House Democrats presenting their impeachment case against U.S. President Donald Trump plan to spend Thursday’s trial session focusing on the legal and constitutional ramifications of what they argue was the president’s abuse of his office to solicit a foreign government’s help for his political benefit.
“We’ve introduced the case. We’ve gone through the chronology,” Congressman Adam Schiff said as he wrapped up the first day of the trial late Wednesday. “And tomorrow we will apply the facts to the law as it pertains to the president’s abuse of power.”
Schiff, a Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, was one of the House managers serving as prosecutors who laid out the framework of the case during the initial eight-hour session. They will have Thursday and another session Friday to make their argument before Trump’s legal team gets its 24-hour allotment, likely starting Saturday.
The Democrats accused Trump of carrying out a “corrupt scheme” in which he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to publicly announce an investigation into former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s top challengers in the 2020 election, as well as a debunked theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
“There are no serious disputes about the underlying facts,” Schiff said, adding that instead, White House lawyers defending Trump will argue that he cannot be removed from office for abusing the power of the presidency.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said after Wednesday’s session that the fact that the impeachment proceedings are even taking place is “ridiculous.”
“Are we having an impeachment over a phone call? Or has this been a three-year attempt to take down a president that was duly elected by the American people?” Sekulow told reporters. “And we’re doing this with 10 months to go to a general election. Pretty dangerous for our republic, in my view.”
Trump has said throughout the process he did nothing wrong in his discussions with Zelenskiy, frequently describing their conversation as a “perfect call.”
“We believe, without question, the president will be acquitted. There is not a doubt,” Sekulow said.
That outcome is widely expected with members of Trump’s Republican Party holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate and impeachment rules requiring two-thirds of the body to vote in favor of removing him from office. Democrats would need to convince 20 Republicans to vote for conviction, as yet none have given any public indication of doing so.
Trump eventually released the military aid to Ukraine and Zelenskiy never opened an investigation into the Bidens — proof, Republicans say, that Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine.
But Schiff said Trump only released the funds because “he got caught,” because an intelligence whistleblower became concerned over the president’s July 25 telephone call where he asked Zelenskiy for “a favor.”
In addition to the charge of abusing his power, the House impeachment articles also say he obstructed Congress by impeding their investigation into the matter.
WATCH: Congressional Democrats: Trump ‘Schemed’ to Pressure Ukraine
Other House impeachment managers addressed the senators Wednesday, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler who talked about Trump’s “smear campaign” against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The diplomat balked at cooperating with efforts to investigate Biden.
Congresswoman Val Demings said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was no “rogue agent” when he went to Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens. Demings said he was acting directly for Trump. She said former National Security Adviser John Bolton was trying to send the American people a “very powerful message” when he said he did not want to be a part of whatever “drug deal” he said Giuliani was pursuing in Ukraine.
Democrats lost in their attempt to amend the rules of the trial presented by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They wanted to subpoena at the outset of the trial White House, State Department and Defense Department documents and such key witnesses as Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
McConnell ruled that the Senate could only vote on the question of evidence and witnesses after the two sides present their cases and senators have a chance to ask questions of the House managers and Trump lawyers.
A Reuters-Ipsos public opinion poll and another Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Wednesday both showed about 70 percent support for allowing top Trump administration aides to appear at the trial, with majorities in favor among both people identifying as Democrats and Republicans.