Democrats name prosecutors for Trump impeachment trial
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Adam Schiff, the Democratic lawmaker who led the House impeachment investigation into Donald Trump, was named Wednesday to lead the prosecution at the historic Senate trial of the 45th president.
Speaking hours before the articles of impeachment are ceremoniously transferred to the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named seven impeachment managers to make the case that Trump abused his power and obstructed the US Congress.
The momentous trial, expected to begin Tuesday in the Republican-controlled chamber, will decide whether the president is forced from office.
In addition to Schiff, the prosecution team will include Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, and four other senior Democrats, most of them with prosecutorial experience in the US justice system.
"There is an overwhelming case, beyond reasonable doubt, that President Trump betrayed the country," Nadler said.
"It is essential that we bring this impeachment to stop the president from rigging the next election," he said.
Trump hit back within seconds on Twitter, deriding his impeachment as a "con."
"Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats," wrote the president, who has consistently dismissed the allegations as politically driven.
- 'Crazy witch hunt' -
Trump was formally impeached on December 18 when the Democratic-controlled House voted to charge him with abusing his power by illicitly seeking help from Ukraine for his reelection campaign.
The naming of the impeachment managers was one of the last formal steps required before the president goes on trial.
Later Wednesday the House was expected to formally vote to transmit the two articles of impeachment, or charges, to the Senate.
Then, around 5 pm (2200 GMT), in a solemn procession seen only twice before in US history, the articles will be walked over from the House to the Senate by the impeachment managers and read aloud before the 100 senators, officially placing the president on trial.
Trump is accused of secretly holding up aid to Ukraine between July and September to pressure Kiev to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic party's 2020 presidential nomination.
He is also charged with obstruction for holding back witnesses and documents from the House impeachment investigation in defiance of Congressional subpoenas.
But his conviction in the Senate is highly unlikely as the president's Republican Party has a 53-47 majority. A two-thirds super-majority of senators is required to find him guilty and remove him from office.
- New evidence -
Pelosi demanded again Wednesday that the Senate subpoena witnesses and records from the White House that were denied the House investigation.
They especially want to hear from Trump's chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton.
Bolton, who other officials have testified was angered by the scheme to pressure Ukraine for Trump's domestic political needs, has volunteered to testify if subpoenaed.
"We should have witnesses, and we should have documents," Pelosi said.
On Tuesday Democrats released newly-acquired documents that showed Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani working with Ukrainian-born American Lev Parnas early last year to pressure Kiev to investigate Biden.
They also showed the two, working with Ukraine officials, trying to force out the US ambassador to the country, Marie Yovanovitch, who was eventually removed by Trump.
The documents "demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president's scheme, but they have been concealed by the president himself," Democrats said in a statement.
- Battle over calling witnesses -
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose solid Republican majority in the body will set the rules for Trump's trial, has refused to agree to invite witnesses to the trial before the opening statements and arguments are delivered.
The trial will likely begin on Tuesday, January 21 and the first phase covering the arguments for and against conviction will last about two weeks.
After the articles are received at the Senate, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in to preside over the process, on either Thursday or Friday.
Roberts will then swear in the 100 senators who will act as the jury and be required to remain in the body for all the time the trial is underway.
© 2020 AFP