Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, made a broad final plea in President Donald Trump’s Senate trial on Monday, urging lawmakers to listen to their moral compasses and vote to convict.
“He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again,” Schiff said on the Senate floor. “You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What’s right matters even less, and decency matters not at all. I do not ask you to convict him because truth or right or decency matters nothing to him, but because we have proven our case and it matters to you. Truth matters to you. Right matters to you. You are decent. He is not who you are.”
While the Wednesday Senate vote will almost certainly result in an acquittal, Schiff seemed to zero in on moderate Republicans who might toe the party line, thus putting to rest Trump’s assertion that his impeachment was an entirely partisan affair.
“Every single vote, even a single vote by a single member, can change the course of history,” Schiff said. “It is said that a single man or woman of courage makes a majority. Is there one among you who will say enough?”
Trump’s defense team emphasized the politically-charged nature of the moment, arguing on multiple occasions over the course of the trial that an impeachment drawn along partisan lines is an invalid one. Ken Starr, the independent counsel whose report led to former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, compared the process to “domestic war” and said that impeachments should thus be “powerfully bipartisan.” (It’s worth noting, however, that impeachment has always been a partisan exercise, regardless of the charges brought forth.)
The president’s defense shifted slightly over the course of the trial, with the initial focus resting on Trump’s purported innocence. Former national security adviser John Bolton changed the conversation when it was reported that, in his book, he says Trump directly withheld security assistance from Ukraine in order to pressure their president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, into announcing investigations targeting Trump’s political rivals. The House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress pertaining to his role in that scandal.
Trump’s team later called into question the impeachable nature of that offense, particularly since the articles of impeachment, as drawn, do not contain references to an actual crime. Schiff said that notion fails to withstand historical scrutiny, as “there were no statutory crimes when the Constitution” was ratified, he said.
“The president had to look far and wide to find a defense lawyer to make such an argument, unsupported by history, the founders, or common sense,” declared Schiff. “The Republican expert witness in the House would not make it, serious constitutional scholars would not make it, even Alan Dershowitz would not make it—at least he wouldn’t [have] in 1998.”
Dershowitz, the retired Harvard professor and lawyer for Trump, said in the Clinton era that an impeachable offense “certainly doesn’t have to be a crime.” He has since changed his stance multiple times: In his 2018 book, The Case Against Impeaching Trump, he argued that impeachment does indeed require a crime, but most recently asserted that the offense may not necessarily be a crime, but must be “crime-like.” During Trump’s trial, he said that any quid pro quo put forward by Trump to secure his own re-election cannot be impeachable, because Trump thought his presidency would be in the “public interest.”
The defense concluded by reminding lawmakers that the election is a mere nine months away, imploring them to leave it to the voters. It is nothing more than “an effort to overturn the results of one election,” said Pat Cipollone, the head White House counsel, “and to try to interfere in the coming election that begins today in Iowa.”
Schiff rejected that argument, seizing on Republicans who have conceded that the House has proven its case and that Trump acted inappropriately. “History will not be kind to Donald Trump. If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history,” he said. “But if you find the courage to stand up to him…your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath.”