Fri, 28 Feb 2020

Prosecutors from the U.S. House of Representatives have begun to deliver their opening arguments in a landmark trial taking place in the Senate on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office for 'high crimes and misdemeanors.'

Republicans earlier voted in favor of the rules for the impeachment trial proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky).

The resolution that established the overall rules for the trial passed in the early hours of January 22 in a 53 to 47 vote that was along strict Republican and Democratic party lines.

It sets the stage for six days of arguments split between House Democrats and the White House to make the case for and against impeaching Trump.

The Senate will hear arguments from the lawyers of both sides before deciding whether to seek witness testimony and documents.

The House prosecutors and Trump's legal counsel each are allowed up to 24 hours over three days to make their case, according to the rules.

During votes on the trial rules, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) admitted in the record evidence from the House fact-finding inquiry into Trump that preceded the trial.

However, Democrats were angered by McConnell's refusal to call witnesses and subpoena documents before the trial's arguments phase is over.

Democrats are seeking testimony from current and former top Trump aides, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national-security adviser John Bolton.

Speaking in the Swiss resort of Davos, Trump told journalists on January 22 that he would love to attend his impeachment trial, but that his lawyers had advised him against it.

'I'd love to go. I'd sort of love [to] sit in the front row and stare in their corrupt faces,' Trump said as he wrapped up his trip to the annual event.

But he added: 'I think they [his lawyers\ might have a problem.'

Trump has previously called the Democratic-led House impeachment inquiry a 'sham' and the hearings a 'kangaroo court.'

On January 21, he tweeted 'READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!' in reference to the transcript of his July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during which he prodded Kyiv to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden and for his Ukrainian counterpart to do him 'a favor.'

The phone call promoted a government whistle-blower to file a complaint, which then led the House to impeach Trump last month on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

After opening arguments, senators will have 16 hours to submit written questions in the chamber.

Afterward, each side - the trial managers from the House and the president's lawyers - will get two hours of arguments.

The rules also stipulate that any witness called to testify must be first deposed.

An acquittal is likely since 67 votes are needed among the 100 mostly Republican senators for a conviction.

With reporting by PBS, NPR, CNN, Reuters, C-SPAN, and AP

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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