WASHINGTON (AP) — From the floor of the Senate, Democratic impeachment prosecutors said Friday that President Donald Trump tried to cover up his actions with Ukraine, another reason to remove him from office.
A few blocks away, Trump told anti-abortion activists on the National Mall that he proudly stands with them. “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Trump said as he became the first sitting president to speak at the annual March for Life.
Highlights of Friday’s session and what’s ahead as senators conduct just the third impeachment trial of a president:
Trump, who calls impeachment a hoax and a witch hunt, has refused to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe, an unprecedented stonewalling that Democrats said was worse than former President Richard Nixon and merits Trump’s removal from power.
“Presidents can’t be above the law,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, one of the House Democratic prosecutors. She and other Democrats outlined a series of actions Trump has taken to obstruct Congress, the second of two articles of impeachment against him.
The House impeached Trump last month, accusing him of abusing his office by asking Ukraine to announce politically motivated probes of former Vice President Joe Biden and other matters while withholding military aid from the key U.S. ally.
‘IT’S NOT GOING TO STOP’
Noting Trump’s continuing refusal to cooperate with Congress and his vow to “fight all the subpoenas,” Democrats said Trump is likely to abuse the power of his office again unless Congress intervenes to remove him.
“You know it’s not going to stop. It’s not going to stop unless the Congress does something about it,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead Democratic prosecutor.
“President Trump tried to cheat. He got caught. And then he worked hard to cover it up,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, another Democratic prosecutor. Jeffries decried a “toxic mess at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” and said it’s up to Congress to try to “clean it up.”
‘MOST PRO-LIFE PRESIDENT’
As Democrats argued for Trump’s removal, the president was at the National Mall for the annual March for Life.
Trump was hailed in speeches and on signs as “the most pro-life” American president ever, a sign that white evangelical and conservative Christians remain among Trump’s most loyal backers. Trump is counting on those voters to help bring him across the finish line as he campaigns for re-election.
Critics accused Trump of using the march to try to distract from impeachment. Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called the speech “an act of desperation, plain and simple.”
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU
Schiff, in making the case against Trump, asked senators to put themselves in the place of Biden or Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was viewed as an obstacle to probes of Biden and his son, Hunter, and was removed from her position.
“The next time, it just may be you,” Schiff said, pointing at one senator after another. “Do you think for a moment that if he felt it was in his interest, he wouldn’t ask you to be investigated?”
“You cannot leave a man like that in office when he has violated the oath of office,” Schiff added.
‘HEAD ON A PIKE’
Making the closing argument for Democrats as they wrapped up three days of discussion, Schiff urged Republican senators to show “moral courage,” even if means voting against their party. He cited a CBS News story, citing an unnamed source, that a Trump confidant had warned Republicans: “vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.” Schiff said he hoped the story wasn’t true, but Republicans reacted angrily.
“That’s not true,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins said on the floor, shaking her head. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters, “Certainly, I have not been told that my head is upon a pike.” Collins and Murkowski are considered the two Republicans most likely to support a Democratic request for witnesses and documents. GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma called Schiff’s statement “completely, totally false. That’s insulting and demeaning to everyone to say that we somehow live in fear and that the president has threatened all of us.”
After Democrats dominated the stage for three days, Trump’s legal team is set to start making its case on Saturday. Trump, characteristically, weighed in on the schedule on Twitter: It “looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.”
Said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow: “We’re going to rebut and refute, and we’re going to put on an affirmative case” that could continue through Tuesday.
After that, senators will face a critical decision next week on Democratic demands to hear more testimony from top Trump aides, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, who refused to appear before the House. It would take four Republican senators to join the Democratic minority to seek witnesses, and so far the numbers appear lacking.