President Trump presents an unprecedented threat to the country’s Constitutional structure and would “make himself a monarch,” said lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) as he closed his opening argument Friday night.
“That has been proved,” the House Intelligence Committee chief added. He repeated that sentence — “that has been proved” — again and again as he ran through a litany of allegations that covered the President’s campaign to extort Ukraine into bashing former Vice President Joe Biden and to block Congress from investigating the scandal.
Schiff has spent months leading an investigation into the Ukraine scandal, interviewing dozens of witnesses and examining thousands of pages of documents. All that culminated in the speech on Friday night, during which he pleaded the Senate not to make Trump a “monarch” and instead grant both him, and the American people, a fair trial.
Schiff’s speech came after days of complimenting the assembled Senators for their rapt attention and respect for the process. But on Friday night, he posed a question that was not one of “guilt or innocence, but a far more foundational issue. Should there be a fair trial?”
“How long is too long to have a fair trial, fair to the President and to the American people?” Schiff asked.
Earlier, the California Democrat opened his speech by outlining what his investigation had proven.
And it was a lot. Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections” and also “directed the unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by” Congress.
All that, Schiff argued, constituted the behavior of someone who believes “he is the state.”
The House Intelligence Committee chief went a step further towards hinting that Trump’s defense team — and, perhaps, Senate Republicans — would assent to such a structure of power.
“You will also hear attacks on the Constitution although it will not be framed that way,” Schiff said.
“Presidents have a constitutional right to abuse their power,” he added, citing an example of an argument he expects to hear from Trump’s defense.
He closed with a direct appeal to lawmakers, in part to their own egos and desire to leave a positive legacy and in part to broader notions about America’s role in the world.
“I think of how unforgiving history can be of our conduct,” Schiff said. “We can do a lifetime’s work; draft the most wonderful legislation, help our constituents, and yet be remembered for none of that, save for a single decision affecting the course of our country.”
“I believe this may be one of those moments, a moment we never thought we would see, when the democracy was gravely threatened not from without but from within,” he added.
Schiff’s speech was the culmination of three days of presentations by House impeachment managers.
The first day began with what Schiff described as a “factual chronology,” as impeachment managers told the story of how President Trump, along with his attorney Rudy Giuliani, withheld military assistance from Ukraine in a bid to pressure Kyiv into announcing investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
That effort, impeachment managers said, occurred partly at the insistence of corrupt Ukrainian officials and hangers-on who found ways to manipulate Giuliani and Trump, using the President’s mercurial nature to pursue their own interests — including the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
The second day focused on placing the allegations within a constitutional framework, as impeachment managers homed in on what the country’s founding document provides for the removal of a President willing to abuse the powers entrusted to him.
And, finally, Schiff concluded the third day of arguments in which impeachment managers combined the first two, arguing that the factual pattern met the Constitution’s rigorous standard for removal.
Whether that happens — and whether the Senate elects to investigate further — remains in the hands of the body’s Republican majority.
But Schiff, with a measure of humility and respect for the Senators before him, told the legislators that whether “President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profits under the United States, that will be for you to determine.”
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