Closing arguments Monday in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were directed more toward history than to sway the outcome, one final chance to influence public opinion and set the record ahead of his expected acquittal in the Republican-led Senate.
The House Democratic prosecutors drew on the Founding Fathers and common sense to urge senators — and Americans — to see that Trump’s actions are not isolated but a pattern of behavior that, left unchecked, will allow him to “cheat”’ in the 2020 election.
Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff implored those few Republican senators who have acknowledged Trump’s wrongdoing in the Ukraine matter to prevent a “runaway presidency” and stand up to say “enough.”
“For a man like Donald J. Trump, they gave you a remedy and meant for you to use it. They gave you an oath, and they meant for you to observe it,” Schiff said. “We have proven Donald Trump guilty. Now do impartial justice and convict him.”
The president’s defense countered the Democrats have been out to impeach Trump since the start of his presidency, nothing short of an effort to undo the 2016 election and to try to shape the next one, as early primary voting begins Monday in Iowa.
“Leave it to the voters to choose,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
He called for an end to the partisan “era of impeachment.”
All that’s left, as the Senate prepares to acquit Trump on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress, is for Americans to decide now and in the November election, as the third presidential impeachment trial in the nation’s history comes to a close.
Most senators acknowledge the House Democratic managers have essentially proven their case. Trump was impeached in December on two charges: he abused his power like no other president in history when he pushed Ukraine to investigate rival Democrats, and he obstructed Congress by instructing aides to defy subpoenas.
But key Republicans have decided the president’s actions toward Ukraine do not rise to the level of impeachable offense that warrants the dramatic political upheaval of conviction and removal from office. His acquittal in Wednesday’s vote is all but assured.
GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called the president’s actions “shameful and wrong,” but in a powerful speech late Monday she also derided the highly partisan process. “I cannot vote to convict,” she said.
Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio are among those who acknowledged the inappropriateness of Trump’s actions, but said they would not vote to hear more testimony or to convict.
It is unclear if any Republican or Democratic senators sworn to do “impartial justice’’ will break from party lines.