Trump Impeachment Hearings: Highlights From Today’s Trial

House impeachment managers were using most of their final seven hours and 53 minutes of oral arguments to make their case that President Trump obstructed Congress.

Discussion of Mr. Trump’s alleged cover-up had focused primarily on Mr. Trump’s defiance of subpoenas for testimony and documents in the impeachment inquiry. But two of the managers, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Jason Crow of Colorado, suggested to senators that those moves were just part of a longer cover-up, much of which took place behind the scenes before the House had even learned of the pressure campaign.

“They were determined to prevent Congress and the American people from learning anything about the president’s corrupt behavior,” Mr. Jeffries said of lawyers at the White House and Justice Department who bottled up reports in July 2019 from White House foreign policy advisers alarmed by the legality of a White House meeting with Ukrainian officials and Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with the country’s leader.

Mr. Crow said the president’s cover-up intensified after three House Democratic committee chairmen announced in early September that they were investigating the suspension of $391 million in military aid earmarked for Ukraine. Now, White House budget officials rushed to put together a justification for a weeks-old freeze.

“This is where the music stops, and everyone starts running to find a chair,” he said.

— Nicholas Fandos

A recording that appears to be of Mr. Trump speaking about the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, has emerged, ABC News reported Friday.

“Get rid of her” says the voice that appears to be Mr. Trump, according to the ABC report. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. O.K.? Do it.”

The network said the recording dated to spring 2018, when Mr. Trump and two associates of his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani were dining at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. ABC did not air the recording, but it said it had reviewed it.

One of the associates at the dinner, Lev Parnas, who is under federal indictment, said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Mr. Trump ordered Ms. Yovanovitch removed at the dinner.

A new voice recording of Mr. Trump like this could generate more calls from Democrats for additional witnesses and evidence to be part of Mr. Trump’s trial.

Once Mr. Trump’s lawyers conclude their arguments, sometime between Saturday and Tuesday, Senators are expected to have a short debate on whether to admit new evidence and witnesses to the trial. Republicans defeated an effort to consider the matter before the start of oral arguments, drawing outrage from Democrats who have maintained that there could not be a fair trial without them.

The evidence and witness argument is the crux of the charge that Mr. Trump obstructed Congress. New evidence has emerged since the House completed its impeachment inquiry last year, and one of the president’s former national security advisers John R. Bolton, said he would testify at the Senate trial if he received a subpoena. (Mr. Bolton did not testify before the House.)

This is an area where Democrats have been hoping to sway some of the Republicans who have signaled they might be open to hearing from witnesses, including Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Democrats also are holding out hope for Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring at the end of this term.

The No. 1 witness Democrats want to hear from is Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who played a central role in the Ukraine pressure campaign.

Mr. Mulvaney is “the chief cook and bottle washer in this whole evil scheme,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, told reporters on Friday morning.

Mr. Trump’s team is set to begin presenting his defense at 10 a.m. Saturday. They will have the Senate floor for up to 24 hours, if they choose to use all their time but they plan to start with a short presentation on a day that the president has already derided as “Death Valley” in television ratings.

According to people briefed on the plan, Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, will appear and speak for about an hour each, although officials said the planning was still fluid.

One argument his defense is expected to make — that Mr. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly made — is that there was no pressure campaign on Ukraine, because the Trump administration released the military assistance without getting anything in return from President Volodymyr Zelensky.

One of the House impeachment managers tried to pre-emptively dismiss that argument Friday afternoon.

“Regardless of whether the aid was ultimately released, the fact that the hold became public sent a very important signal to Russia that our support was wavering,” Mr. Crow told the senators. “The damage was done.”

As the Democratic House managers outlined how Mr. Trump and officials in his circle orchestrated and tried to hide his pressure campaign on Ukraine, they ended up name-checking some of the senators now serving as jurors.

The arguments underscore the actions several lawmakers took when they learned Mr. Trump was withholding the nation’s military aid for Ukraine, and the involvement of some senators in the very affair that they are now considering as jurors.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, both leaders of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, urged Mr. Trump to release the aid. Mr. Johnson traveled to Kyiv to tell the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that he had tried but failed to persuade Mr. Trump to release the aid; Mr. Portman called Mr. Trump and privately lobbied him hours before he eventually released it.
Catie Edmondson

Mr. Trump on Friday got an early start on Twitter, firing out 42 retweets and quotes from his supporters and two Twitter posts of his own by 8 a.m.

“The Impeachment Hoax is interfering with the 2020 Election,” Mr. Trump wrote in one of the posts, redirecting the Democrats’ arguments on Thursday that he had abused the power of his office by pressuring Mr. Zelensky to undertake politically motivated investigations that could affect the election.

Just before the Senate trial resumed, Mr. Trump addressed the annual March for Life, becoming the first sitting president to appear in person at the gathering of anti-abortion demonstrators. He made the surprise announcement of his plans on Twitter on Wednesday, just ahead of the start of the Senate trial — a reminder to his conservative Christian supporters that he still shared their values.

Catie Edmondson and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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