Democrats urge Republican ‘courage’ at Trump trial
WASHINGTON, Jan 23: Democrats on Wednesday accused Donald Trump at his historic Senate impeachment trial of seeking to cheat to ensure re-election in November, and called for "courage" by the president's fellow Republicans while considering the case against him.
Adam Schiff, head of the House of Representatives' prosecution team, took to the Senate floor to deliver hours of methodical arguments to a hushed chamber hearing only the third-ever impeachment trial of a US president.
The Democratic lawmaker described how Trump solicited foreign interference in domestic elections, "abusing the powers of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his re-election prospects at home."
"And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct," said Schiff, who headed the probe that led to Trump's December 18 impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House.
Schiff shrugged off Republican arguments that American voters, and not the Senate, should decide whether Trump remains in the White House.
"The president's misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won," Schiff said.
Trump stands accused of withholding military aid from Ukraine to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to announce an investigation into Democrat and potential election rival Joe Biden.
"President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his re-election," Schiff said at the nationally televised proceedings.
"In other words, to cheat. If this conduct is not impeachable, then nothing is."
Interspersing his remarks with video of House inquiry testimony, and clips of Trump himself, Schiff appealed to the Senate's 100 members to put aside partisanship in deciding Trump's fate.
He encouraged them to use an open mind when evaluating the testimony of people like ambassadors Gordon Sondland and Marie Yovanovitch, and former National Security Council official Fiona Hill. -AFP