By Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON (AP) — Closing arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial are unfolding Monday as much for history as any effort to sway votes, 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 history, the Founding Fathers and common sense to urge senators — and Americans — to see that Trump’s actions are not isolated but part of a pattern of behavior that, left unchecked, will allow him to “cheat”‘ in the 2020 election.
“What messages does that send? ” asked Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. He implored senators to realize that without a vote to convict, the Senate will “allow the president’s misconduct to stand.”
Senators acknowledge the House Democratic managers have essentially proven their case, that Trump abused power and obstructed Congress, by leveraging U.S. military aid to push Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden to thwart the 2020 election.
But key Republicans have decided the president’s actions toward Ukraine do not rise to the level of impeachable offense that warrant the dramatic political upheaval of conviction and removal from office. His acquittal in Wednesday’s vote is all but assured.
All that’s left, as the Senate opened for four hours of final arguments is for Americans to decide what they think as the third presidential impeachment trial in the nation’s history begins to close. Democrats argue “right matters,” while Trump’s GOP allies contend it is time to end the partisan proceeding.
House managers opened with a plea from Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a freshman, who told the chamber: “We cannot and should not leave our common sense at the door.”
The former Army Ranger invoked the founding fathers and even Republican Barry Goldwater from the Nixon-era impeachment proceedings to intone: “In America, no one is above the law, even those elected president of the United States. I would say — especially those elected president of the United States.”
Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief, argued that the president is not behaving like someone who is innocent. She warned he will try to “cheat” again ahead of 2020.
“Innocent people don’t try to hide every document and witness, especially those that would clear them,” she told the senators. “That’s what guilty people do.”
Trump’s team will have their own chance at closing arguments later Monday, and the president himself has already registered his views on Twitter where he decried the whole thing, as he often does, as a “hoax.”
The Senate proceedings are set against a sweeping political backstop, as voters in Iowa on Monday are choosing presidential Democratic primary candidates in early voting and Trump is poised Tuesday to deliver his State of the Union address in his own victory lap before Congress.
The trial unfolded over nearly two weeks and reached a decisive moment last Friday when senators voted against calling witnesses and documents. Key Republicans said they had heard enough. It becomes the first impeachment trial in the nation’s more than 200-year history without any witnesses.
Even new revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, whose forthcoming book discloses his firsthand account of Trump ordering the investigations, did not impress upon senators the need for more testimony.
Bolton has said he would appear, if he received a subpoena, but GOP senators said the House should have issued the summons and the Senate did not want to prolong the proceedings.
Prosecutors relied on a 28,000-page report compiled over three months of proceedings in the Democratic-controlled House, including the public and private testimony from 17 witnesses, many current and former ambassadors and national security officials with close proximity to the Ukraine dealings.