Crow asked as he wrapped up his portion of the closing presentation: “How many falsehoods can we take? When will it be one too many?”

Across town, the president appeared to be watching the proceedings.

“Where’s the whistleblower? Where’s the second whistleblower? Where’s the informer?” Mr Trump tweeted around the time Mr Schiff rested Democrats’ case. “Why did corrupt politician Schiff MAKE UP my conversation with the Ukrainian president??? Why didn’t the House do its job?”

In a television interview that aired on Sunday, Mr Trump used his favourite terms for all investigations of him: “Witch hunt” and “hoax”.

“I see the hatred ... They don’t care about fairness, they don’t care about lying. You look at the lies, you look at the reports that were done that were so false,” Mr Trump said, referring to House Democrats. “The level of hypocrisy. So I’m not sure that they can do it, to be honest. I think they just want to win, and it doesn’t matter how they win.”

Mr Trump is expected to be acquitted when the Senate votes on two articles of impeachment – one for abuse of power and another obstructing congress – late on Wednesday afternoon. No GOP senators have said or signalled they intend to vote for the removal of a president whose approval rating among Republican voters remains around 80 per cent – or higher in some public opinion surveys.

Republican politicians have called Democrats’ case “flawed” while others, like retiring senator Lamar Alexander, say they made their case that Mr Trump acted inappropriately. Mr Trump’s legal team contends the entire process means future presidents are now more likely to be impeached.

Ken Starr, one of Mr Trump’s defence attorneys, led off his side’s closing argument on Monday, declaring of the president’s legal team: “We’re ready to vote.”

“They’ve got the power,” he said of House Democrats. “But that doesn’t mean anything goes.”

He implored senators to ask themselves before voting on Wednesday whether House Democrats, during their investigation, were in a “rush to judgement” and put together a shoddy case.

“Did the House win the overwhelming consensus of the American people?” Mr Starr said the senator-jurists should ask themselves, noting “not one” GOP senator “was swayed” by the House managers’ case.

Mr Trump is said to favour acquittal votes with some Democrats voting to clear him on one or both charges. A small handful of Senate Democrats have said they were considering voting with the president’s party.

“I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened,” GOP Senator Joni Ernst told Bloomberg News over the weekend. “Joe Biden should be very careful what he’s asking for because, you know, we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, ‘Well, we’re going to impeach him’.”

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