Tue, 22 Sep 2020

WASHINGTON -- The historic impeachment trial of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump has resumed in the Senate, with opposing sides battling over procedures regarding time allocations and the ability of House of Representatives managers to introduce witnesses and evidence.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) on January 21 opened the day's proceedings by calling the Republican-led chamber's trial procedure "fair" and said it will offer a "level playing field" as lawmakers decide whether Trump is guilty of two articles of impeachment.

McConnell blasted the Democratic-led impeachment process in the House as 'unfair' and biased against Trump.

'The president's lawyers will...finally be able to present the president's case. Finally some fairness,' McConnell said.

However, Democratic leaders said the procedures set out by McConnell represent a "rigged" trial and a "cover-up" established to protect Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York) followed McConnell's remarks on the Senate floor by calling Republicans' trial proposals 'nothing short of a national disgrace.'

'If the president is so confident in his case, then why won't he present it in broad daylight?' Schumer asked.

He said trial procedures were set without conferring with Democrats and that a decision to approve the "McConnell rules" will "go down in history as one of the very dark days of the Senate.'

Lead Democratic trial manager Adam Schiff (California) accused McConnell of acting to protect Trump and prevent facts or witnesses that might be detrimental to the president's case from being introduced into the trial.

'This is not a process for a fair trial. This is a process for a rigged trial,' Schiff said earlier in a statement to reporters. "This is the process if you do not want the American people to see the evidence.'

'This is a process if you want to hand-in-hand, working in concert with the president, allow the president to continue to obstruct the Congress and deny the truth to the American people,' Schiff added.

The impeachment trial is expected to continue six days a week, with breaks each Sunday.

On January 20, a brief filed by Trump's lawyers presented the most detailed view of the defense they intend to use against Democrats who are trying to convict Trump and remove him from office over his dealings with Ukraine.

Democrats in the House of Representatives charged on January 18 that Trump 'used his official powers to pressure' Ukraine's government to 'interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress's investigation into his misconduct.'

The 110-page brief from Trump's attorneys hinges on the president's claim that he did nothing wrong and did not commit a crime.

Trump's lawyers wrote that House Democrats committed 'a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.'

They also claimed that House Democrats 'were determined from the outset to find some way -- any way -- to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.

A debate on McConnell's trial rules to govern the first phase of the trial was the first order of business on January 21.

On January 20, McConnell proposed a four-page resolution that would grant House Democrats and White House lawyers 24 hours each for opening arguments over two days. It also contains an option for the White House to propose an early motion to dismiss all charges against Trump.

The rules proposed in the resolution would leave open the option of a vote later in the landmark proceedings on whether witnesses would testify and new evidence could be introduced.

Democrats are expected to try to amend McConnell's rules to stipulate that witnesses must be called, possibly leading to an extended debate over the rules of the impeachment trial. The Democrats also complained that McConnell's time frame would mean that trial sessions could go on until late at night or early in the morning, preventing many Americans from watching on television.

However, McConnell said on the Senate floor that he would move to block amendments put forward by Democrats to subpoena witnesses at the outset of the trial and leave those decisions until later in the case.

'If any amendments are brought forward to force premature opinions on mid-trial questions, I will move to table such amendments,' McConnell said.

'If a senator moves to amend the resolution in order to subpoena specific witnesses or documents, I will move to table such motions because the Senate will decide those questions later in the trial,' he added

Once the rules governing the trial have been adopted, Democrats from the House of Representatives who form the prosecution team would begin to present their case against Trump.

In order to convict Trump, a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat Senate must vote to remove him from office and disqualify him from holding any other federal office in the future.

Such a result is seen as unlikely as Trump's fellow Republicans control a majority in the Senate and most Republican senators are expected to vote along party lines.

Trump was scheduled to leave Washington late on January 20 on a flight to Switzerland where he was due to spend two days at the yearly World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Trump plans to return to Washington on January 22.

With reporting by AP, CNN, NPR, PBS, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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