House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, the former federal prosecutor who presided all fall over the House inquiry into Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign, closed the arguments for Democrats by trying to head off some of what Trump’s defenders will say in their rebuttal. The California Democrat chiefly focused on making the point that Republicans, regardless of their personal feelings about the President, should realize he’ll put himself over the country again and again.
“It doesn’t matter whether you like him. It doesn’t matter if you dislike him,” Schiff said. “What matters is whether he is a danger to the country because he will do it again. And none of us have can have confidence, based on his record, that he will not do it again. Because he is telling us every day that he will.
The Democrats are arguing that, in the American system, no one should be above the law. But Trump’s Department of Justice says he can’t be indicted, which is at least part of the reason the Mueller report did not recommend charging him as part of the Russia investigation that consumed the first half of Trump’s presidency before concluding last year.
Upsetting the balance of power
Trump came into office with Republicans holding both chambers of Congress. He refuses to cooperate with Democrats now that they control the House of Representatives. That leaves him accountable to no one but the Supreme Court and the Electoral College, which gives more power to the less populous states where he draws his power. This is not the system of checks and balances envisioned by the Constitution. But the idea that things are out of whack may not be enough to convince any Republicans to remove their President from office.
Imagine how he’ll act in January 2021
“He does not have to respect the Congress,” the New York Democrat said of Trump’s thinking. “He does not have to respect the representatives of the people. Only his will goes. He is a dictator. This must not stand.”
If Nadler thinks Trump is overbold now, wait until he is acquitted. And then, maybe, reelected.
John Dean, the Watergate-era Nixon aide, made an interesting point about this Thursday on CNN: “I have the most trouble, not if he gets away with this, but if he gets reelected, we have a president who is unchecked, unchecked, and our democracy has changed dramatically.”
This is bigger than US politics
Before Nadler’s declaration that Trump is a dictator, Schiff had spent hours talking about the importance of the US in the world and the danger of Russia, Ukraine’s neighbor.
He talked about the nuclear arsenal Ukraine inherited when the Soviet Union fell. He talked about the importance of containing countries like Russia, which was not afraid to invade Ukraine. He talked about the hot war in Ukraine and the importance of NATO and the fact that the peace in Europe has been maintained by strategic alliances. And he argued that Trump is more interested in his own political survival than any of that.
People throw around the notion that the US is a model of democracy for the world. Schiff’s argument went into great detail to drive it home and pushed the idea that Trump’s actions in Ukraine, emboldening Russia and making US allies question American reliability, is as damaging as the imbalance the President has caused in the domestic balance of power.
New tape released of Trump bad-mouthing Yovanovitch — in 2018
“Get rid of her!” a voice appearing to belong to Trump says on the recording, according to ABC News, which on Friday first reported its existence. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
Pompeo blows up at reporter over Ukraine
During the interview, Pompeo said he had defended State Department employees. But Mary Louise Kelly asked specifically where he had defended Yovanovitch, who conservatives had pressured Trump to fire and who, it appears, had been under surveillance of some kind by associates one step removed from the President’s lawyer.
A ghost in the Senate chamber
There was a striking moment today when Schiff brought an old voice back into the chamber as he talked about the threat posed by Russia. He played video of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Trump’s Republican nemesis and a great foe of Russia, who died in 2018.
It was a reminder of how much the party has evolved with Trump as its standard-bearer.
The latest on witnesses
After Trump’s defenders have their say and senators have an opportunity to ask written questions, it will be time for the senators to consider calling additional witnesses. The White House has not cooperated with the inquiry, so there are plenty of potential targets.
The final words Democrats uttered in their opening arguments were about witnesses.
“Give America a fair trial. She’s worth it,” Schiff said.
It’s not clear if Senate Democrats will get the four Republican votes they would need to side with them in favor of witnesses.
“It’s not the Senate’s job to clean up after what the House did,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Friday on Fox News, opposing witnesses.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, took the opposing view.
“The bottom line: We’re seeking the truth at a momentous time in the American republic. It is on the shoulders of four Republican senators to join us in demanding it. We’ve made the argument forcefully,” Schumer said.
Time for Trump’s defense
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats impeached him for it. A Senate trial is happening now. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.