Thu | Apr 2, 2020

United States | Trump’s impeachment defense, prosecutors dig in

Published:Monday | January 20, 2020 | 12:33 AM
In this January 16, 2020, image from video, presiding officer Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington.


Advocates for and against President Donald Trump gave no ground yesterday on his Senate impeachment trial, digging in on whether a crime is required for his conviction and removal and whether witnesses will be called.

But even as Trump’s defence team and the House prosecutors pressed their case on the television talk shows, mystery still surrounded the ground rules for the impeachment trial, only the third in American history, when it resumes Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was shedding no light on what will be the same as – and different from – the precedent of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999.

All sides agitated to get on with it, none more than the four Democratic senators running for president and facing the prospect of being marooned in the Senate heading into Iowa’s kick-off caucus on February 3.

“The president deserves a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair trial. So let’s have that fair trial,” said Democratic Representative Jason Crow of Colorado, one of the seven impeachment prosecutors who will make the case for Trump’s removal.

But what’s fair is as intractable a showdown as the basic question of whether Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to help him politically merits a Senate conviction and removal from office. The stakes are enormous, with historic influence on the fate of Trump’s presidency, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, and the future of any presidential impeachments.

Whatever happens in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, Trump will “be impeached forever”.

Members of Trump’s team said that if they win a vindication for Trump, it means “an acquittal forever as well”, Trump attorney Robert Ray said Sunday. “That is the task ahead.”

The House on December 18 voted mostly along party lines to impeach, or indict, Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Trump denies both charges as the products of a “witch-hunt” and a “hoax”, and has cast himself as a victim of Democrats who want to overturn his 2016 election.