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Democrats Warn Senators They Could Be Trump's Next Targets In Closing Impeachment Arguments

Democrats wrapped up three days of arguments in Trump's impeachment trial, imploring senators to remove the president from office and warning that he's a threat to them as well.

Last updated on January 24, 2020, at 9:54 p.m. ET

Posted on January 24, 2020, at 12:30 p.m. ET

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WASHINGTON — House Democrats presented their closing arguments on Friday in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, saying the president is "a danger to the country" who must be removed from office.

Democrats have charged Trump with two articles of impeachment. First, abuse of power over his decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the country agreeing to investigate his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden. The second article is obstruction of Congress for withholding documents and testimony in the House's investigation.

On Wednesday, the House impeachment managers — Democrats acting as the prosecutors making the case in the Senate — focused on laying out the timeline of Trump's Ukraine scandal. Then, on Thursday, they broke down the constitutional justifications for removing Trump from office.

On Friday, Democrats wrapped up their case, concluding with Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, reading the articles of impeachment and punctuating its allegations against Trump by repeatedly saying "that has been proved."

Schiff then went through a number of arguments that he believes Trump's lawyers will make, arguing that they will focus on process arguments, disparaging the House managers, and saying that Democrats are only impeaching Trump because they "hate the president" — things that are irrelevant to what Trump did, he said. "When you hear those attacks you should ask yourself away from what do they want to distract my attention? Nine times out of ten it is the president's misconduct."

Schiff added that he doesn't hate the president, "I only hate what he has done to this country."

"When they make the argument to you this is only happening because we hate the president is just another form of 'please do not consider what the president did," Schiff said. "Whether you like him or dislike him is immaterial. ... What matters is if he is a danger to the country because he will do it again. And none of us can have confidence based on his word he will not do it again because he is telling us every day he would."

Democrats have been pushing Republicans to allow them to call witnesses and subpoena documents in the trial. While Republicans have voted multiple times already to avoid that, the issue could come up again next week. Schiff concluded his speech, and nearly 22 hours of Democratic arguments this week, by saying, "Americans get a fair trial and so I ask you, I implore you, give America a fair trial. Give America a fair trial. She is worth it.

Schiff made his most impassioned case to senators in a Thursday night speech, arguing that they must vote to remove Trump from office.

“You know you can't trust this president to do what's right for this country. You can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump,” he said as the day came to a close around 10:30 p.m. “He'll do it now, he's done it before, he'll do it for the next several months, he'll do it in the election if he is allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find he should be removed — because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost."

On Friday, Schiff added a new argument for removing Trump from office, warning senators that they could be Trump's next targets.

"It shouldn't matter there was Joe Biden [that Trump asked to investigate] — because I will tell you something, the next time, it just may be you. It just may be you. Do you think for a moment that any of you, no matter what your relationship with this president … that if he felt it was in his interest, that he wouldn't ask for you to be investigated? Do you think for a moment that he wouldn't? And if somewhere deep down below, you realize that he would, you cannot leave a man like that in office when he has violated the Constitution."

Schiff later added, "It could be any of us. It may be any of us. ... It goes to character. You don't realize how important character is at the highest office in the land until you don't have it."

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The trial took a break shortly after Schiff's speech. Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono said it was important "to force us to think about what's going to happen if we don't do our constitutional job with [Trump]."

"Certainly you know the way I put it is what country is he going to try to bully next? What money is he going to use for those purposes? Because that's a reality, this is a president who's going to do that," Hirono said.

As he closed the Democrats' case Friday night, Schiff also spent time focusing on the second charge against Trump — obstruction of Congress — telling senators it is particularly important because Congress must be able to investigate and impeach presidents in the future. "If the Congress cannot, because the president prevents it, investigate the president's own wrongdoing ... there will be no more impeachment power. It will be gone," he said.

The galleries above Schiff were barely half full as he gave his closing statement. Below, a rarely full Senate chamber looked on. Several Republican senators watched intently as Schiff delivered his remarks, turning often to the Republican side of the room as he spoke and looking down occasionally at an open binder containing white pages of both printed and handwritten notes.

Some senators like Republican Pat Roberts, rested their head on a hand. Sen. Susan Collins cocked her head and joined her hands on her chest as she listened. Others, like Republicans Cory Gardner and Bill Cassidy, appeared to take notes.

Some Republicans seemed unimpressed by Schiff’s speech. Sen. Jim Risch sat back in his chair, speaking occasionally to Sen. Roy Blunt on his left, who shook his head in response to one comment. Sens. John Barasso and John Cornyn shared a quick laugh at one point as well.

As Schiff spoke about the defenses the Trump legal team might put forward, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal attorneys, turned to watch Schiff, who stood to his right. Later, Sekulow jotted down notes.

Though most of the laughs to Schiff’s jokes came from Democrats, some Republicans cracked smiles. Sens. Deb Fischer and Richard Shelby smirked as Schiff spoke about the Trump lawyers’ likely attacks on him. Cornyn grinned when Schiff joked about once disagreeing with a quote from Robert Kennedy, a legendary Democrat.

As Schiff went on, Republican senators seemed to grow tired of the lengthy speech. But they appeared to become irritated when Schiff referenced a CBS News report that the White House had warned Republican senators “vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.”

Barasso shook his head in disagreement, while others on the Republican side voiced their opinions, with some shouting “not true.” As senators left for the night, Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters that she had been with Schiff’s call for “moral courage” before he brought up the “head on a pike” report, reportedly saying, “that’s where he lost me.”

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin seemed to agreed. "I mean, I don't know why he would do that. That could have been left out, that's for sure."

Schiff's remarks capped off three days and some long nights of arguments from Democrats, which they punctuated with video clips from the House’s impeachment hearings late last year. Schiff began his final speech by telling senators, "The first point I’d like to make is I'm tired. I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted."

Trump’s defense team will have its own 24 hours to respond beginning Saturday morning. The Senate will take Sunday off, but the president's team will continue making its case on Monday.

After each side is done with opening statements, senators will submit questions to Chief Justice John Roberts, who is overseeing the trial and will read them during a 16-hour Q&A portion of the trial. (Senators have to remain silent during the trial and are under other restrictions, including not having their phones.)

“People are putting questions together now,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Thursday night. “We’re all thinking about what we want to ask. We’ll look at how much is redundant.”

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