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Trump Impeachment Trial Moves to Closing Arguments

USA

03 February 2020, 13:07

Cory Booker

House lawmakers prosecuting the impeachment case against U.S. President Donald Trump and the president’s defense team each have two hours Monday to make their closing arguments, VOA news reports.

The final outcome of the case seems secure, with Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate and none indicating they plan to vote to remove Trump from office.

House Democrats will still argue Monday that Trump abused his power by asking Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him politically, and that he obstructed Congress by directing members of his administration to not provide documents and testimony during subsequent probes of his actions.

Trump’s lawyers, and the president himself, argue he did nothing wrong and that his actions do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

Later Monday, members of the Senate will be able to make their own views heard as they give speeches ahead of a planned final vote on Wednesday.

Key Republican senators said Trump’s request to Ukraine was wrong, but not significant enough to convict him on the charges brought by the House of Representatives.

Trump has for months described as “perfect” his request last July to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate one of Trump’s top 2020 challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden‘s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a ceremony to welcome Ukrainian citizens exchanged in a prisoner swap, at Boryspil International Airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 29, 2019.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a ceremony to welcome Ukrainian citizens exchanged in a prisoner swap, at Boryspil International Airport, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 29, 2019.

But both Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said in interviews broadcast Sunday that Trump erred in asking Zelenskiy to “do us a favor” to launch the investigations at the same time he was withholding $391 million in military aid Kyiv wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Alexander, who provided a key vote late last week against the Democrats’ effort to call Trump aides as witnesses in the impeachment trial, told NBC News’s “Meet the Press” show that it was “crossing the line” for Trump to ask for the Biden investigations.“

I think he shouldn’t have done it. I think it was wrong,” Alexander said.

“If the president was upset with what the Bidens were doing in Ukraine, he should’ve called the (U.S.) attorney general,” William Barr, Alexander said. Asked why Trump didn’t then, Alexander said, “Maybe he didn’t know to do it.”

But Alexander added, “I think what he did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors,” the U.S. Constitution threshold for an impeachable offense requiring removal from office. “I don’t think it’s the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president.”

He said voters in next November’s national election, when Trump is running for a second term in the White House, should decide his fate.

“You know, it struck me, really for the first time, early last week, that we’re not just being asked to remove the president from office,” Alexander said, “We’re saying, ‘Tell him he can’t run in the 2020 election ….”

As the heart of the case against Trump ended Friday, another Republican, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said, “Let me be clear, Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

Ernst told CNN that Trump’s request to Ukraine for the politically tinged investigations was “not what I would have done. He maybe did it in the wrong manner.”

“He knows now he needs to go through the proper channels,” such as the U.S. Justice Department, if he sees the need for an overseas investigation.

Nonetheless, she concluded, “Does it come to the point of removing a president? I don’t think it does.”

The key 51-49 vote against calling witnesses in the trial came Friday over Democratic objections. Democrats wanted to hear testimony from Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, whom Trump ousted from his White House position last September. Bolton says in a new book that Trump told him directly last August that he wanted the Biden investigations before he would release the military aid, a direct contradiction of Trump’s claim there was no reciprocal quid pro quo deal with Ukraine, the defense assistance in exchange for the Biden investigations. Trump denied the claim in the Bolton book, “The Room Where It Happened.”

Trump released the aid in September after a 55-day delay without Zelenskiy opening the Biden investigations, proof, Republicans say, he had no quid pro quo deal with Ukraine.

Trump has often ridiculed the impeachment effort against him, and did again over the weekend.

“The Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, don’t want justice when pushing the Impeachment Hoax,” Trump said on Twitter, “they only want to destabilize the Republican Party so they can do better in the 2020 election, & that includes the House & Senate. They are playing with the people by taking it this far!”

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