On Thursday, the Senate launched the second day of opening arguments in President Donald Trump's historic impeachment trial. House impeachment managers — lawmakers who act as prosecutors in the trial — laid out the constitutional groundwork for impeachment. Among other things, they discussed legal precedent supporting Trump's removal from office, what constitutes abuse of power, and why the president's conduct rises to the level of an impeachable offense. Scroll down to watch the hearing and follow Insider's live coverage of the trial. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
On Thursday, the Senate began the second day of opening arguments in President Donald Trump's historic impeachment trial. Trump is the third US president to be impeached. The House of Representatives charged him last month with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to his efforts to force Ukraine to pursue politically motivated investigations against his rivals while withholding vital security assistance and a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought. Trump's trial officially began last week, and House impeachment managers — lawmakers who act as prosecutors against the president — began presenting their opening arguments on Wednesday. Read Insider's coverage of day one of opening arguments here. On Thursday, House prosecutors laid out the constitutional groundwork for impeachment. Among other things, they discussed legal precedent supporting Trump's removal from office, what constitutes abuse of power, and why the president's conduct rises to the level of an impeachable offense. The proceedings began at 1 p.m. ET. C-SPAN and TV networks are relying on the Senate's live feed of the trial. C-SPAN is airing the trial at cspan.org. Watch day 2 of opening arguments below:
Scroll down to follow Insider's live coverageSEE ALSO: House prosecutors wrap day one of opening arguments in Trump's impeachment trial by imploring the Senate to choose country over party Republican senator accuses impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an immigrant and war veteran, of dual loyalty
As House impeachment manager Adam Schiff highlighted testimony from witnesses who said President Trump's conduct crossed the line, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee singled out Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. After Schiff praised the patriotism of the impeachment witnesses, Blackburn tweeted, "Adam Schiff is hailing Alexander Vindman as an American patriot. How patriotic is it to badmouth and ridicule our great nation in front of Russia, America's greatest enemy?" It's unclear what Blackburn was referring to. Vindman never "badmouthed" the US to any Russian officials. And during his impeachment testimony, Vindman emphasized his background, military service, and loyalty to the US. Blackburn isn't the first Republican to accuse Vindman of dual loyalty throughout the impeachment proceedings. When Vindman, an immigrant whose family fled the former Soviet Union and arrived in the US as refugees 40 years ago, first testified against the president, several Trump allies in Congress and the media suggested Vindman was secretly loyal to Ukraine. There is no merit to any of those claims, and they drew swift backlash and allegations of racism. House prosecutors show graphic illustrating how impeachment witnesses agreed Trump's scheme was 'inappropriate' and 'wrong'
House impeachment managers' prosecution strategy became clearer as the second day of opening arguments wore on.
On Wednesday — day one of prosecutors' opening arguments — House Democrats laid out a broad yet detailed overview of the president's scheme to pressure Ukraine into acceding to his personal demands while withholding military aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine's president.
Impeachment managers gave the Senate, and the public, an intricate timeline of how Trump's efforts played out, and the lengths he went to conceal them until they were publicly revealed. They also broadly outlined the two charges against him, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and specific conduct they said supported the charges.
On Thursday — day two of opening arguments – House prosecutors began by discussing the constitutional grounds for impeaching Trump, and why his actions rise to the level of impeachable conduct. During the second half of the day, they turned their focus to Trump's alleged abuse of power and all the ways his conduct went astray of official US policy.
They drew on testimony from Trump's own officials who said his actions were "wrong," "inappropriate," and "improper."
