The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine Adam Schiff’s stunning day two impeachment claim that “the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”
Schiff later called for a congressional coup stating, “the president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won.”
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House Democrats launched into lengthy arguments that broke little ground, if any, in President Trump’s impeachment trial Wednesday — as the head impeachment manager, California Rep. Adam Schiff, suggested that Russians could attack the U.S. and insisted that removing Trump from office was necessary because the integrity of the 2020 election could not be “assured.”
Trump’s lawyers sat by, waiting their turn, as the president blasted the proceedings from afar, threatening jokingly to face off with the Democrats by coming to “sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.”
The challenge before the House managers has been clear. Democrats were given 24 hours over three days to prosecute the charges against Trump, trying to win over not just fidgety senators sitting silently in the chamber but an American public, deeply divided over the president and his impeachment in an election year.
Most senators sat at their desks throughout the day, as the rules stipulated, though some stretched their legs, standing behind the desks or against the back wall of the chamber, passing the time. Visitors watched from the galleries, one briefly interrupting in protest.
Almost immediately after Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled in Wednesday’s session, bored and weary senators started openly flouting some basic guidelines. The Associated Press reported that a Democrat in the back row leaned on his right arm, covered his eyes and stayed that way for nearly a half-hour, and some lawmakers openly snickered when Schiff said he’d speak for only 10 minutes.
“I do see the members moving and taking a break,” freshman Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., one of the House prosecutors, said mid-speech at the center podium. “I probably have another 15 minutes.”
“You just have to stretch and you just got to stand. Those chairs, they look nice, [but] they are not comfortable chairs,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, a key swing-vote moderate, said of the restlessness while Schiff spoke.
The previous day of the trial lasted for more than 12 hours, and ended well past midnight on a testy note as Roberts admonished both sides for their conduct. On Wednesday, Murkowski slammed Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., for arguing the previous evening that senators who didn’t vote for immediate subpoenas were defying their oaths of office: “As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended,” Murkowski said.
Perhaps sensing the ennui in the chamber on Day 2 of the trial, Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sought to keep the stakes high. He suggested at one point that military aid to Ukraine was essential so the U.S. would not have to fight Russians at home, as soldiers did in the videogame “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
“As one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here,” Schiff said, drawing rebukes from commentators across the political spectrum.
Schiff attracted the most criticism, however, for later making the head-turning argument that Trump must be removed from office by the Senate — rather than by voters in the 2020 election — because it is impossible to be sure the 2020 election won’t be compromised.
“The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” Schiff remarked. He did not elaborate.
Constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz, who will speak against impeachment, is expected to argue before the Senate that removing a president is a fundamentally undemocratic remedy that requires “criminal-like” conduct — a standard he will argue is not met by Democrats’ two articles of impeachment, which do not allege federal crimes.
But, both Republicans and left-of-center commentators didn’t wait long to deride Schiff’s incendiary arguments in more direct terms.
“And right here is proof of the Democrats’ plan all along,” Trump campaign director of communications Tim Murtaugh said in response. “Every moment of the impeachment sham has been geared toward interfering with the 2020 election. Schiff is preemptively calling into question the results of an election that is still more than 9 months away.”
And during the proceedings, Trump retweeted a post from Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul: “The more we hear from Adam Schiff, the more the GOP is getting unified against this partisan charade.” Trump added, “True!”
Meanwhile, the Republican House leader, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, suggested during the day that Schiff should be censured by the House for constantly lying, including by apparently misrepresenting key documents from Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate.
Schiff, though, was undeterred. Attempting to underscore the human cost of Trump’s temporary aid holdup, Schiff further asserted that the money was “designed to help Ukraine defend itself from the Kremlin’s aggression” and that “more than 15,000 Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies.”
Republicans erupted when Schiff made a similar argument during last year’s House impeachment probe. Trump’s lawyers were likely to fire back when it’s their turn to present arguments — in part because former President Obama provided less aid to Ukraine than the Trump administration has.
Additionally, Republicans have pointed out that the temporary lack of aid has not been directly linked to any casualties, and that the U.S. cannot reasonably be held responsible for the actions of Russian-backed militants in Ukraine.
Schiff also repeatedly made the false claim that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had said people should “get over” the idea that Trump was tying foreign aid to political investigations. Mulvaney, in fact, had remarked only that politics and foreign policy sometimes overlap.
Schiff, who had previously claimed to have evidence that the Trump campaign secretly colluded with Russia, was outlining what the Democrats contended was the president’s “corrupt scheme” to abuse his presidential power and then obstruct Congress’ investigation.
He called on senators not to be “cynical” about politics, but to draw on the intent of the nation’s Founding Fathers who provided the remedy of impeachment.
“Over the coming days, we will present to you—and to the American people—the extensive evidence collected during the House’s impeachment inquiry into the president’s abuse of power,” Schiff argued. “You will hear their testimony at the same time as the American people. That is, if you will allow it.”
The proceedings were unfolding at the start of an election year, and there have been few signs that Republicans were interested in calling more witnesses or going beyond a fast-track assessment likely to bring a quick vote on charges related to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Some Democrats sounded a note of concern that Republicans haven’t expressed much interest in crossing the aisle concerning witness and document requests. “I can only speak for myself: strikingly little,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said after the proceedings adjourned, when asked how much Republican outreach he has seen.
The trial has marked just the third time the Senate has weighed whether an American president should be removed from office. Democrats argued Trump abused his office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden while withholding crucial military aid, and also obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe.
Republicans have defended Trump’s actions and cast the process as a politically motivated effort to weaken the president in the midst of his reelection campaign. Specifically, Republicans have pointed out that Ukrainian leaders said they felt no undue pressure; that the longstanding constitutional executive privilege shielded the White House from having to respond to comprehensive subpoenas; and that the Democrats’ case was based largely on hearsay.
Trump’s legal team also has argued that Democrats’ impeachment case couldn’t be as “open-and-shut” as advertised given the apparently urgent need for new evidence even after the House impeachment inquiry.
In any event, the White House has said Trump’s suggested probe into Biden was appropriate.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.