What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

House impeachment managers turn to history in closing trial arguments

House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers have had their say regarding the president’s impeachment. Now, the Senate will render its verdict. Amna Nawaz reports on the closing arguments presented Monday, and Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss what they’re hearing from lawmakers and the White House about the possibilities of acquittal and censure.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president's lawyers and the House impeachment managers have had their say. Now the United States Senate has to render a verdict.

    Amna Nawaz reports on this day's proceedings.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts:

    The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    With the end of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in sight…

  • Barry Black:

    Oh lord, as we enter the final arguments phase…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    … House managers took to the Senate floor one last time in their closing arguments to senators, who will vote Mr. Trump's fate on Wednesday.

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    The evidence was presented to you — that was presented to you is damning, chilling, disturbing, and disgraceful.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    Your name will be tied to his your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath, if only you will say, enough.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.:

    Absent conviction and removal, how can we be assured that this president will not do it again?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But the president's fate, many believe, is already decided, after Republican senators voted Friday to block witness testimony.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts:

    The yeas are 49, the nays are 51. The motion is not agreed to.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of few Republicans Democrats hoped would join their call for witnesses, ultimately didn't. He explained why Sunday on NBC:

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.:

    If you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Alexander and other Republicans echo an argument made by Mr. Trump's attorneys, that while the president did withhold aid to Ukraine in a pressure campaign to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, what the president did was inappropriate, but not impeachable, especially not in an election year.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander:

    I think he shouldn't have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I'd say, improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is, who decides what to do about that?

  • Chuck Todd:

    Well, who decides what to do about that?

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander:

    The people. The people.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    On Capitol Hill today, Republicans breathed a sigh of relief, like Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana.

  • Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.:

    When I count my blessings, I count Lamar Alexander twice.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But Democrats like Jon Tester of Montana warned about the future in an interview with Judy Woodruff.

  • Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.:

    I'm very fearful of this. This is — elections are really foundational to our country and to our democracy. And it's just really, really unfortunate. And I don't know where this stuff ends if he is found innocent, if he is acquitted on these charges.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Inside the chamber, the president's team appealed to senators to reject the articles of impeachment, a partisan effort, they argued, based only on policy differences.

  • Jay Sekulow:

    Protect the integrity of the United States Senate. Stand firm today and protect the office of the president. Stand firm today and protect the Constitution.

    Stand firm today and protect the will of the American people and their vote. Stand firm today and protect our nation.

    And I ask that this partisan impeachment come to an end.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Even as formal impeachment arguments came to a close, lawmakers signaled that the battle over some of the same issues that defined the trial will continue in the months ahead.

    Senator Lindsey Graham this Sunday on Fox News:

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    We're going to get to the bottom of all of this to make sure this never happens again. Intel, Senate Intel, will deal with the whistle-blower. Foreign Relations Committee will deal with Joe Biden's conflict of interest.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    On CBS, lead House manager Adam Schiff was asked if he'd continue to seek the testimony of President Trump's former national security adviser.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff:

    I don't want to comment to this point on what our plans may or may not be with respect to John Bolton.

    But I will say this. Whether it's before — in testimony before the House, or it's in his book, or it's in one form or another, the truth will come out as — will continue to come out.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    President Trump, who spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, was wholly dismissive when asked about the trial in a Fox News interview.

  • Sean Hannity:

    Your reaction to all of it?

  • President Donald Trump:

    Well, it's been very unfair. From the day I won, it's been a very, very unfair process, the Mueller report, Russia, Russia, Russia, as you say, which was total nonsense. It was all nonsense. The whole thing was nonsense.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The president will stand before the same lawmakers litigating his future in office when he delivers the State of the Union address tomorrow.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to give us the latest, our own Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.

    It's so good to see you both in person, rather than reporting from the Capitol.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    So different.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I know. Amazing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much to ask you about.

    But, Lisa, let me start with you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Give us a sense of the core of the argument that the House managers were making today.

    They seemed to be coming from several different directions.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They did have a few different arguments they were making.

    Let's look quickly at a graphic that sort of summarizes. And Amna captured some of this.

    But to make it very clear, the number one argument from House Democrats is that the president abused his power and obstructed Congress. Those are the charges against the president, but they're going beyond that. They're also saying that, if he's unchecked, if he's not removed from office, this president will do it again.

    They say that's a threat to national security and the 2020 election. They also are making this argument we heard from Representative Schiff in that in that story that history will judge the Senate. They're making a historical argument as well.

