Schiff broadened his case Friday afternoon, tying Trump’s Ukraine scandal to his 2018 press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, in which he raised the conspiracy theory about the server.
“It’s a breathtaking success of Russian intelligence. I don’t know if there’s ever been a greater success of Russian intelligence. Whatever profile Russia did of our president, boy did they have him spot on — flattery and propaganda, flattery and propaganda is all Russia needed,” Schiff said. He added, “This is just the most incredible propaganda coup because as I said yesterday, it’s not just that the president of the United States standing next to Vladimir Putin is reading Kremlin talking points. He won’t read his own national security staff talking points.”
If Democrats hope to call any witnesses, they need to convince at least four Republican senators to join them, and their final arguments will likely reflect that effort. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are seen as the likeliest group, with Alexander — a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — the linchpin.
Democrats are also reinforcing their case that the Senate must demand documents from the White House and State Department that Trump refused to provide. The House’s seven impeachment prosecutors have contended that in some ways they’d even prefer to obtain the documents to witnesses, whose memories might be flawed or influenced by subsequent testimony.
Throughout their testimony, the impeachment managers have emphasized holes in the full Ukraine story that could only be filled by specific documents that they know exist but that Trump has withheld from Congress. They include correspondence, like former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo worrying about the hold on military aid. They also include the notes kept by Trump’s former national security aide Fiona Hill and contacts between Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and senior members of the State Department and White House.
So far, most Republicans have shown no signs of budging. While Romney and Collins are likely to support efforts to obtain additional witness testimony and documents, it remains unclear if two more GOP senators will ultimately vote alongside Democrats to demand more information.
Democratic aides working on the trial said they tailored the final argument toward what they’ve termed the “two juries” — the senators who will decide Trump’s fate, and the American public, whose sentiments may guide them.
Schiff was once again Democrats’ closer for a third straight night.
He concluded the first day with a call for senators to “show the courage” that witnesses like Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was the subject of a smear campaign by Trump associates, showed in testifying over the president’s wishes.
On the second night, Schiff challenged senators to consider whether any of them doubt that the scheme Democrats allege is really out of character for Trump.
“Does anybody really question whether the president is capable of what he’s charged with? No one is really making the argument, ‘Donald Trump would never do such a thing,’” he said. “Because, of course, we know that he would and of course we know that he did.”
In his final remarks Friday night, before the White House defense team begins its rebuttal on Saturday, Schiff appeared to rankle some Republican senators when he quoted from a CBS story suggesting the White House had threatened GOP senators who didn’t close ranks around Trump. Several senators openly protested as he read it, and some later suggested it undercut remarks that were otherwise well-delivered.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s loudest defenders, even hailed the entire three-day presentation by Democrats as delivered primarily in a “professional, articulate manner respectful of the body.”
“They were prepared and very, very, very thorough,” he said. “The other side of the story will be presented tomorrow and then we decide.”
Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.