Trump impeachment trial: Democrat says ‘country’s fate hanging’ on outcome

By Richard Luscombe

One of the prosecutors in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial insisted on Sunday that “the country’s fate is hanging” on the outcome of the showdown now taking place in the US Senate, in which she declared the case against the president regarding his conduct with Ukraine “overwhelming”.

Zoe Lofgren, a California congresswoman and one of the senior Democrats presenting the evidence against the president for abuse of power and obstructing Congress, said senators trying the case needed to hear additional witnesses and evidence this week in order to provide the “impartial justice” that America depends upon.

Trump is accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic Democratic political rivals, especially 2020 election candidate and former Vice-President Joe Biden, and has refused to allow his most senior aides to testify in the process, despite court challenges by the Democrats in the House, who initiated the impeachment process last September.

“It’s for the senators to find out all the information I think they would want,” Lofgren told CNN’s State of the Union politics program on Sunday morning.

“But here’s the thing, the chief justice of the United States [John Roberts] presiding over this trial, if he signs a subpoena for a witness to come, we’re going to get that witness … promptly. We’re not going to be in court for three or four years.

“We have a great hope that the senators will do the duty that they are obliged to do, that they’ll take the oath that they took seriously, that they will do impartial justice. That’s what our hope is and I think the country’s fate is hanging on it.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, has fiercely resisted calls for witnesses to appear at the Senate trial, including John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who has called the meddling of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine matters, seemingly at the president’s orders, as “a drug deal.

Bolton has expressed a willingness to testify, but if Republicans who hold the Senate majority vote this week to exclude witnesses, as expected, Trump’s trial could be over as early as the end of the week, with an acquittal all but certain.

On Sunday, Lofgren defended comments by lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff, chair of the House intelligence committee. Schiff, blasted by Trump in a tweet on Sunday, had quoted a CBS report during his closing remarks on Friday that enraged many Republican senators, by claiming that Republicans’ heads could be “on a pike” if they went against the White House and voted for witnesses.

Lofgren said. “I can’t believe the president’s misbehavior would be ignored because of something like that.”

Schiff, meanwhile, said on Sunday he believes Trump’s comment that Schiff has not “paid the price, yet, for what he has done to the country,” was intended as a threat. “I think it was intended to be,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Trump also went on Twitter early on Sunday to repeat his complaint that: “The Impeachment Hoax is a massive election interference the likes of which has never been seen before.” The tweet castigated his accusers as “Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats”.

Trump’s legal team opened an aggressive defence of the president in the Senate on Saturday, laying out their case that he broke no laws, and insisting that the trial was merely an attempt to reverse the 2016 election.

“They’re asking you not only to turn over the results of the last election but they’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “They’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history.”

Cipollone was referring to the Democratic impeachment managers who spent three days earlier in the week explaining the evidence of the two articles impeachment. They say Trump abused his power to strong-arm Ukraine into conducting an investigation against Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in November’s election, and obstructed Congress by withholding testimony and documents from their inquiry.

Trump’s lawyers will resume their arguments on Monday, building on a defence that is wide ranging and technical. On Saturday, Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to the president, said the House of Representatives did not follow procedures when it issued subpoenas to White House officials.

Meanwhile Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, continued to insist that his client was innocent of the charges anyway. “We intend to show over the next few days that the evidence is really overwhelming that the president did nothing wrong,” Sekulow told senators.

Democrats, led by Schiff, seek to prove that Trump was the corrupt author of a conspiracy in Ukraine.

The US temporarily withheld $400m in military aid to Ukraine, while Trump was pressuring Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the US Democrats, and the respected US ambassador to the country, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed for apparently not being loyal enough to Trump.

In a video from April 2018 sent to the news media this weekend, Trump is allegedly heard ordering Yovanavitch’s dismissal.