House managers on Thursday spent their second day of oral arguments in the Senate impeachment trial explaining why President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to look into his political opponents qualify as abuse of power– the first article of impeachment brought against him.
Much of the managers’ eight-hour presentation repurposed testimony and evidence followers have become familiar with over the last several months. But the strategy shifted from the previous day’s descriptions of Trump’s actions, to connecting the president’s behavior to the argument he abused the power of his office.
“All of the legal experts who testified before the House Judiciary Committee — those invited by the Democrats and those invited by the Republicans all agreed that the conduct we have charged, constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors,” said Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., a House manager and chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
“We can predict what the president’s lawyers will say over the next few days. You will hear accusations and name calling … But you will not hear a refutation of the evidence. You will not hear testimony to refute the testimony you have seen,” Nadler continued.
Here are five key moments for the second day of oral arguments in the Senate trial:
Nadler says Trump’s defense is ‘terrifying’
In a preview of their defense filed Monday, Trump’s legal team argued House Democrats failed to demonstrate that the president committed a statutory crime or violated the law.
“[Trump] argues that even if we disapprove of his misconduct, we cannot remove him for it,” said Nadler on the Senate floor. This idea is “terrifying,” he continued. “It confirms that this president sees no limits on his power, or on his ability to use his public office for private gain.”
During his remarks, Nadler said the evidence produced by the House impeachment inquiry overwhelmingly supports his removal.
“No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections. Prior presidents would be shocked to the core by such conduct, and rightly so,” Nadler said.
The White House will give its defense after the House managers have been allowed 24 hours over the course of three days to present their case.
Trump is a continuing threat, Rep. Nadler says
Nadler outlined three points to clarify why impeachment is the proper response to Trump’s actions on Ukraine: 1) Impeachment is not for petty offenses, 2) Trump’s conduct shows he is a continuing threat, and 3) Trump’s conduct is recognizably wrong, Nadler said.
“We fully recognize that impeachment does not exist for a mistake. It does not apply to acts that are merely unwise or unpopular. Impeachment is reserved for deliberate decisions by the president to embark on a course of conduct that betrays his oath of office and does violence to the Constitution,” Nadler said.
Trump’s own officials said his conduct was improper, Schiff says
Lead House manager and California Rep. Adam Schiff turned to comments made by several witnesses who testified before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry late last year. They include Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, who said Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president was “wrong.”
Jennifer Williams, Vice President Mike Pence’s special adviser for Europe and Russia, also characterized the phone call as “unusual” and “inappropriate.”
“Why did President Trump’s own officials — not so-called ‘Never Trumpers,’ not Democrats or Republicans, but career public servants — report this conduct in real time? Because they knew it was wrong,” Schiff said.
Trump perpetuated debunked Russian conspiracy about Ukraine, Garcia says
Trump and his defenders claim that one of the president’s interests in Ukraine included investigating whether the country interfered in the 2016 election.
The roots of these allegations surfaced before Trump actually won the election. The suggestion that Ukraine was the source of election interference has been discredited by U.S. intelligence and foreign affairs officials, including former White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill, who testified in the House impeachment hearings. But that theory still persists in the White House.
“There is no real dispute that Russia — not Ukraine — attacked our elections,” said Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, one of the House managers. “President Trump continued to promote this fake conspiracy theory just because it would be beneficial and helpful to his own reelection campaign,” Garcia said.
Rep. Lofgren: Trump used Giuliani to seek election interference
Several of the House managers zeroed in on Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his involvement in Ukraine policy. Testimony and House Intelligence evidence highlight Giuliani’s attempts to coordinate with U.S. and Ukrainian officials, which House Democrats argue took place on Trump’s behalf.
House manager and California Rep. Zoe Lofgren recounted a timeline of communications by Giuliani, who several impeachment witnesses have said was a central figure for Trump in Ukraine.
“There’s evidence of President Trump himself demanding that Ukraine conduct the investigations, but President Trump also delegated his authority to his political agent, Rudy Giuliani to oversee and direct this scheme,” Lofgren said.