Impeachment arguments as seen by Democrats,Trump team. Legal filings to the Senate have laid out the arguments that will be made in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, where he faces two distinct allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
A look at the main points Democrats are making as they argue for Trump’s removal from office, and Trump’s response as the defense team pushes for his speedy acquittal. The GOP arguments have already raised charges of distortion.
ON ABUSE OF POWER
Democrats say Trump abused the power of his office by urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to announce an investigation of political rival Joe Biden and the Democrats. At the time, Trump was withholding hundreds of millions of dollar in military aid to the country.
The sought-after investigation into Biden, as well as into a baseless theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election, was a solicitation to interfere in U.S. politics — and served the political interests of the president rather than the national security interests of America, Democrats say,
Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, contend there’s no evidence beyond hearsay that the president conditioned the release of aid on Ukraine agreeing to an investigation.
The money was released without any investigations being undertaken — and, they say, Zelenskiy didn’t even know it had been suspended until shortly before it was released, even though U.S. officials testified to House investigators that Ukraine had inquired about the delay.
The legal team says that Trump had legitimate concerns about corruption in Ukraine and that it was appropriate for him to bring up Biden on the call since his son Hunter sat on the board of a gas company, Burisma, that was suspected of corruption.
Trump has sought, without evidence, to implicate the Biden’s in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice-president or his son.
In any event, Trump’s lawyers said pauses on foreign aid are neither unusual nor inappropriate, and it’s a decision that rests squarely with the commander of chief. Presidents have the right to exert their authority without their political opponents second-guessing their motive or intent, they argue.
ON OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
The Trump administration obstructed Congress every step of the way during the impeachment investigation, directing witnesses not to testify or turn over documents, according to House Democrats who pointedly note that it is the House — and not the White House — that gets to determine the scope of a such an inquiry.
They say that witnesses who did choose to come forward, either publicly or privately, endured public statements from the president that appeared aimed at discouraging them from co-operating. And multiple government agencies, including the State and Energy departments, followed the lead of the White House and refused to turn over documents.