    Judy, however, some Democrats are making another proposal tonight. Senator Joe Manchin is proposing not removal, but instead censure of the president. We have his short resolution to that effect.

    This is not the first time this has happened. In 1999, with Clinton, Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a censure also as an alternative. That didn't go very far. We have to take the temperature on this, but I haven't heard a huge appetite for censure, except for just a few senators so far.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Interesting.

    So, Yamiche, you have been talking to folks at the White House. How do they see all this as it's unfolding, what — and the fact that censure at least is a proposal out there, and also the fact that the president's going to be giving the State of the Union tomorrow night?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, first of all, the White House and president feel very confident in the argument that the White House legal team made before the Senate. They don't like the timing of this.

    The president wanted to be acquitted before the State of the Union. But, that said, the way that the legal team defended the president, they were echoing a lot of the things that he was saying when he was defending himself on social media and in interviews before the Senate trial got started.

    So let's walk through just a little bit of what the White House team said. They said that the Democrats have long wanted to impeach the president. They said that, basically, since 2016, Democrats have had it out for President Trump and were angry at him and impeached him because they didn't like him.

    They also said foreign policy includes politics. This is the argument that the president is going to have political differences with people, people that work for him, and that essentially his policy differences are what makes foreign policy, that it's OK for him to talk about politics and foreign policy.

    He also said — they also said acquittal means defending democracy. This also goes to the idea of history. They say that the president shouldn't have to deal with his national security adviser and other people being called up to the Hill to testify about personal conversations that they had with the president.

    The other thing, when it comes to censure, the White House acknowledges that the censure argument might be something that they have to deal with later on, but they think that that's going to fail. At the end of the day, the president thinks he's going to be exonerated, he's going to be acquitted, and that's going to be the big thing that he's going to be able to talk about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, speaking of that, this argument that some Republicans have made it, like Lamar Alexander, who say, well, what the president did, in reaching out to Ukraine's president, asking him to investigate a political rival, was wrong, but it's not impeachable.

    How is the White House dealing with that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president has said over and over again that his call was perfect.

    But the president's own legal team and Republicans, who are voting — who are likely going to vote to acquit him, they're not making that argument. The president — here's what the president was saying on Twitter.

    He said: "I hope Republicans and the American people realize that the totally partisan impeachment hoax is exactly that, a hoax. Read the transcripts. Listen to what the president and foreign minister of Ukraine said — quote — 'No pressure.' Nothing will ever satisfy the do-nothing Democrats."

    Now, the president's legal team is also saying tonight that they are happy with the idea that senators are saying maybe this call was problematic, but it's not impeachable.

    Robert Ray told that to our White House — our White House producer, Meredith Lee. I also talked to Alan Dershowitz, who said that he's OK with that, because there were moral problems with the call.

    The president is not acknowledging that at all, though. He's just pointing to the fact that he's going to be acquitted. He doesn't want to think about that too much.

    And then in terms of what we're going to look at in the future, the president feels emboldened. He feels like, yes, I can talk to China, I can talk to India about what dirt they might have on Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, because Republicans say it's OK.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It doesn't sound like he's going to come around to the idea that he did something wrong.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Not at all.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, dig a little bit more deeply, if you will, into the senators' thinking on this.

    There's so much pressure on almost every one of them coming from all directions.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Yamiche and I spent a lot of time in that Senate chamber over the past few days. And I think we both agree today you could see senators mentally had already moved on. It was if they had already made their decisions about this a few days ago.

    This is going to sound a little nuts, but it was almost like watching a group of people who had a very large meal having to listen to a lecture at the DMV. Like, they were all really more or less tuned out, even the biggest notetakers.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    With all compliments to the DMV.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    With all compliments to the DMV. Thank you for my license. I'm happy for the privilege to drive.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But you could tell that it seemed like senators, that the big moment of drama had seemed to come and pass.

    But, that said, there is still an open question, at least about three Democratic senators who we're watching very carefully. These three senators in particular, we're watching to see if they vote not guilty, along with Republicans.

    Senator Joe Manchin, he said tonight he's undecided. Now, Doug Jones is an interesting one, because he is up for reelection this year. Then Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

    Those are folks who have indicated sometimes kind of at least cooperation with some more conservative ideas. So, there is still an open question, but it really felt like the Senate was ready for this trial to move on. Most senators seem to have made up their minds. We're getting those announcements tonight and tomorrow.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the vote on Wednesday afternoon.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest