2020-01-23 22:41:541 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
When Chief Justice John Roberts talks, people listen, especially the Democratic House Managers who are acting as prosecutors in Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial. Trump himself? Not so much. The chief justice warned all to step it down a notch, and while the Democrats obeyed, Republicans kept up the fiery rhetoric, and the president seemed to only be encouraged to attack even more.
With the rules for the trial finally ironed out, the House Managers set out to give their opening arguments, starting with House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). Roberts admonished everyone on both sides early on Monday. Schiff came back with a softened tone, but not Trump and his GOP senators.
Trump, who was still in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, was just as insulting as he normally is, if not more. "I watched the lies from Adam Schiff. He'll stand, he'll look at a microphone, and he'll talk like he's so aggrieved," said Trump. He moved on to also discuss House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY), another manager, and said, "These two guys — these are major sleaze-bags. They're very dishonest people. Very, very dishonest people."
But the House managers pulled it back a bit. Schiff admitted that Democrats had "adrenaline going through our veins," then started his opening arguments, thanking the senators for their attentiveness. The GOP had called Nadler "treacherous," but he thanked Roberts and the senators for their "temperate listening and your patience last night as we went into the long hours."
"I think that was an attempt to shift the tone," said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). "A lot of senators were offended last night at saying that a vote against their amendments was treachery, that it was a vote against the United States."
Schiff still expected a lot from the senators, asking them to "decide what kind of democracy that you believe we ought to be" and what the public can expect "in the conduct of their president."
He referred to Trump as "the key player in the scheme" to have Ukraine conduct investigations of his political rivals in exchange for a White House visit and military aid. "Everyone was in the loop," he added. "[Trump] directed the actions of his team. He personally asked a foreign government to investigate his opponent. These facts are not in dispute."
The chairman also warned that if Trump is not held accountable, "the damage to our democratic elections, to our national security, to our system of checks and balances will be long-lasting and potentially irreversible."
During breaks from the proceedings, Republican senators said they weren't learning anything new and continued to attack the House managers, especially Nadler.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was asked if Trump's attorneys deserved to be admonished by Roberts, and he says no, yet added that Nadler "is embarrassing" and "outrageous," then said, "At some point, you got to call it what it is."
"Well, I took it as very offensive," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who Democrats are looking to flip to remove Trump from office. "As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended."
While he said he could "live either way" with a decision regarding witnesses, Trump argued at a news conference in Davos that testimony by former national security adviser John Bolton could be a national security concern. "You don't like people testifying when they didn't leave on good terms," explained the guy who fired him.
While at one point it was a consideration to make a trade, Bolton to testify in exchange for 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden, that was pulled off the table with Biden refusing to take part.
"The reason I would not make the deal, the bottom line is, this is a constitutional issue," said Biden, answering a voter's question in Iowa. "We're not going to turn it into a farce or political theater. I want no part of that."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA) agreed, telling reporters that a witness trade involving Biden and/or his son Hunter is "off the table." Schiff added that "trials aren't trades for witnesses."
In that same Trump news conference, while praising his own defense team, he said, "Honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material." House Manager Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) said the comment was more evidence of obstruction of Congress, while defense attorney Jay Sekulow said, "This isn't nonsense," adding, "This is really what the Constitution is about."
The White House did back down on one situation they were pressing. They wanted to quickly end the proceedings but decided against filing a motion to dismiss the charges on Wednesday. Senate GOP leaders warned doing so would not have majority support at this point.
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