House managers have one more day to make their opening arguments before Trump's defense team gets a chance to present a rebuttal. It's likely Democrats will use their last day to focus on Trump's alleged obstruction of Congress, and to make a final case to call more witnesses. House impeachment manager Adam Schiff: Trump 'is a president who truly feels that he can do whatever he wants'
While laying out the evidence against the president, Schiff said Trump "is a president who truly feels that he can do whatever he wants." "That includes coercing an ally to help him cheat in an election," Schiff said, referring to Trump's demands that Ukraine launch politically motivated investigations against his rival ahead of the 2020 election. "And if he's successful, the election is not a remedy for that," Schiff added. "A remedy in which the President could cheat is no remedy at all, which is why we are here." Lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff drills down on how Trump boxed Ukraine into a corner by abusing his power
After the break, Schiff turned his focus, specifically, to Ukraine's alarm at being perceived as a pawn in US domestic politics. The California Democrat drew on testimony from Trump administration officials and career foreign service officers, who discussed at length the precarious position Ukraine was in during Trump's pressure campaign. The military aid and White House meeting that Trump dangled were not only crucial in assisting Ukraine as it fought a hot war with Russia. They would also go a long way in sending the message that the US was fully supportive of Ukraine as it fought off Russian aggression. "The bottom line is this: what was in the best interest of our country was to help Ukraine," Schiff said. "To give them the military aid to fight one of our greatest adversaries and help promote the rule of law." He continued: "And what was in President Trump's personal interest was the opposite: to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations into his 2020 rival to help ensure his re-election. And when what is best for the country and what was best for Donald Trump diverged, President Trump put himself above the best interest of our country." House prosecutors played audio from 1999 in which Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally, argued the exact opposite of what he claims today
Earlier Thursday, House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler played a clip of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina during Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1999. In the clip, Graham, who was a House impeachment manager during Clinton's Senate trial, elaborated on what he believed the framers meant by "high crimes." "I think that's what they meant by high crimes, doesn't even have to be a crime," Graham said. "It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people." Graham had left the Senate hearing room shortly before Nadler played the clip. But according to media reports from journalists in the gallery, Graham returned shortly after, at which point Nevada Sen. Ben Sasse whispered something in his ear, prompting Graham to smile. Of course, the South Carolina firebrand has taken a vastly different position on Trump's impeachment, claiming there is no evidence of criminal conduct and that Trump did nothing wrong. He has also indicated that he does not intend to act as an impartial juror in the president's Senate trial. CNN reported that Nadler played the 1999 clip of Graham to "make the point to rebut" Trump's legal team's argument "that because a crime was not committed, he cannot be impeached." After the break, lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff lists 10 reasons to show how Trump sought to extort Ukraine for personal gain
Schiff, a Democrat from California who was a prosecutor before being elected to Congress, took to the podium to highlight the reasons that he said prove President Trump's demands that Ukraine launch investigations against his political rivals stemmed from personal interest and not the US's national interest:
Trump only cared about a public announcement of the investigations, rather than the investigations themselves. He cared only about the "big stuff" as it related to Ukraine. David Holmes, a State Department official who discussed Trump's beliefs with Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union, testified that by "big stuff," Trump meant the Bidens. The president used his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to carry out the Ukraine pressure campaign, instead of official US foreign policy channels. The investigations were not part of official US policy, according to State Department official George Kent and several other witnesses. The investigations were requested outside official channels. Multiple officials within the administration reported their concerns about Trump's requests, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, who listened in on the July 25 phone call when Trump discussed the investigations with Ukraine's president. Ukrainian officials expressed concerns about the investigations being politically motivated and that pursuing them would drag Ukraine into domestic US politics. The White House tried to bury records of the July 25 phone call. Vindman testified that John Eisenberg, the NSC's chief lawyer, instructed him not to tell anyone about the call, and that a transcript of it was placed on a top-secret, codeword server typically used to house sensitive information pertaining to US national security. Trump publicly acknowledged that the investigations he wanted could damage Biden's candidacy. The president showed no other inclination to combat corruption in Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls out the discrepancy in Republican claims during Trump's impeachment trial
Several Republican senators have repeatedly said that they've heard nothing new in President Trump's impeachment trial so far. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that Republicans were "the very ones who voted against new documents, new witnesses, new facts. Can't have it both ways." GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik slams Democrats for relying on constitutional law professors to answer questions about constitutional law
