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Closing Arguments Delivered In Impeachment Trial

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The legal teams have made their closing arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. House impeachment managers argued one last time that the president should be removed from office.

Here's Adam Schiff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM SCHIFF: You can't trust this president to do the right thing - not for one minute, not for one election, not for the sake of our country. You just can't. He will not change, and you know it.

KELLY: But Trump's lawyers said the Democrats' case was weak.

This is Jay Sekulow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAY SEKULOW: We believe that we have established overwhelmingly that both articles of impeachment fail to allege impeachable offenses and that, therefore, both Articles 1 and 2 must fail.

KELLY: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: The House impeachment managers know - they must know the odds are stacked against them. So what is the argument that they're making today?

GRISALES: So they're warning these members of what lies ahead if this president isn't removed from office and made accountable for his actions. House impeachment manager Adam Schiff rebutted the defense team's claims that this impeachment was just driven by partisanship. And he also said that Congress has changed since previous impeachments, which had bipartisan support, and now these Republican members are just more accepting of Trump's behavior because he's a Republican. Schiff also argued that if they vote to acquit, they'll be linked to this president by a cord of steel through history. And he asked, who will finally draw a line?

Here's House manager Hakeem Jeffries making his argument.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HAKEEM JEFFRIES: A president who can obstruct and thwart the impeachment power becomes unaccountable. He or she is effectively above the law.

GRISALES: He and the other managers went on to say there's no assurances this won't happen again. And they also warned that the Senate is sending a message that, quote, "America's national security is for sale" if they do acquit the president.

KELLY: And meanwhile, a very different message from the president's legal team.

GRISALES: Exactly. They said that this was a partisan-driven effort, that Democrats have been pushing this since President Trump was elected and it should never happen again. They also revisited this argument that the ultimate judge in the president's actions should be the electorate.

Here's White House attorney Pat Cipollone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAT CIPOLLONE: The only appropriate result here is to acquit the president and to leave it to the voters to choose their president.

GRISALES: They also showed a video montage, complete with ominous music playing in the background, of various House Democrats calling for the president's impeachment starting with the day he was inaugurated in 2017. And they revisited another argument that House managers failed to show an impeachable offense that would force removal of this president.

KELLY: Claudia, let me ask you about a late-breaking twist in all of this. We heard late this afternoon from Joe Manchin of West Virginia. That is red-state Democrat there. What did he say?

GRISALES: Manchin says he remains undecided. He took to the floor to pitch a plan to censure the president, which we've heard suggested as an alternative to removing President Trump from office. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOE MANCHIN: Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines.

GRISALES: So Manchin is sharing his resolution with members, but our reporting is showing that this isn't going to catch much traction. But by making this pitch, it gives Manchin an out if he wants to vote to acquit. And meanwhile, we're watching two other red-state Democrats, Doug Jones of Alabama and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who haven't said how they're going to vote. And then there's Republicans who could join Democrats to support removal. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine already joined Democrats in a call for witnesses, so we'll see where they stand on the actual articles.

KELLY: OK.

GRISALES: But that all said and done...

KELLY: OK.

GRISALES: ...Come Wednesday at 4 p.m., we expect President Trump to be acquitted.

KELLY: Claudia, we will leave it there.

Thank you so much, NPR's Claudia Grisales.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.