Striving to make himself heard across partisan lines, the lead impeachment prosecutor filled his opening argument against Donald Trump on the Senate floor on Wednesday with invitations, warnings and appeals designed to win Republican backing for a substantial trial.
Using flowing evocations of constitutional history, the global promise of US democracy, and the stakes should it all be allowed to slip, Democrat Adam Schiff framed his story of Trump’s wrongdoing as a national crisis demanding a non-partisan remedy.
I don’t think the impeachment power is a relic. If it is a relic, I wonder how much longer our republic can succeed, said Schiff. If we don’t stand up to this peril today, we will write the history of our decline with our own hand.
But ahead of the trial’s second full day, Republicans signaled no newfound curiosity about the case against Trump, who was impeached last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with an alleged scheme to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations of his political rival Joe Biden. Republicans complained on Wednesday that the trial had not revealed any new evidence against the president. Less than 24 hours earlier, those same senators had voted four consecutive times against hearing from new witnesses.
I didn’t hear anything new today, said Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
I haven’t heard any evidence in there that the president’s done anything wrong, said Josh Hawley of Missouri.
With the parties so firmly ensconced in unique echo chambers, four months into the impeachment process, the likelihood that one argument – or one piece of evidence, or snippet of testimony – would find a way through the partisan barrier seemed small. Schiff and his fellow impeachment managers would need to persuade about 20 Republican senators to achieve their stated goal of removing Trump from office. But a much more modest number – three or four Republicans – would be enough for Democrats to call witnesses to the floor who might change the course of the proceedings.
You are left with no choice but to demand to hear from each witness with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s pressure campaign, Schiff said. A fair trial requires nothing less.