History Is Watching, Schiff Warns Senate Locked on Acquittal

WASHINGTON (CN) — “It is midnight in Washington,” Representative Adam Schiff said Monday, on the cusp of President Donald Trump’s seemingly inevitable acquittal for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Not backing down on his effort for a Senate conviction, however, the lead impeachment manager from the House of Representatives had stern words for Trump loyalists.

“If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history,” Schiff warned the senators. “But if you find the courage to stand up to him, to speak the awful truth to his rank falsehood, your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath — if only you will say, ‘Enough!’”

House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks Monday during closing arguments in the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate. (Senate Television)

Not only are Republicans disinclined to remove Trump from the Oval Office, they were nearly unanimous Friday in the 49-51 vote to fast-forward the trial, killing a motion by Democrats to hear witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton and obtain evidence stonewalled by the White House.

The president is slated to give his State of the Union address on Tuesday night and face a Senate vote Wednesday on the articles of impeachment.

A little more than a week ago, Schiff won bipartisan acclaim for his speech revolving around the theme that, in a vibrant democracy, “right matters.” Even Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham praised Schiff’s powers of oration, if disagreeing on substance.

The California Democrat’s final appeal to an opposing party primed to acquit the president circled around another virtue: decency.

“He is who he is, but truth matters little to him,” Schiff said, referring to Trump. “What is right matters less, and decency matters not at all.”

Midnight in Washington, another theme of Schiff’s speech, had literal and figurative overtones. The hour referred to both the inevitable vote by each of the Senate jurors and a dead-of-night filing of a Justice Department brief acknowledging the existence of documents that the White House has refused to release: 24 emails showing Trump’s thinking on the hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shook Schiff’s hand, then pulled the lead House manager in for a hug and firm slap on the back after the soaring argument to close the Democrats’ case.

Schumer later told reporters the oratory was “just about the best speech” he has heard in his nearly four decades in Washington.

“I hope maybe it pierced the hardness that is put in front of so many of our Republican colleagues,” Schumer said. “Let’s hope and pray. If that didn’t do it, I don’t know what would.”

Before Schiff implored senators to remove Trump from office as a danger to the country, attorneys for the president argued that the constitutional remedy would be improper with an election looming.

Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin accused House Democrats of leading a structurally deficient investigation that produced Trump’s articles of impeachment.

“Why are they asserting that, if the executive resists, the House has the sole power to determine the boundaries of its own power, in relation to the executive?” Philbin asked. “I think as we’ve explained it’s because this was a purely partisan impeachment from the start. It was purely partisan and purely political, and that’s something that the Framers foresaw.”

Rather than exerting executive privilege over subpoenas for members of his senior staff to testify, the president asserted immunity for those individuals.

House impeachment manager Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., speaks Monday during closing arguments in the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate. (Senate Television)

All four 2020 Democratic candidates in the Senate turned out for the final proceedings on Monday, as the Iowa caucus officially kicked off the race to the White House. Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared to be writing thank-you notes as Crow launched into the House managers’ closing, while Senators Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders listened and took notes.

Heading back into the chamber after a brief recess, Klobuchar said, no matter the outcome of Wednesday’s vote on whether to remove Trump from office, voters could be more severe judges than her Republican colleagues come November.

“If it’s not enough for them to vote for impeachment, it is enough for a bunch of citizens that care about patriotism, and someone who puts their country first, it is enough to make them vote against him,” Klobuchbar told reporters.

Trump’s legal team denied any concern over Republicans clearing the president of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after the national address, with White House aide Eric Ueland telling reporters the timeline was a one-two-punch win for the president.

Republicans have stressed that Trump should stay on message with the State of the Union Tuesday, rather than drag impeachment into the national address.

“There’s no way you talk about that and that not be the takeaway,” said Senator Marco Rubio, who added the president should focus on trade and conflicts in the Middle East.

Across the aisle, however, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday said Trump’s the first presidential impeachment in U.S. history not to include witness testimony on the Senate floor.

“The acquittal will have no value because Americans will know that this trial was not a real trial,” Schumer said.

President Donald Trump together with first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump arrive at the White House on Sunday after a weekend trip at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The final outstanding question now is whether any Democrats will buck party leadership and vote to acquit the president. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said last week he would vote yes for witnesses but was still undecided on acquittal. Republicans are also eyeing Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Doug Jones who remained silent last week on their intentions ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

Asked Monday about his ultimate decision, Jones told reporters he is “getting there.” The Alabama Democrat said he is looking over his notes from the trial and having conversations with his colleagues.

Senator Mike Braun, R-Ind., predicted a few Democrats could break ranks and vote with Republicans to acquit Trump, especially on the second article of impeachment charging Trump with obstructing Congress.

