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Opinion Adam Schiff’s brilliant presentation is knocking down excuses to acquit

Lead House impeachment manager Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) on Jan. 22 accused President Trump of trying to “cheat” in the 2020 presidential election. (Video: The Washington Post)

Given how firmly some Republican senators are ensconced in the right-wing news bubble, and how determined they are to avoid hearing facts that undercut their partisan views, it is possible many of them are hearing the facts on which impeachment is based for the first time. Impeachment manager and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) took them through in meticulous detail the scheme President Trump devised to pressure Ukraine to help him smear former vice president Joe Biden.

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Intentionally ignorant Republicans previously may have learned these things from Schiff’s presentation (seriously, if they didn’t hear it from talk radio or state TV, it doesn’t exist):

  • Trump mentioned the Bidens and Burisma but not “corruption” during the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • Trump followed up with a call to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on whether the investigations he demanded would happen.
  • A text by a Trump appointee to Zelensky’s top aide sent 30 minutes before the July 25 call stressed that Trump was looking for an announcement of an investigation into the Bidens.
  • When Trump, standing on the White House driveway, told the media that he wanted both Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden, he was not pursuing corruption in Ukraine, but rather looking for foreign countries to smear the former vice president.
  • The draft statement announcing that Ukraine would undertake corruption investigations was rewritten by Sondland and Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to specifically include Burisma and the 2016 election (i.e., Crowdstrike).
  • Giuliani openly bragged about interfering in an investigation in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian officials threw Trump’s corrupt scheme back in our faces when asked not to investigate their political opponents.
  • Ukraine was confronted with a cut-off of vital aid in the middle of a hot war.
  • The aid was only released when Trump was caught (and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed it publicly).

Schiff stacked one fact upon another until an impenetrable wall of evidence confronted Republicans. What will their excuse for acquittal be? The facts turn out to be a lot stronger, by gosh, than the House Republican apologists said!

Schiff was confronting not only the public but also the Republicans with an indisputable factual account for which Trump’s lawyers have no answer. So how are they to acquit? Well, there is always the legally insane argument that abuse of power is not impeachable. But Schiff knocked that down as well:

  • Attorney General William P. Barr apparently thinks that this bizarre interpretation of the Constitution is wrong, as does Jonathan Turley, who testified for Republicans during the House impeachment process.
  • Alexander Hamilton and other framers of the Constitution made plain they were seeking to prevent breaches of public trust and political crimes.
  • If abuse of power isn’t impeachable, then the president is king.

Schiff was methodically cornering the Republicans. Nope, the claim there is no evidence of a corrupt quid pro quo is unsustainable; in fact, there is overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence. Nope, you do not want to adopt the crackpot theory that abuse of power is not impeachable. Schiff is leaving them no legitimate basis on which to acquit. He mocked Mulvaney’s comment that we should just “get over it,” challenging the senators to tell their constituents that none of this mattered.

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And that is what the trial is about. It’s about making clear to the entire country that Trump did exactly what he is accused of, but that his own party, suffering from political cowardice and intellectual corruption, do not have the nerve to stop him. If that is the goal — prove Trump’s guilt and Republicans’ complicity — Schiff hit a grand slam. And we have days more of evidence to hear.

President Trump's impeachment defense could create a dangerous precedent, says constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/The Washington Post)

Read more:

E.J. Dionne Jr.: #MidnightMitch’s gift to the Democrats

Max Boot: The Democrats are winning the argument even though they’ll lose the Senate trial

Jonathan Turley: The House made a huge mistake on impeachment by not seeking evidence in court

Erik Wemple: Fox News promulgates false equivalency over ‘process’ complaints in impeachment

The latest commentary on the Trump impeachment

Looking for more Trump impeachment coverage following the president’s acquittal?

See Dana Milbank’s Impeachment Diary: Find all the entries in our columnist’s feature.

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Read the most recent take from the Editorial Board: It’s not over. Congress must continue to hold Trump accountable.

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