The U.S. Senate’s top Republican exhorted fellow senators on Tuesday to acquit President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, warning that the fate of the republic depended on it, even as his Democratic counterpart called Mr. Trump a threat to democracy.
The partisan rancour in the duelling speeches by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer underscored the wider polarization in the country over Mr. Trump’s impeachment on charges arising from his dealings with Ukraine.
Mr. McConnell urged the Senate, which is controlled by Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans and is expected to acquit the President in a vote on Wednesday, to stop what he called the Democrats’ abuse of power in impeaching Mr. Trump in the House of Representatives.
The House impeached Mr. Trump on Dec. 18 on charges of abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter and obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and documents sought in the investigation.
Senators delivered a series of speeches on the Senate floor explaining how they will vote.
“We must vote to reject the House abuse of power, vote to protect our institutions, vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the framers’ design to rubble, vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our republic,” said Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader.
Mr. Schumer, the Senate minority leader, spoke next. He said that if foreign election interference like the investigations Mr. Trump solicited made Americans believe that they are not the ones electing the country’s leaders, “that is the beginning of the end of democracy.”
Mr. Trump has drawn almost uniform support against removal among Republican senators, although several have called his actions wrong and inappropriate. The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune, seemed to hew toward this view.
“While we can debate the President’s judgment when it comes to his dealings with Ukraine – or even conclude that his actions were inappropriate – the House’s vague and overreaching impeachment charges do not meet the high bar set by the founders for removal from office,” Mr. Thune said in his speech.
In his speech, Republican Senator Rand Paul stated the purported name of the anonymous whistle-blower from the U.S. intelligence community whose complaint about Mr. Trump’s request to Ukraine triggered the House impeachment inquiry.
Mr. Paul last week put the name, reported by conservative media as the whistle-blower, in a written question to be asked during the trial, but U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts as the presiding officer declined to read it.
Mr. Trump has called for the whistle-blower’s identity to be exposed. The intelligence community has not named the whistle-blower, and Democrats have said identifying such individuals could expose them to retaliation and deter others from reporting wrongdoing within the government.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters that Mr. Trump would not accept censure – a congressional rebuke short of removal floated by moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Mr. Gidley said Trump has done nothing wrong.
Mr. Trump is seeking re-election on Nov. 3. Mr. Biden, the former U.S. vice-president, is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to challenge Mr. Trump in the election.
Mr. McConnell expressed surprise at the Democrats’ decision to impeach Mr. Trump, saying that his acquittal was always assured. A two-thirds vote is needed in the Senate to remove Mr. Trump from office and his fellow Republicans occupy 53 of the 100 seats.
Mr. McConnell echoed the arguments made by Mr. Trump’s legal team that Democrats were seeking to annul the 2016 election in which Mr. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Washington Democrats think President Donald Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanour the moment – the moment – he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. That is the original sin of this presidency – that he won and they lost,” Mr. McConnell said.
The Constitution allows for the removal of a president for committing “high crimes and misdemeanours.” Mr. McConnell said he did disagree with the view offered by Mr. Trump’s legal team that a president cannot be impeached without a violation of statutory law.
Democratic Senator Edward Markey said that if Republicans acquit Mr. Trump, “A majority in this chamber will have made President Trump a dictator.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.