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Jan. 20, 2020, 6:48 p.m. EST

McConnell calls for two 12-hour days of opening arguments per side in Trump impeachment trial

Stage set for Senate impeachment proceedings to stretch into the wee hours — when, Democrats say, fewer Americans are likely to be watching

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By Associated Press

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The House Democrats led by Chairman Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee said the president can’t have it both ways — rejecting the facts of the House case but also stonewalling congressional subpoenas for witnesses and testimony. “Senators must honor their own oaths by holding a fair trial with all relevant evidence,” they wrote.

The White House document released Monday says the two articles of impeachment brought against the president — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — don’t amount to impeachable offenses. It asserts that the impeachment inquiry, centered on Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden, was never about finding the truth.

The impeachment case accuses Trump of abusing power by withholding military aid from Ukraine at the same time that he was seeking an investigation into Biden, and of obstructing Congress by instructing administration officials not to appear for testimony or provide documents, defying congressional subpoenas.

In a brief filed earlier, House Democrats called Trump’s conduct the “worst nightmare” of the framers of the Constitution.

“President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain,” the House prosecutors wrote, “and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct.”

But Trump’s team contended Monday that even if Trump were to have abused his power in withholding the Ukraine military assistance, it would not be impeachable because it did not violate a specific criminal statute.

The president’s team issued several opinions from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to back up its claims and support its position that it had not illegally defied Congress.

One OLC opinion said the House investigation was not formally opened until after some subpoenas were issued, making the demands legally unenforceable, while two others said that senior advisers of the president were immune from being forced to testify in part because they handled national security matters.

Trump has signaled his opposition to witnesses, tweeting Monday: “They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!”

That’s a reference to former national-security adviser John Bolton. House Democrats wanted him to testify but chose not to pursue a subpoena and risk an extended struggle in court. But Bolton has since said he is willing to testify in the Senate if subpoenaed.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has outlined demands for documents and testimony, including from Bolton, and promised to put senators on the spot with votes to ensure they are called.

“We are going to demand votes — yes or no, up or down — on the four witnesses we’ve requested and on the three sets of documents we’ve requested,” Schumer told reporters over the weekend.

On Monday, after McConnell’s proposed trial rules were made public, Schumer called them “a national disgrace”:

The White House brief argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House are “structurally deficient” because they charge multiple acts, creating “a menu of options” as possible grounds for conviction.

While the Senate, with a 53-47 Republican majority is not at all expected to mount the two-thirds voted needed for conviction, the president’s lawyers go so far as to suggest such an outcome would be an “unconstitutional conviction” because of the overly broad articles of impeachment from the House.

The Trump team claims that the Constitution requires that senators agree “on the specific basis for conviction” and that there is no way to ensure that the senators agree on which acts are worthy of removal, because a single count contains multiple allegations.

Administration officials have argued that similar imprecision applied to the perjury case in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted by the Senate.

The Trump lawyers accused Democrats of diluting the standards for impeachment, an argument that echoed the case made Sunday by one of Trump’s attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, who contended in talk shows that impeachable offenses must be “criminal-like conduct.”

That assertion has been rejected by scholars, and Schiff called it an “absurdist position.”

The White House also suggests the House inquiry was lacking because it failed to investigate Biden or his son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice president. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

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