"The fact that they chose professors to speak to millions of Americans, they are not in touch with the viewpoints of millions of Americans," Stefanik, one of eight House GOP lawmakers who are the public face of President Trump's defense, told reporters during a 15-minute break in the trial. "So I think it helps the president's case that the Democrats continue to put up anti-Trump professors as their key witnesses," Stefanik added. Stefanik did not elaborate on who — other than professors of constitutional law — she believes would be better equipped to address issues of constitutional law. Trump defense attorney Jay Sekulow: Trump's actions are not impeachable 'no matter what school of thought you're on'
Sekulow is one of several attorneys on Trump's defense team. They have consistently argued that the president's actions are not impeachable, that he did nothing wrong, and that his impeachment is "constitutionally invalid." They will begin their opening arguments on Saturday. During break in trial, Republican senators show no signs of budging despite overwhelming evidence against Trump
During a 15-minute break after the first portion of Thursday's opening arguments, several Republican senators talked to reporters about their take on the trial so far. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, an ardent supporter of President Trump, said he'd seen no evidence to change his position. He also suggested that former Vice President Joe Biden, not Trump, had engaged in wrongdoing, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri struck a similar tone and focused on the Bidens instead of Trump, accusing them of corruption. "The House managers have worked themselves into the awkward position of trying to have it both ways," Hawley said. House impeachment manager Sylvia Garcia blows up Trump's defense of his requests for investigations targeting his rivals
House impeachment manager Sylvia Garcia took center stage after Jerry Nadler, another impeachment manager, Jerry Nadler, laid out the constitutional groundwork for President Trump's impeachment. While Nadler's presentation focused on legal and constitutional precedent that supports Trump's removal from office, Garcia zeroed in on the conduct at the center of Trump's impeachment. Specifically, he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch two investigations:
The first would investigated Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural-gas company whose board employed former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, until last year. Trump has accused the elder Biden of engineering the ouster of Viktor Shokin, the Ukrainian prosecutor general who previously investigated Burisma, to protect his son. Trump's second request was for an investigation into a discredited conspiracy theory suggesting Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election to help Democrats and Hillary Clinton's campaign.
The president has claimed that he only requested those investigations to target purported corruption in Ukraine. But Garcia highlighted several holes in that defense:
Trump's claim that Biden was acting with corrupt motives holds no merit. He was promoting the US's official position when he called for Shokin's ouster, as well as that of the entire western world, including the International Monetary Fund. Moreover, Shokin's investigation was dormant at the time that Biden demanded his removal. There is no evidence supporting the theory that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election. The US intelligence community determined with high confidence in 2017 that the Russian government was responsible for meddling in the election. Witnesses and experts have also testified that the conspiracy theory about Ukrainian election interference can be traced back to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
That said, Garcia noted that Trump's words had the desired effect for Putin. She pointed to a statement from Putin on November 20, in which he said, "Thank God nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in US elections. Now they're accusing Ukraine." House impeachment manager: Trump abused his power 'to kneecap political opponents and spread Russian conspiracy theories'
House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler struck an impassioned tone as he described how President Trump abused his power "in order to kneecap political opponents and spread Russian conspiracy theories." Trump used his office to "compel" foreign nations to "meddle in our elections," Nadler said. "This attacks the very foundation of our liberty," is "a grave abuse of power," and an "unprecedented betrayal of our national interest." It is a "shocking corruption of the election process," and a "crime against the Constitution warranting — demanding — removal from office," Nadler said. Republican senators play with fidget spinners while House managers make the case for Trump's removal
CNN reported that within the first 20 minutes of House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler's opening arguments, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina moved his papers to the side and started toying with a blue fidget spinner. According to CNN, Sens. Tom Cotton and Pat Toomey also had fidget spinners on their desks; Cotton's was purple and Toomey's was white. House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler: Trump's position is 'nothing but self-serving constitutional nonsense'
"Everyone except President Trump and his lawyers agree that presidents can be impeached for abuse of power," Nadler said. "The president's position amounts to nothing but self-serving constitutional nonsense, and it is dangerous nonsense at that." "The President's conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous. And it captures the worst fears of our founders and the framers of the Constitution," he added. House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler takes aim at Trump's current defenders who contradicted themselves
