Defense Closes Out First Week of Presidential Impeachment Trial

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January 26, 2020

The Senate has concluded one week of the impeachment trial of President Trump.

During the first week of the trial, the impeachment managers presented 24 hours of testimony during three days, laying out their case in defense of the two articles of impeachment delivered by the House of Representatives. Among their testimony were audio and video recordings of an array of evidence, including the words of Trump himself during a phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the heart of one of the articles of impeachment.

The House Intelligence Committee had conducted hearings to investigate claims that Trump had put pressure on the government of Ukraine–specifically President Zelensky–to announce that it was investigating Joe Biden, a former Vice-president and then a potential (since formally running for President) presidential candidate. The details of the pressure involved allegations of withholding aid until the Ukrainian government made a public announcement that it was investigating Biden and, specifically, his son Hunter's dealings in Ukraine. That was not the only investigation that Trump wanted Ukraine to announce, according to the impeachment articles. The other investigation was to be into the conduct of Ukrainian officials during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and whether those Ukrainian officials interfered with the U.S. election, which was won by Trump.

The second article of impeachment charged that the White House refused to comply with House subpoenas for information and/or testimony in connection with the impeachment investigation and, further, that the White House directed other agencies in the Executive Branch to do the same.

The third day of the impeachment managers' trial testimony came about after Democratic Senators protested the original two-day limit proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The testimony of the House impeachment managers finished on Friday with an impassioned closing argument by Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager.

On Saturday, the team tasked with defending President Trump delivered their first of three days of testimony, laying out their case that Trump did nothing that deserved his being removed from office. They questioned the motives of the impeachment managers The defense team has two more days in which to present.

The next step is for the Senate to debate and ultimately vote on whether to allow more witnesses to testify. The final step in the process is a vote by the Senate. A vote totaling 67, or two-thirds of the 100-member body, would result in the conviction of the President. A vote totaling anything less than that would result in his acquittal.

In its history, the House has begun impeachment proceedings more than 60 times, but only 19 have resulted in full impeachments. Two U.S. Presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached; both were acquitted by the Senate, Johnson in 1868 and Clinton in 1998. A third President, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of impeachment proceedings. Another President, John Tyler, was the target of impeachment proceedings with regard to the fiery debate over states' rights, but the full House did not approve the measure.

The House has impeached one Cabinet member, one U.S. Senator, 15 federal judges. The Senate convicted eight of those judges.

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David White