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Trump shows anxiety as arguments begin in Senate impeachment trial

Noah Bierman and Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday hardened his opposition to allowing former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in his Senate impeachment trial, citing national security but adding a note of apprehension: "I don't know if we left on the best of terms.

"You don't like people testifying when they didn't leave on good terms," Trump said at a news conference before departing from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "And that was due to me, not him."

Trump's comments about Bolton, whom he fired in September, suggested his heightened anxiety as the Senate, for only the third time in history, sat in judgment of an impeached president. Hours after Trump spoke, formal arguments for removing him from office began in the Senate. Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead impeachment manager for House Democrats, read a quote from Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, to argue that Trump was just the sort of despot the Framers had in mind in drafting the Constitution's impeachment clause.

The Founders "knew what it was like to live under a despot, and they risked their lives to be free of it. They knew they were creating an enormously powerful executive, and they knew they needed to constrain it," Schiff said.

The Republican majority is expected to acquit Trump on the House's charges -- that he abused his office and obstructed Congress by bartering military aid for Ukraine's help against his political rivals -- yet the rare indignity is certain to undermine his legacy.

Trump's lawyers did not file any motions before the Senate's 9 a.m. deadline, confirming that they will not seek a vote dismissing the charges against the president before opening arguments. Several Republican moderates had signaled they would oppose a dismissal. Those in reelection races this year, especially, did not want to appear to be ignoring their constitutional responsibility to conduct a trial.

 

On Tuesday, in a session that lasted until nearly 2 a.m. Wednesday, Republicans approved a rules package along party lines that punted decisions about calling new witnesses until the end of next week. Each side is to present opening arguments stretching over days. Afterward, senators have up to 16 hours to submit written questions to lawyers for both Trump and the Democratic House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against him.

Though Trump reiterated to reporters at Davos that he would love to call more witnesses, he has repeatedly directed administration officials to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., excoriated Republicans for limiting House managers' ability to call witnesses and introduce evidence unavailable to the House before its impeachment vote in December. "They want it in the dark of night. They want as much of this hidden from the American people as possible," he said at a Wednesday news conference. But he said Republicans plainly feel pressure, citing the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was forced Tuesday to soften the trial rules and allow more days to present arguments.

Schumer said Democrats would negotiate with Republicans over witnesses but would resist efforts to call Joe or Hunter Biden as part of a deal. He did not rule it out completely. "You know, we don't need to have witnesses that have nothing to do with this that are trying to distract Americans from the truth," he said.

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