Donald Trump’s impeachment trial drew to a close Monday with pleas from both Democrats and the U.S. President’s lawyers to protect the integrity of the November election in final arguments days before he is expected to be acquitted in the Senate.
The closing statements in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial took place on the eve of the first caucuses of the 2020 presidential election, with voters in Iowa set to decide Monday on their choice of Democratic nominee.
In speeches that quoted Alexander Hamilton, Martin Luther King Jr. and characters from Harry Potter, Democrats argued they had laid out a compelling case against Mr. Trump, while the President’s lawyers contended that the most appropriate venue to debate Mr. Trump’s conduct was at the ballot box.
Ken Starr, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, told senators that convicting Mr. Trump would signal to voters that “your vote in the last election is hereby declared null and void, and by the way, we’re not going to allow you the American people to sit in judgment on this President and his record in November. That is neither freedom, nor is it justice.”
House Democrats who have acted as trial managers in the Senate proceedings, urged lawmakers to remove Mr. Trump from office, warning the President posed too great a risk of inviting foreign interference into the coming election.
“He is guilty as sin, but why not let the voters clean up this mess?” said California Congressman Adam Schiff, who is serving as the Democrats’ lead prosecutor. “You can’t trust this President to do the right thing. Not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of the country.”
Mr. Trump lashed out at Democrats on Twitter on Monday, calling his impeachment a hoax. “Read the Transcripts, listen to what the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said (‘No Pressure’),” he wrote. “Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!”
Mr. Trump became only the third president to be impeached in December, when the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted to charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, setting the stage for the Senate’s trial.
During two weeks of arguments that began Jan. 21, Democrats repeatedly called for the Senate to hear from new witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton, who is set to offer fresh details of Mr. Trump’s campaign to put pressure on Ukraine in a coming book.
But on Friday, senators voted against hearing from the witnesses. With two-thirds of the Senate needed to remove Mr. Trump from office, the vote on witnesses signalled that Democrats are unlikely to have enough support in the Republican-controlled Senate to convict Mr. Trump in a vote planned for Wednesday afternoon.
In several hours of closing statements, Democrats argued that Mr. Trump abused his authority by putting pressure on Ukraine to investigate Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that had employed Hunter Biden, the son of former vice-president Joe Biden, along with a debunked claim that Ukraine, not Russia, had hacked into Democratic Party servers in 2016.
Democrats have alleged that Mr. Trump withheld nearly US$400-million in military aid along with a White House meeting for newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky until Ukraine publicly announced the investigations.
Mr. Trump’s legal team argued that the President acted within his executive powers to set foreign policy. They characterized the decision to delay sending military aid to Ukraine as one driven by concerns about corruption and part of an attempt to put pressure on European allies to increase financial support for Ukraine’s efforts to fend off Russian aggression.
Both sides decried the role that partisanship has played in the impeachment process and warned that the outcome will likely do lasting damage to the country.
“Year after year, decade after decade, century after century we’ve had this democracy thing together,” said New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. “But now all of those ideas, all of those values, all of those institutions are under assault. Not from without, but from within.”
Republicans, however, argued that the House of Representatives was the one overstepping authority by impeaching Mr. Trump. “This was the first totally partisan presidential impeachment in our nation’s history,” said Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow. “And it should be our last.”