House Democrats launched into lengthy arguments that broke little ground, if any, in President Trump's impeachment trial Wednesday -- as the head impeachment manager, California Rep. Adam Schiff, suggested that Russians could attack the U.S. and insisted that removing Trump from office was necessary because the integrity of the 2020 election could not be "assured."
Trump's lawyers sat by, waiting their turn, as the president blasted the proceedings from afar, threatening jokingly to face off with the Democrats by coming to "sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces."
The challenge before the House managers has been clear. Democrats were given 24 hours over three days to prosecute the charges against Trump, trying to win over not just fidgety senators sitting silently in the chamber but an American public, deeply divided over the president and his impeachment in an election year.
Most senators sat at their desks throughout the day, as the rules stipulated, though some stretched their legs, standing behind the desks or against the back wall of the chamber, passing the time. Visitors watched from the galleries, one briefly interrupting in protest.
Schiff attracted the most criticism, however, for later making the head-turning argument that Trump must be removed from office by the Senate -- rather than by voters in the 2020 election -- because it is impossible to be sure the 2020 election won't be compromised.
"The president's misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won," Schiff remarked. He did not elaborate.
Constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz, who will speak against impeachment, is expected to argue before the Senate that removing a president is a fundamentally undemocratic remedy that requires "criminal-like" conduct -- a standard he will argue is not met by Democrats' two articles of impeachment, which do not allege federal crimes.
But, both Republicans and left-of-center commentators didn't wait long to deride Schiff's incendiary arguments in more direct terms.
"And right here is proof of the Democrats’ plan all along," Trump campaign director of communications Tim Murtaugh said in response. "Every moment of the impeachment sham has been geared toward interfering with the 2020 election. Schiff is preemptively calling into question the results of an election that is still more than 9 months away."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told The Washington Post on Wednesday that Senate Republicans have nearly all the votes they need to dismiss Democrats’ partisan articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and that they are just waiting to hear back from a few Senators.
“There are 45, with about five to eight wanting to hear a little more,” Paul said in reference to Republicans’ 53-47 majority in the Senate. “I still would like to dismiss it, but there aren’t the votes to do it just yet.”
Paul said that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is unifying the Republican senators with a lot of the things that Schiff is saying during the trial and that he intends to push dismissing the case in the near future.
“I will push it at some point,” Paul said. “The more Adam Schiff speaks, the more we become unified.”
Paul also dismissed Democrats’ calls to have former National Security Adviser John Bolton testify before the Senate, saying, “He’s a disgruntled employee with an ax to grind.”