Top Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives made a last-minute pitch to Republicans on Sunday, imploring them to put partisanship aside and vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump is expected to become the third U.S. president to be impeached when the full Democratic-led House votes on the charges, setting up a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. The formal House vote on impeachment is scheduled for Dec. 18.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, speaking on ABC’s This Week, warned that Mr. Trump poses “a clear and present danger” to democracy.
In congressional hearings that have gripped Washington, Democrats investigated reports that the president of endangered the U.S. Constitution, jeopardized national security and undermined the integrity of the 2020 election by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his Democratic political rival Joe Biden during a July phone call.
Mr. Schiff and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, speaking on the same show, said lawmakers have a constitutional duty to hold Trump to account for his actions.
Their comments come as the House is poised later this week to vote along party lines on whether to approve two articles of impeachment. The Senate has shown little appetite for removing Trump from office.
“The misconduct hasn’t stopped,” Mr. Schiff said, noting that Mr. Trump has still urged Ukraine, as well as China, to investigate the Biden family, and that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is still travelling to Ukraine to conduct a “sham” investigation.
“The threat to our election integrity … goes on. It’s a clear and present danger, I think, to our democracy and not something that we can turn away from simply because the Republicans in the House refuse to do their duty.”
Republicans have defended Mr. Trump and accused Democrats of a politically motivated effort aimed at overturning his surprise 2016 presidential election victory.
House Democrats on Friday voted to approve articles of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with abusing the power of his office over the Ukraine scandal and obstructing Democrats’ attempts to investigate him for it.
“Impeachment is a hoax. It’s a sham,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House after the committee’s vote. “There was nothing done wrong. To use the power of impeachment for this nonsense is an embarrassment to this country.”
Mr. Biden, a former U.S. vice president, is a Democratic candidate in the race to face Mr. Trump in the Nov. 3 election. Mr. Trump has alleged that Mr. Biden was involved in corruption in Ukraine and should be investigated, but has offered no evidence to back up his claims. Mr. Biden has denied wrongdoing.
Both Democrats used their air time on Sunday to urge the Senate to call witnesses and seek documentary evidence that they said the White House has withheld.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has raised the prospect of conducting a short Senate trial without calling any witnesses.
Mr. Nadler on Sunday said such a move would do a disservice to the Senate, whose members will all effectively serve as jurors who will need to weigh the evidence to decide whether Mr. Trump should be convicted and removed from office.
Some of Mr. Trump’s staunch Republican defenders in the Senate have already said they believe Mr. Trump did nothing wrong, though others have taken a more cautious approach, saying they want to see the evidence first.
During an interview with CNN International at the Doha Forum in Qatar on Saturday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham dismissed the idea that he should be a “fair juror” and said he does not see the need for a formal trial in the Senate.
But Republican Senator Pat Toomey on Sunday said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “I think we ought to hear what the House impeachment managers have to say, give the President’s attorneys an opportunity to make their defence, and then make a decision about whether and to what extent we go forward from there.”
Separately this weekend, the Washington Post reported that Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a Democrat who has publicly opposed impeachment, will soon join the Republican Party.
Mr. Trump tweeted in response to the news: “Wow, that would be big. Always heard Jeff is very smart!”
Senate Democrats are proposing a week-long Senate impeachment trial seeking testimony from four new witnesses including John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney over President Donald Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, according to a detailed outlined released Sunday.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York proposed the structure for a “fair and honest” trial in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an attempt to launch negotiations ahead of House voting this week that is all but certain to result in the president being impeached.
Trump faces two charges – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden while withholding military aid to the ally. The president faces likely impeachment in the House, where Democrats have control, but he is expected to be acquitted in a trial in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority. McConnell has signalled his preference for a speedy trial.
“This trial must be one that is fair, that considers all of the relevant facts, and that exercises the Senate’s `sole Power of Impeachment’ under the Constitution with integrity and dignity,” Schumer wrote. “The trial must be one that not only hears all of the evidence and adjudicates the case fairly; it must also pass the fairness test with the American people.”
Trump has expressed interest in a robust trial that would not only clear him of the charges in the Senate but also vindicate him, but his desire for a lengthy proceeding is something Senate Republicans are hoping to avoid.
Schumer and McConnell are expected to meet to discuss the contours of a Senate trial, much as the Democrats and Republicans did during Bill Clinton’s impeachment two decades ago.
In the letter, Schumer proposes a detailed structure and timeline for a trial to begin Jan. 7, with the swearing in of Chief Justice John Roberts to oversee the proceedings and stretch for several weeks as Democrats subpoena witnesses and testimony, specifically around Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine. A day of what Schumer calls “pretrial housekeeping measures” would take place Jan. 6.
Democrats want to hear from Bolton, who was Trump’s national security adviser at the time and labelled the alternative foreign policy being run by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others as a “drug deal” he wanted no part of. He left the White House in September.
They also want testimony from Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff at the White House, who has acknowledged the military aid to Ukraine was being held up, as well as two other White House officials: Robert Blair, a top Mulvaney aide, and Michael Duffey, a budget official who was tasked with handling the Ukraine issue.
Schumer additionally sets out a specific schedule that would allow for 24 hours of opening arguments by the House Democrats’ impeachment managers and then 24 hours for the White House lawyers to present their arguments, followed by days of witness testimony. He also sets time for questioning of House managers and Trump’s counsel by senators; final arguments by House managers and Trump’s counsel; and as many as 24 hours for deliberations by senators. All told Schumer suggests 126 hours of proceedings.
McConnell has indicated in recent days his preference for a swift trial without calling witnesses in what Republicans fear could become a spectacle. At the same time, the GOP leader has said he’s taking his “cues” from the White House and will conduct the proceedings as Trump wants them.
One top Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said Sunday he prefers a swift trial.
“I’d tell the president, if somebody is ready to acquit you, I’d sort of get out of the way,” Graham said. He warned that calling witnesses could mean that Trump administration officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, blocked by the White House previously from appearing before investigators, could be forced to testify.
“I understand the president’s frustration, but I think what’s best for the country is to get this thing over with,” Graham said. “I clearly made up my mind. I’m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process. So I don’t need any witnesses.”
Trump is accused of abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine to investigate Biden while holding American military aid as leverage, and obstructing Congress by blocking the House’s efforts to investigate his actions.
Trump has lashed out repeatedly against impeachment and has told confidants that even if he is acquitted in the Senate as expected, it will be a stain on his legacy.
“The Impeachment Hoax is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which has been going on for 3 years. We will win!” Trump tweeted Sunday.
But he also has said he believes impeachment could be a political winner, citing re-election campaign data that shows his fundraising, rally attendance and poll numbers in battleground states have all increased since the inquiry began.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Sunday that Trump should be able to call witnesses, including Biden’s son Hunter and the whistleblower who reported Trump’s July telephone conversation with Ukraine’s president, which is at the heart of the impeachment investigation.
Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice-president, and Trump has alleged without evidence that Joe Biden got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired because the prosecutor was looking into the energy company. In fact, the U.S. and many other Western governments had pushed for the prosecutor’s ouster, believing that he was soft on crime.
Other Republican senators have tried to move the White House away from the idea of calling witnesses.
Cruz appeared on ABC’s “This Week” while Graham was on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
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.