Impeachment Update

Trial Begins in the Senate


Graphic by Diego Sanchez

On Wednesday, December 18, the House of Representatives, controlled by the Democratic Party, voted to pass two articles of impeachment against President Trump. These articles allege that the President abused his presidential power and obstructed Congress from conducting their investigation. The first charge states that President Trump withheld 391 million dollars of congressionally approved aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into a political rival, a power not given to the president in the Constitution. Democrats argue that the President did this in order to coerce Ukraine to investigate democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. During a phone call on July 25, President Trump encouraged Ukrainian President, Volodymr Zelensky, to start an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, despite no evidence of corrupt activities on either of the Bidens’ parts, and despite the US Intelligence community’s near universal belief that Russia, not Ukraine, poses a threat to US election security. The second charge is based on President Trump’s lack of cooperation with the House’s inquiry by ignoring subpoenas for documents, and blocking testimonies from White House aides. This violates the internal system of checks and balances between the branches of government outlined in the Constitution.

The President and his administration have repeatedly denied these charges, and when the articles were voted upon on December 18, the House voted along party lines. With Republicans opposing impeachment and Democrats in favor of it, the first article, abuse of power, was passed 230 to 197. All Republicans, as well as two Democrats, voted against the charge. The second article passed similarly with 228 Democrats and one Independent voting in favor of the article and 195 Republicans and three Democrats voting against it. With the House voting in favor of both articles, the trial was passed on to the Senate. The impeachment trial began in the Senate on January 16 and has yet to finish.

As according to Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution, the presiding officer of the trial is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. The prosecution is led by seven house managers chosen for their experience and racial, economic, and geographic diversity. These members are Adam Schiff (D-Ca), Jerry Nadler (D-Ny), Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca), Hakeem Jeffries (D-Ny), Val Demings (D-Fl), Jason Crow (D-Co), Sylvia Garcia (D-Tx). The White House formally announced the defense would be led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. The counsel team also includes Jay Sekulow, Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Pam Bondi, Jane Raskin, Eric Herchmann, Robert Ray, Patrick Philbin, and Michael Purpura. On January 20, the White House named Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga), Mike Johnson (R-La), Jim Jordan (R-Oh), Debbie Lesko (R-Az), Mark Meadows (R-Nc), John Ratcliffe (R-Tx), Elise Stefanik (R-Ny), and Lee Zeldin (R-Ny) as the eight house Republicans that would serve on the President’s defense team.

January 16th-20th was the beginning of the hearing, during which both the senators were sworn in. Votes were also taken concerning the procedure for the following days of the trial, led by the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After this process, the Senate adjourned for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess. The Senate chamber was modified into a court for the proceedings and the House impeachment managers began their opening presentation on the 22nd. According to the Resolution for Procedure presented by Mitch McConnell, both sides were given 24 hours over three days for their opening statements.

On day one of the opening statements, the Democrats presented evidence from the Trump-Zelensky phone call, President Trump’s own statements, and the House impeachment inquiry testimony. On the second day, the prosecution argued as to how the evidence provided demanded the removal of the President from office. On their last day of opening statements, the Democratic team explained possible responses from the defense and asked for the Senate to call witnesses. While some Republican Senators called the prosecution’s remarks repetitive, Tim Kaine (D-Va) affirmed that this was purposeful, due to the fact that many Senators do not follow the proceedings closely. At the end of the opening statement, Senator Schiff warned that the Trump team, having failed to smear the Bidens using Ukraine, will use this trial to do just that.

On January 25, the presidential defense team began its statements.They argued that there was a lack of direct evidence of wrongdoing, and also asserted that the impeachment inquiry was merely a Democratic tool to steal the 2020 election. Selukow added to this claim by saying that the supposed Ukranian meddling in the 2016 election had given Trump cause to investigate corruption in Ukraine, despite lack of evidence. Purpura presented evidence showing that three witnesses were not aware of Ukraine expressing concern about the withdrawal of the aid until last August. He suggested that Ukraine was unaware of the aid being withheld and as a result there could have been no quid pro quo expressed during the July 25th call. However, Purpura declined to present the testimony of Laura Cooper, who had testified that her office received emails on July 25th from Ukrainian officials asking about the hold.

The Senate recessed on January 26th and returned to complete the defense argument on Monday . Defense lawyers argued that the accusations do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses against a backdrop of new revelations from a forthcoming book by John Bolton. These revelations, which appear to support democrats’ contentions, may lead the necessary four or more republican senators to vote against their party, in support of calling more witnesses, including Bolton. This outcome would be a win for democrats and a blow to the President. Stayed tuned, as The Advocate updates the story.