He pressures the Ukrainian president to launch investigations of Trump’s political opponents. “It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens.”
He calls on others to do the same: “By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
He announces what the findings of these investigations should be: “Biden’s son is corrupt, and Biden is corrupt.”
He says he’d welcome a foreign government’s contribution of dirt on his political opponents. “Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
And he announces that there are no restraints on his power: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
Witnesses and documents withheld by the administration would no doubt fill in the details. But for the gist of what Trump did wrong, you need only hear his own words. The president has long said the quiet parts out loud, and Democratic managers built their case around playing his greatest hits, over and over. It’s the Warner Wolf prosecution: Let’s go to the videotape.
“The president has confirmed what he wanted in his own words,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said.
“President Trump himself told us what he really wanted … in many public statements,” said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.).
“Let’s start with the president’s own words,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.).
“These words will live in infamy,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Sometimes, they read Trump’s words themselves. Military aid wasn’t in exchange for investigations? “Do us a favor though,” Trump says. Trump opposing only the release of information that jeopardizes executive privilege? “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” he says.
His underlings are little more helpful to Trump’s cause. A video version of his acting chief of staff, Mulvaney, appears repeatedly in the Senate chamber to say “we do that all the time” with quid-pro-quo exchanges, so “get over it.” A phone conversation relayed by Rudy Giuliani from the moment Trump’s personal lawyer touched down from Ukraine, is read aloud:
Trump: “What did you get?”
Giuliani: “More than you can imagine.”
On Friday, Trump’s words again overshadowed the trial, albeit in ways the impeachment managers hadn’t arranged.
Before the day’s argument began, ABC News reported the existence of a previously unknown recording in which a voice that appears to be Trump’s says this of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
And Trump retweeted an ugly message (based on social media conspiracy chatter) from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) disparaging the patriotism of White House national security staffer Army Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, the Purple Heart recipient who testified during the House impeachment inquiry.
The steady emergence of more damaging evidence against Trump, and more of his bad behavior, lends credibility to Schiff’s claim at the start of the trial: “The truth will come out. The question is, ‘Will it come out in time?’ ”
Senate Republicans appear to be doing their all to make sure it doesn’t. They have blocked attempts to call witnesses and seek documents, saying the question should wait until the end of the trial. They’ve said the Senate shouldn’t have to do the House’s work. And lately, they are saying calling in witnesses would just take too long.
Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.): “I’m not for extending this for months and months while claims of privilege and the like are litigated in the courts.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.): “Calling witnesses could prolong this enormously.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska): “The House made a decision that they didn’t want to slow things down by having to go through the courts, and yet now they’re basically saying you guys got to go through the courts.”
It’s a bit strained for Senate Republicans to say they need to wrap things up quickly now, after House Republicans accused Democrats of wrapping things up too quickly. They are also making a peculiar constitutional argument: Because Trump is stonewalling Congress, we should acquit him quickly.
It isn’t elegant, but it’s necessary. The more time passes, the more damage Trump does to his own case.
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