While making the case that abuse of power is an impeachable offense, House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler pointed to statements made by President Trump's staunchest allies — some of whom are on his defense team in the impeachment trial. For instance, Nadler pointed to Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who will argue against impeaching and removing the president later this week. In 1998, during President Bill Clinton's impeachment, Dershowitz said of abuse of power, "It certainly doesn't have to be a crime. if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of the president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime." Dershowitz now believes abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. He addressed the discrepancy in his views earlier this week, tweeting that he had evaluated his 1998 statements and come to his own conclusion that his more recent opinion is correct. Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/1219727265245753344?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw (1 of 3)To the extent there are inconsistencies between my current position and what I said 22 years ago, I am correct today. During the Clinton impeachment, the issue was not whether a technical crime was required, because he was charged with perjury. Nadler also highlighted a June 2018 memo that Attorney General William Barr wrote before he was nominated to lead the Justice Department under Trump. "Presidents cannot be indicted or criminally investigated," Barr's memo said. "But that's okay, because they can be impeached. That's the safeguard." Barr added: "The fact that President is answerable for any abuses of discretion and is ultimately subject to the judgment of Congress through the impeachment process means that the President is not the judge in his own cause." Nadler then cited the court case Nixon v. Harlow, which found that "the remedy of impeachment demonstrates that the president remains accountable under law for his misdeeds in office." House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler: 'I find it amazing' that Trump thinks abuse of power is not an impeachable offense
House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the framers believed there were two ways in which a president could abuse his power:
Forbidden acts: Use of official power grossly exceeds constitutional or legal authority. Corrupt motives: Use of official power for improper personal benefit, while ignoring or injuring the national interest.
Nadler went on to detail how two previous presidents, Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon, were accused of abusing their power in one or both of these ways. Based on that precedent, Nadler said, "abuse of power is clearly an impeachable offense under the Constitution. To be honest, this should not be a controversial statement. I find it amazing that the president rejects it. Yet he does." "He insists that there is no such thing as impeachable abuse of power," Nadler added. "His position is dead wrong. All prior impeachments of high office have always included abuse of power." Fact check: Abuse of power was one of the charges in draft articles of impeachment against Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. But it did not make it into the final charges against Clinton because it wasn't approved by the full House. Nixon, meanwhile, resigned before he was formally impeached. And abuse of power was also not one of the 11 articles of impeachment against Andrew Johnson. House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, details the 'ABCs of high crimes and misdemeanors'
Nadler's committee is in charge of the impeachment process in the House of Representatives and held a hearing last year on the constitutional grounds for a president's impeachment and removal. On Thursday, he opened for the prosecution by detailing what he described as the "ABC's of high crimes and misdemeanors."
"Abuse of power." "Betrayal of nation, particularly through foreign entanglements." "Corruption, particularly corruption of elections."
"The framers believed that any one of these standing alone justified removal from office," Nadler said. Reminder: Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Both articles of impeachment relate to the president's efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into launching politically motivated investigations targeting his rival ahead of the 2020 election. Testimony from over a dozen witnesses, as well as Trump's own statements, confirmed that the president and his allies carried out their pressure campaign in Ukraine while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid and a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought. Senate Majority Leader lays out the schedule for the day
McConnell said shortly after the session began that the chamber will take short breaks every two to three hours and, later in the day, break for 30 minutes for dinner. House Republicans defend Trump to reporters before opening arguments resume
Before the Senate opened its session at 1 p.m. ET, several Republican lawmakers allied with President Trump defended him to reporters in the Senate basement. "We're just making sure that we are paying close attention to the testimony," Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, one of eight House Republicans whom the White House has tapped as being the public face of Trump's defense, told reporters. These lawmakers will not speak during his Senate trial since they aren't part of Trump's official defense team. But Stefanik said she and the seven other House GOP lawmakers were "making sure that our points are getting out there to the American people." Stefanik also said the group is working closely with the White House throughout the trial. A summary of what happened on day 1 of opening arguments
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the lead impeachment manager, gave a broad overview of the timeline of the president's pressure campaign in Ukraine. It centers around a July 25 phone call Trump had with Zelensky, during which he repeatedly pressed Zelensky to launch investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over the latter's employment on the board of the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings. Trump also asked Zelensky to look into a discredited conspiracy theory started by Russia suggesting Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election. But as Schiff and the six other impeachment managers detailed, the phone call was just one data point in what turned out to be a months-long effort by Trump and his allies to leverage US foreign policy to bully Ukraine into acceding to the president's personal, political demands.
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