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Top Democrats push for Senate impeachment trial witnesses and criticize Trump’s brief

Several of the House impeachment managers who will serve as prosecutors in the Senate trial appeared on Sunday shows to call on the chamber to approve witnesses and deride the Saturday night filing from the President’s legal team which called the two articles of impeachment “constitutionally invalid on their face.”

House Intelligence chairman and lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff pushed back on the President’s argument that he can’t be impeached for abuse of power, calling it an “absurdist position.”

“That’s the argument I suppose you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.” “You had to go so far out of the mainstream to find someone to make that argument, you had to leave the realm of constitutional law scholars and go to criminal defense lawyers.”

Asked whether indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas will be called to testify, Schiff said he doesn’t know which witnesses, if any, will be allowed. “We can’t really make a determination on which witnesses we’ll call in the absence of knowing whether the Senate will allow any at all,” he said. Schiff noted that a trial without witnesses “would be absurd. It would be a mockery of trial, not a trial.”

He also dismissed Sen. Susan Collins’ argument that the House should have done more to get documents during their turn. “What Senator Collins and the other senators need to realize is we did try to get these witnesses in the House. We subpoenaed many of these witnesses. And because of the President’s obstruction, they ignored those lawful subpoenas,” Schiff said. “Donald Trump’s Justice Department is in court saying the House cannot go to court to enforce its subpoenas.”

Schiff said he intends to fight for a fair trial Tuesday but will also hold senators accountable.

“I intend during the trial to be respectful of the senators, to operate from the presumption that they do take their oaths seriously, but also with the knowledge that Americans are watching, that they’re going to demand a fair trial,” Schiff said. “If the senators don’t give the country a fair trial, one that’s fair to the President but also fair to the American people, the senators will be held accountable. So that’s the approach I intend to take.”

​Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler called Saturday night’s memo from the White House legal team “errant nonsense” during an appearance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“Well both of those statements are errant nonsense. There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence. Any jury would convict in three minutes flat that the President betrayed his country by breaking the law,” Nadler said.

On potential witnesses, Nadler said he didn’t think Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, would end up being called upon.

“Well I’m saying it’s, Hunter Biden has no knowledge of the accusations against the President. Did the President, as we said, as the evidence shows he did, betray his country by conspiring a foreign country to try to rig the election? Hunter Biden has nothing to say about that. Their asking for Hunter Biden which is more of a smear of Hunter Biden that the President was trying to get the Ukraine to do. But the fact of the matter is let the Chief Justice rule on, the Chief Justice in the first instance rules on evidence. The Senate can overrule them. But no Chief Justice would think of admitting evidence that is not relevant. No trial judge would in any trial,” Nadler said.

‘Let’s call the witnesses’

Freshman Rep. Jason Crow, a retired Army Ranger and a lawyer, also criticized the President’s filing during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“This fits the President’s pattern. He continues to deflect off of his own behavior, trying to attack the messenger. My immediate response is let’s call the witnesses then. He has said that his call was a perfect call. He has said that he’s done nothing wrong. So let’s have the people that are in the best position to confirm that come in and testify before the US Senate. It’s what over 70% of the American people are asking for,” Crow told CNN.

“The President deserves a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair trial. So let’s have that fair trial.”

Crow would not comment on whether he wanted to see Parnas appear as a witness, but did say it was possible to use documents from him without hearing from him directly.

“I can say the managers are meeting and talking regularly with our team, considering who are the best witnesses to bring that case. We have to look at the entire universe of potential witnesses.” he said. “All of the relevant witnesses are on the table. What we have to do is make sure that we have documents, too. This can’t be the first trial in American history, the first impeachment trial in American history, where we don’t have documents and witnesses produced by the President.”

Democratic aides blast McConnell

House Democratic aides working on the impeachment trial preparation pushed back on arguments made by Republicans on the Sunday shows and blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for what they say is a lack of transparency as the trial gets underway this week.

The aides, working with House managers in preparing for the trial, said one of their biggest hurdles is they don’t know what the structure of the trial will be as they wait to see McConnell’s proposed resolution on the trial’s format to be released.

“We are two days before this trial is to begin, and Sen. McConnell, who has been talking about the rules of the trial and his resolution for weeks now, has still not provided his resolution to the public or the parties,” a Democratic aide said. “The House managers still have no idea what the structure of the trial is going to be. And the notion that the House managers are going into a trial on Tuesday without knowing what the structure is, is completely unfathomable and would never, ever happen in any other court of law around this country.”

The aides said House managers prepared for the trial Sunday and will continue into the night before having a walkthrough on the Senate floor Monday around 11 a.m., ET. The aides hoped the Senate gallery would be open for reporters to view that.

The aides also took issue with the potential for the format of the trial to be structured like the one for President Bill Clinton because they said in the Clinton case, Congress already had all the witnesses and evidence they needed, while requested documents and witnesses weren’t provided by the Trump administration in this case.

Despite not knowing what the structure will be, aides expressed concern about the possibility that has been raised where managers and the White House would have two, 12-hour chunks of time to present their arguments.

Specifically, the aides were concerned with what would happen Wednesday because the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the morning, which could delay the start of the trial with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the Senate.

“We are almost certainly not going to start the trial at one o’clock in the afternoon. So then the question is, Sen. McConnell going to force the House managers to present 12 hours of testimony on Wednesday that will go until two or three in the morning? That is a complete sham. That would be trying to hide the President’s misconduct in the dead of night rather than putting it in the light of day. It is just another example of Sen. McConnell’s efforts to cover up the president’s misconduct,” a Democratic aide said.

Aides said Democratic staffers across various committees have been working for weeks preparing for whatever comes in the trial while the House managers are making final tweaks to their arguments.

“The managers will be ready to go on Tuesday,” a Democratic aide said.

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