“I think they’ve got a real difficult decision because of how heavy Trump carried those particular states,” Braun told reporters.

The House Intelligence Committee had sought testimony from Bolton at the start of the impeachment investigation, and they also subpoenaed White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as well as other officials at the Office of Management of Budget.

Trump ordered Mulvaney and other top officials to defy all subpoenas, while Bolton threatened to sue if the House subpoenaed his testimony. The House completed its investigation without the eyewitness accounts, opting not to embroil the proceedings with legal battles to enforce the subpoenas.

Each side has two hours to make their closing arguments. Democrats reserved time to follow the closing arguments by White House attorneys.

Jay Sekulow, another Trump lawyer, recast the president’s total blockade of evidence as a mundane assertion of his legal rights.

“As the Supreme Court has recognized in other contexts with other privileges, the privilege exists to protect the innocent,” Sekulow said.

White House lawyers did not appear to invoke a key pillar of Trump’s defense, an attack on former Vice President Joseph Biden, before House managers took up the remainder of their time in closing arguments.

In a running theme of the Democrats’ remarks, House impeachment managers argued the separation of powers stands in the balance.

“To condone the president’s obstruction would strike a death blow to the impeachment clause in the Constitution,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a House manager from New York, thundered in his closing remarks. “And if Congress cannot enforce this sole power vested in both chambers alone, the Constitution’s final line of defense against a corrupt presidency will be eviscerated.”

Emphasizing the weight of the decision to acquit or convict Trump, Representative Jason Crow, another of the Democratic House managers, called impeachment an extraordinary remedy, used only in rare instances of grave misconduct.

House impeachment manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks Monday during closing arguments in the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate. (Senate Television)

The Colorado congressman accused Trump’s defense attorneys of misrepresenting the role of impeachment by claiming that House Democrats are trying to overturn results of the 2016 election and cripple Trump’s chances for re-election.

“Professor Dershowitz and the other counselors to the president have argued that if the president thinks something is in his interest, then it is by definition in the interest of the American people,” Crow said. “The logical conclusion of this argument is that the president is the state. That his interests are the nation’s interests. That his will is necessarily ours. You and I and the American people know otherwise.”

Representative Val Demings, another Democratic impeachment manager, pointed meanwhile to the vote by Republicans that blocked testimony from new witnesses, including Bolton.

“According to reports about Ambassador Bolton’s account, soon to be available, if not to this body, then to bookstores near you, the president also unsuccessfully tried to get Bolton to call the new Ukrainian president to ensure that he would meet with Giuliani,” Demings remarked.

All four 2020 Democratic candidates in the Senate turned out for the final proceedings on Monday, as the Iowa caucus officially kicked off the race to the White House. Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared to be writing thank-you notes as Crow launched into the House managers’ closing, while Senators Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders listened and took notes.

Heading back into the chamber after a brief recess, Klobuchar said, no matter the outcome of Wednesday’s vote on whether to remove Trump from office, voters could be more severe judges than her Republican colleagues come November.

“If it’s not enough for them to vote for impeachment, it is enough for a bunch of citizens that care about patriotism, and someone who puts their country first, it is enough to make them vote against him,” Klobuchbar told reporters.

The final outstanding question in Trump’s impeachment trial is whether any Democrats will buck party leadership and vote to acquit the president.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said last week he would vote yes for witnesses but was still undecided on acquittal. Republicans are also eyeing Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Doug Jones who remained silent last week on their intentions ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gives a thumbs-up as he leaves the Senate chamber Friday during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Asked Monday about his ultimate decision, Jones told reporters he is “getting there.” The Alabama Democrat said he is looking over his notes from the trial and having conversations with his colleagues.

Senator Mike Braun, R-Ind., predicted a few Democrats could break ranks and vote with Republicans to acquit Trump, especially on the second article of impeachment charging Trump with obstructing Congress.

“I think they’ve got a real difficult decision because of how heavy Trump carried those particular states,” Braun told reporters.

When asked about possible defections on the ultimate acquittal vote, Schumer told reporters senators will need to decide for themselves.

“Look, I think each Democrat is going to make up his or her own mind, this is an issue of conscience to everybody,” Schumer said.

The House Intelligence Committee had sought testimony from Bolton at the start of the impeachment investigation, and they also subpoenaed White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as well as other officials at the Office of Management of Budget.

Trump ordered Mulvaney and other top officials to defy all subpoenas, while Bolton threatened to sue if the House subpoenaed his testimony. The House completed its investigation without the eyewitness accounts, opting not to embroil the proceedings with legal battles to enforce the subpoenas.

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