Thu, 27 Feb 2020

The opposing sides in the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump laid out their cases on January 18, with Democratic managers saying Trump "abandoned" his oath of office, while the defense team fired back with claims of a "dangerous attack" on American democracy.

In a 111-page brief filed ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline, Democratic-led House of Representatives prosecutors -- or "managers" -- wrote that it is clear that the ''evidence overwhelmingly establishes' that Trump is guilty of both articles of impeachment against him.

The historic trial officially began in the Senate on January 16 but was quickly adjourned until January 21, a day after the Martin Luther King holiday. It will take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict and remove Trump from office, an unlikely event given that his Republican party controls the chamber.

Still, the Democrats set out their case, saying the "Senate should convict and remove President Trump to avoid serious and long-term damage to our democratic values and the nation's security.'

"The case against the president of the United States is simple, the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming,' they said.

Trump faces two articles of impeachment, one charging him with abuse of power and the other with obstruction of Congress.

He is specifically accused of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political foes, in particular, former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a potential opponent in this year's presidential election.

Trump also allegedly withheld documents that the House requested during the fact-finding phase of the inquiry and prevented administration officials and agencies from providing testimony in the impeachment hearings.

Trump denies the charges and has called the impeachment proceedings a "sham," "hoax," and "witch hunt."

Trump's legal team on January 18 issued a fiery response to the Democrats ahead of opening arguments in the trial, calling the two articles passed by the House last month "a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president."

"This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away,' the filing states.

Trump's legal team is led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. Trump also named to his team Ken Starr, a prosecutor whose investigation some 20 years ago led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment; and Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz.

AP quoted two unnamed sources familiar with the White House strategy as saying Trump's lawyers had advised the president against including Dershowitz on his team.

It said they are concerned about the professor's association with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who killed himself in a New York City jail last summer while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The legal team is challenging the impeachment on both procedural and constitutional grounds.

It is expected to file a more-detailed legal brief on January 20, and House managers will have the opportunity to respond the following day before the formal trial begins.

With reporting by Reuters 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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