WASHINGTONHouse Democrats cited witnesses and documents the White House kept from impeachment investigators to press their case that President Trump has obstructed Congress, seeking to win over enough Republican senators to subpoena additional materials.Friday marked the last chance for the seven Democratic managersHouse lawmakers acting as prosecutorsto make their opening pitch to GOP senators who may be wavering on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents. Democrats say the material could bolster the allegation that
Mr. Trump
improperly withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine as leverage for the country to open investigations into Vice President
Joe Biden,
a potential election opponent this year, then tried to cover it up.
Mr. Trump invited foreign interference in our elections and sold out our countrys security for his personal benefit, and betrayed the nations trust to a foreign power, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said.
Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing. He derided the Democrats presentation in a tweet Friday, saying the Do Nothing Democrats just keep repeating and repeating, over and over again, the same old stuff on the Impeachment Hoax.
The presidents legal team will kick off its three days of arguments on Saturday morning, when it plans to speak for two to three hours, a person on the team said. The White House wanted to begin rebutting Democrats on Saturday but plans to save the bulk of its arguments for Monday and Tuesday, when there will be more television viewers, a person familiar with the discussions said.
Rep. Jason Crow (D., Colo.) led off the Democratic arguments Friday, wrapping up managers presentation of the first article of impeachment, alleging abuse of power. Mr. Crow ran through the chronology surrounding the frozen Ukraine aid, which was later released amid media reports and a bipartisan outcry in Congress. The hold on the aid was only lifted because President Trump had gotten caught, he said.
Managers spent the bulk of Friday, however, on the second article of impeachment, which accuses Mr. Trump of trying to thwart the House inquiry by directing witnesses not to testify, refusing to allow the release of documents and ordering executive-branch agencies to do the same.
We are here today in response to a blanket order issued by President Trump directing the entire executive branch to withhold all documents and testimony from that inquiry, said Rep. Val Demings (D., Fla.). President Trumps obstruction of the impeachment inquiry was categorical, indiscriminate, and historically unprecedented.
Democrats said House committees issued 71 categories of document requests or subpoenas last year to the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget and the State, Defense and Energy departments. The White House blocked all of the requests.
Senate Democrats have said they want to subpoena a slice of those documents, including emails from National Security Council officials who expressed concern about Mr. Trumps decision to delay aid to Ukraine, and about a July 10 meeting in which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union,
Gordon Sondland,
urged Ukrainian officials to announce investigations as a way to get a Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart.
Senate Democrats also want to hear from at least four witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser
John Bolton.
In total, 12 current or former Trump administration officials declined to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
It would take a simple majority of 51 senators to vote for the additional evidence, meaning that at least four Republicans would have to vote with all 47 senators in the Democratic caucus. If Democrats cant muster those four GOP votes, the trial could end as soon as next week.
Republican Sens.
Susan Collins
of Maine,
Lisa Murkowski
of Alaska,
Mitt Romney
of Utah and
Lamar Alexander
of Tennessee are among those who have said they would be open to witnesses. They have been tight-lipped in recent days about how the Democrats opening arguments might have affected their thinking.
Mr. Alexander told reporters he would make his decision after the questioning portion of the trial, expected next week. Mr. Romney said he would like to hear testimony from Mr. Bolton and that he would make a decision about other officials later. Mr. Bolton, who was described by witnesses as alarmed at the pressure put on Ukraine, said earlier this month that he would testify in a Senate trial if subpoenaed.
Do you think Democrats will be able to sway enough Republican senators to break ranks and agree to subpoena witnesses and documents? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.
White House officials have said they dont expect any Republicans to vote in favor of hearing from more witnesses, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is privately far less certain, people familiar with the talks said.
The White House has largely delegated the task of rallying senators to vote against witness testimony to Mr. McConnell and a handful of other senators, though some White House officials including the president have been in contact with lawmakers as the trial has unfolded.
During the trial, Mr. McConnell is using daily closed-door lunches as a venue for GOP senators to have frank exchanges and relay feedback to party leadership.
Among the arguments some Republicans are making at lunch and in private conversations is that voting in favor of witness testimony would further prolong the trial with an extended court battle over executive privilege, people familiar with the talks said. Republicans also say that witness testimony wont change the case and that the trial should end by the Feb. 4 State of the Union address.
Mr. McConnell has made that case publicly, saying on the Senate floor Tuesday that pursuing new witnesses could indefinitely delay the Senate trial and draw the body into a protracted and complex legal fight. Such litigation could potentially have permanent repercussions for the separation of powers and the institution of the presidency that senators would need to consider very carefully, he said.
Mr. Schiff told reporters on Friday that it is nonsense that subpoenaing new witnesses or documents could make the trial last too long. This is not a trial over a speeding ticket or shopping ticket, this is an impeachment trial involving the president of the United States, Mr. Schiff said. These witnesses have important firsthand testimony to offer.
Trump attorney
Jay Sekulow
has rejected Democrats push for more documents and witnesses, citing executive privilege. Executive privilege isnt explicitly mentioned in the Constitution but is understood to be implied by its separation of powers. Democrats say executive privilege shouldnt be used to shield a president engaged in alleged misconduct.
Sixty-six percent of Americans say the Senate should call witnesses to testify in Mr. Trumps impeachment trial, including 45% of Republicans, 65% of independents and 87% of Democrats, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Friday.
Previewing his teams opening arguments, Mr. Sekulow said Friday that his team would include discussion of Mr. Biden, as well as his son Hunter, who worked at Ukrainian firm Burisma. Mr. Trump and his allies have accused Joe Biden of working to replace the Ukraine prosecutor to protect his son, but Joe Biden pressed for his removal with the backing of U.S. allies at a time when the prosecutors probe into Burisma was dormant. Both Bidens have denied wrongdoing.
*Includes two independents that caucus with the Democrats
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— Rebecca Ballhaus, Natalie Andrews and Siobhan Hughes contributed to this article.
Write to Lindsay Wise at lindsay.wise@wsj.com
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