WASHINGTON (CN) — Warning the Senate that its decision in the impeachment trial of President Trump will be pivotal in deciding whether the United States remains “a safe and secure democracy,” House Democrats on Saturday laid out their case that the president must be removed from office.
“President Trump has betrayed the American people and the ideals on which the Nation was founded,” the 46-page brief states. “Unless he is removed from office, he will continue to endanger our national security, jeopardize the integrity of our elections and undermine our core constitutional principles.”
In the brief and an attached recounting of facts, House Democrats who will act as prosecutors during Trump’s Senate trial laid out their case for why the president should be removed from office for pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son and an unsubstantiated theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
The document relies on testimony given publicly and behind closed doors in the House impeachment inquiry, as well as information that has come out after the impeachment vote in December, such as last week’s report from the Government Accountability Office that found Trump violated federal law by withholding a nearly $400 million military aid package for Ukraine.
The document only once cites information turned over to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani who worked on the effort to gin up the investigations and has become central to the impeachment proceeding. Parnas was indicted on campaign finance charges in October.
The House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December after concluding he held up the aid and a coveted White House meeting for new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for Ukraine announcing the investigations.
As for the abuse of power article, the House argues that Trump manipulated U.S. foreign policy to pressure Ukraine into working on investigations that could boost his chances in the 2020 presidential election.
The brief explains that the Biden investigation would weaken Trump’s top political rival in the upcoming election, while the investigation into the 2016 election could help Trump claim he did not benefit from Russian interference, contrary to the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“President Trump’s solicitation of foreign interference in our elections to secure his own political success is precisely why the framers of our Constitution provided Congress with the power to impeach a corrupt president and remove him from office,” the brief states.
To support the obstruction of Congress charge, the House argues that Trump’s blanket direction that executive branch officials should not comply with House information requests violates separation of powers principles and places the president above the law, contrary to the Constitution’s structure.
“But that is what President Trump has attempted to do, and why President Trump’s conduct is the framers’ worst nightmare,” the brief states.
The Senate is scheduled to kick off the trial in earnest on Tuesday, after senators and Chief Justice John Roberts were sworn in at the end of last week. It is not yet clear how long the trial will last, though the White House has said it does not expect it to run longer than two weeks.
It is also unclear what information beyond what is in the House brief will come into the trial, including whether senators will hear from live witnesses. Democrats have insisted the Senate call former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, though some Republicans have said if those witnesses appear at trial, they will call their own, including Hunter Biden.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said which, if any, witnesses come into the trial will come down to majority votes in the Republican-controlled chamber. Republicans have generally been opposed to calling witnesses, though Democrats see a handful as persuadable.
Trump’s legal team is scheduled to file its opening brief in the trial by Monday at noon.