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House and White House impeachment legal teams offer stark contrast on facts and style

Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- After a Senate trial opening so contentious after nearly 13 hours that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. felt compelled to tell both sides to cool it, a weary Rep. Adam B. Schiff was perhaps stating the obvious early Wednesday when he admitted, "You're going to have tempers flare."

But when lawmakers reconvened later for the first substantive arguments in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Democrats sought to avoid the kind of testy language and partisan free-for-all that had marred the first day and threatened to overshadow their case.

Still, Schiff could not resist adding a dig as he declared a semi-cease-fire.

"The president's team would like nothing more than to provoke a bitter conflict. We're not going to let them," Schiff said. "The facts are damning. We're going to lay them out in great detail."

As the lead impeachment manager for the House case, the California Democrat offered an opening salvo to the Senate that topped two hours, calling up video clips and other visual aids to help him present evidence in a direct, if sometimes moralizing argument -- but not impugning the motives of Senate Republicans.

As the presentations wore on, the House managers, White House lawyers and most senators sought to embrace a staid, solemn trial -- or at least, for some, to stay awake. Forced to stay seated and silent, some scribbled copious notes, read briefing books, made elaborate doodles, or just left the gilded chamber for extended periods.

 

Before flying back to Washington from the World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland, Trump weighed in with caustic comments that made clear he approved of the first day's friction. He praised White House counsel Pat Cipollone for his "great emotion" before denouncing Schiff and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, another House manager, as "major sleazebags."

Trump suggested he might like an invitation to attend his own trial, saying he would "sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces. I'd love to do it."

But Trump also repeatedly said he would "love" for Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff; John Bolton, his former national security adviser; Michael R. Pompeo, the secretary of state; and Rick Perry, the former secretary of energy, to testify -- before quickly backtracking, saying they could not testify because of "national security problems." Cabinet members regularly testify to Congress about national security issues.

Other than the president, the rhetoric was markedly cooler compared with the previous night, when tensions boiled over as Democrats offered motion after motion to call witnesses or make other rule changes -- and watched every one fail, mostly on a party-line 53-47 vote.

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