Democrats Wrap Up Their Case For Removal In Trump Impeachment Trial

Jan 24, 2020
Originally published on January 24, 2020 6:16 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today is the final day for Democrats' opening statements in the impeachment trial of President Trump. The House managers spent the afternoon wrapping up their case for the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. They argue that President Trump acted in his own self-interest when he placed a hold on military funding for Ukraine. They say it was all part of a scheme to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In his closing arguments on that charge, lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff had this question for senators.

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ADAM SCHIFF: Do you think for a moment that any of you, no matter what your relationship with this president, no matter how close you are to this president, do you think for a moment that if he felt it was in his interest, he wouldn't ask you to be investigated?

SHAPIRO: The House managers then turned their attention to the second article, obstruction of Congress. NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell joins us now from Capitol Hill, where she has been following the developments today. Hi, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: First, catch us up on what happened on the Senate floor today.

SNELL: Yeah. Today was really all about wrapping up and wrapping up both parts of the case and kind of making their last arguments to the American people. There were two really attention-grabbing moments that I think I'll remember from today. One was that moment with Schiff that you mentioned, and I think that's going to be played out on a loop over the next coming days on cable TV, here on the radio. I think it's going to be something that people remember.

Another thing is going to be the moment when Democrats played a clip of John McCain from 1999, when he was talking about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine. It brought a lot of senators to attention just hearing his voice. And bringing that into the room was a pretty moving moment for some of them.

And I think the case for Article 2 - that - this article all about obstruction of Congress is really about focusing senators on the idea that they need to protect the institution of Congress from encroachment from the executive branch. So I think that's a big - the big wrap up of today is wrapping up (laughter).

SHAPIRO: And what happens after Democrats conclude making their case?

SNELL: Well, tomorrow is when we'll hear of the first public defense of President Trump from his attorneys. We expect it to be a short day. They're saying it'll be just a couple of hours, and they'll pick up again on Monday. After that, senators will have their questions. And then they'll move on to the witnesses and evidence that we've been talking so much about.

SHAPIRO: Even as this trial is taking place, news reports keep advancing the Ukraine story. How is the new information being received on the Capitol?

SNELL: It's been interesting because it's kind of - as information comes out, oftentimes we as reporters are breaking the news to senators because it's been coming out in drips, like this new information about President Trump calling for former ambassador - Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to be gotten rid of.

A number of Republicans I talked to told me that, well, that might be a problem, but really, honestly, they say that this is the president that many voters knew they were voting for. Like, Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson told me that they - voters get it, the crude phrasing at all.

RON JOHNSON: I mean, the American people elected President Trump. And they knew who President Trump was, and they understood his style. OK. So you're talking about something stylistic.

SNELL: And, you know, we haven't heard any Republicans wavering on this at all.

SHAPIRO: What has the scene been like in the Capitol? We only get the one camera view of the Senate chamber. What are you seeing there?

SNELL: We're seeing a lot of public lines, but it's calm. We've barely heard any protesters in the building. I was asking offices of senators what they were hearing. I was really struck when I listened to some of the voicemails that have been coming in for Susan Collins of Maine in particular. She's a moderate. And she's kind of at the middle of this conversation about whether or not there will be witnesses. Her staff says that about 1 out of 25 calls is pretty nasty. Some of the ones I heard involve swearing and even threats.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Kelsey Snell reporting from Capitol Hill on the latest in the impeachment trial. Thank you, Kelsey.

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