House impeachment managers wrap up their case with Trump's obstruction

Former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram explains why the impeachment trial is "wildly different" than every other criminal trial in America.

Posted: Jan 24, 2020 10:03 AM
Updated: Jan 27, 2020 10:11 AM

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and the impeachment managers finish their opening arguments on Friday in what's their final chance to make an uninterrupted pitch to senators on the fence that they should hear from more witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

The House managers will shift from their case for why the President abused his office and dive into their argument that the President conducted unprecedented obstruction of the House's impeachment investigation, which is the second article of impeachment the House passed last month, obstruction of Congress.

LIVE UPDATES: Impeachment trial of President Trump

Schiff made an impassioned closing argument to end the House's second day of presentations on Thursday evening, urging the removal of Trump and repeating that "right matters." He'll have one more chance to leave an impression with on-the-fence Republican senators at the conclusion of the House's third and final day of opening arguments this evening, before it will be the defense counsel's turn to make their opening argument.

"You know you can't trust this President to do what's right for this country. You can trust he'll do what's right for Donald Trump," Schiff said. "If you find him guilty, you must find that he be removed. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise we are lost."

The California Democrat also previewed the House's case for obstruction, making an argument directly to senators that the President's conduct will have repercussions for them, too.

"If the Senate allows the President to get away with such extensive obstruction, it will affect the Senate's power of subpoena and oversight just as much as the House," Schiff said.

The House's presentation has been detailed and thorough for the first two days — Republican senators have derided it as repetitive — but the managers are making a pitch both to the public as well as Republican senators they hope will consider backing subpoenas for witnesses and documents. The Democrats spent much of Thursday's presentation getting ahead of the arguments they are expecting from the President's legal team — pushing back on the notion there's any legitimacy to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine as the President and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani have claimed.

Indeed, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the House managers' focus on the Bidens "kind of opened the door for that response" from the defense team.

The President's lawyers will begin their arguments on Saturday, but it's expected they won't use the full 24 hours that's allotted to them. GOP senators have said they anticipate a shorter session on Saturday that can begin earlier than the typical 1 p.m. ET daily start.

Trump complained about the start date on Twitter Friday morning, suggesting that the Saturday session would get bad TV ratings.

"After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin' Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.," Trump tweeted.

Of course, it's been Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has set the schedule, including the late night for amendment votes to set the trial rules and cutting the number of days each side has to use their 24 hours of arguments to three from four in the 1999 Bill Clinton impeachment trial. McConnell's condensed schedule is part of an effort to end the trial next week — ahead of the President's February 4 State of the Union.

Whenever the President's lawyers conclude their presentation, the Senate will shift into 16 hours of senator questions of the two legal teams. Then the Senate will address the question of witnesses — with a vote looming under the Republican-passed trial rules on whether there should be subpoenas for additional witnesses and documents.

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