The United States Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will conclude on Wednesday – its 13th day – with a final vote on whether to convict or acquit the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
A two-thirds vote of senators – 67 out of 100 – is required for conviction. With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority, Trump’s acquittal is all but certain.
On Monday, House of Representatives managers and Trump’s defence team presented their closing arguments, which were followed by a series of hearings in which senators, who had been gagged by strict rules during the trial, were given the chance to say how they planned to vote.
Democratic House managers, who act as prosecutors, had faced an uphill battle from the trial’s start, with hopes of conviction largely hinging on the ability to introduce new evidence, including the possibility of subpoenaing witnesses and documents, into the proceedings. However, even recent revelations in an unpublished book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton proved not enough to tip the scale, with Friday’s 51-49 vote blocking new evidence and sounding a likely death knell for Democrats.
As Trump’s impeachment trial enters its final day, here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, February 5:
House investigators allege that Trump abused the power of his office by withholding nearly $400m in congressionally approved military aid and imposing conditions on a White House visit in an attempt to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations on his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden.
House investigators further charge that the president obstructed Congress by categorically blocking his administration from providing requested documents and witness testimony.
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Trump’s defence team portrayed the House inquiry into the president’s dealings with Ukraine as deeply flawed and rushed.
While initially denying there was evidence of “quid pro quo” (Latin for a favour for a favour), the defence shifted their arguments to say that even if there was “quid pro quo”, the president’s actions do not rise to an impeachable offence. The president’s defence team further framed the impeachment as an attempt to undermine US democracy.
“This was the first totally partisan presidential impeachment in our nation’s history. And it should be our last,” the president’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said during closing arguments on Monday. “What the House Democrats have done to this nation, to the Constitution, to the office of the president, to the president himself and to this body [the Senate] is outrageous. They have cheapened the awesome power of impeachment.”
The House managers spent their time on the Senate floor outlining the two articles of impeachment against the president: abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
They repeatedly argued the need for new witnesses and documents to be presented in the trial, and portrayed the president as a serial interferer in US elections, who will be further emboldened to meddle in the lead-up to the November elections.
“He has betrayed our national security and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him,” lead House manager Adam Schiff told senators in the impassioned conclusion of closing arguments on Monday. “If you find the courage to stand up to him, to speak the awful truth to his rank falsehood, your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath – if only you will say, ‘Enough.'”
The trial officially began with a ceremonial start on January 16 that saw the swearing-in of US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the proceedings, and the 100 members of the Senate.
The next week began, on January 21, with 12 hours of debate culminating in senators voting along partisan lines to approve Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rules resolution. Meanwhile, 11 amendments introduced by Democrats were blocked.
Following that, both sides gave a total of four hours of closing arguments on February 3.