President Trumps lawyers, when they begin making their impeachment defense Saturday in the Senate trial, will make every effort to forestall the summoning of witnesses. But there is one witness they cant suppress. He is big, he is orange, he is unhelpful and he is everywhere.
I would love to have Mike Pompeo and Mick [Mulvaney], and I would love to have Rick Perry and many other people testify, Trump says in a video recording played by House impeachment managers on the Senate floor.
He pressures the Ukrainian president to launch investigations of Trumps political opponents. Its a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens.
He calls on others to do the same: By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.
He announces what the findings of these investigations should be: Bidens son is corrupt, and Biden is corrupt.
He says hed welcome a foreign governments contribution of dirt on his political opponents. Oh, I think Id want to hear it.
And he announces that there are no restraints on his power: I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.
[The latest Trump impeachment trial updates]
Witnesses and documents withheld by the administration would no doubt fill in the details. But for the gist of what Trump did wrong, you need only hear his own words. The president has long said the quiet parts out loud, and Democratic managers built their case around playing his greatest hits, over and over. Its the Warner Wolf prosecution: Lets go to the videotape.
The president has confirmed what he wanted in his own words, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said.
President Trump himself told us what he really wanted in many public statements, said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Tex.).
Lets start with the presidents own words, said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.).
These words will live in infamy, said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Sometimes, they read Trumps words themselves. Military aid wasnt in exchange for investigations? Do us a favor though, Trump says. Trump opposing only the release of information that jeopardizes executive privilege? Were fighting all the subpoenas, he says.
His underlings are little more helpful to Trumps cause. A video version of his acting chief of staff, Mulvaney, appears repeatedly in the Senate chamber to say we do that all the time with quid-pro-quo exchanges, so get over it. A phone conversation relayed by Rudy Giuliani from the moment Trumps personal lawyer touched down from Ukraine, is read aloud:
Trump: What did you get?
Giuliani: More than you can imagine.
Perfect call!
On Friday, Trumps words again overshadowed the trial, albeit in ways the impeachment managers hadnt arranged.
Before the days argument began, ABC News reported the existence of a previously unknown recording in which a voice that appears to be Trumps says this of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch: Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I dont care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.
And Trump retweeted an ugly message (based on social media conspiracy chatter) from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) disparaging the patriotism of White House national security staffer Army Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, the Purple Heart recipient who testified during the House impeachment inquiry.
The steady emergence of more damaging evidence against Trump, and more of his bad behavior, lends credibility to Schiffs claim at the start of the trial: The truth will come out. The question is, Will it come out in time?
Senate Republicans appear to be doing their all to make sure it doesnt. They have blocked attempts to call witnesses and seek documents, saying the question should wait until the end of the trial. Theyve said the Senate shouldnt have to do the Houses work. And lately, they are saying calling in witnesses would just take too long.
Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.): Im not for extending this for months and months while claims of privilege and the like are litigated in the courts.
Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.): Calling witnesses could prolong this enormously.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska): The House made a decision that they didnt want to slow things down by having to go through the courts, and yet now theyre basically saying you guys got to go through the courts.
Its a bit strained for Senate Republicans to say they need to wrap things up quickly now, after House Republicans accused Democrats of wrapping things up too quickly. They are also making a peculiar constitutional argument: Because Trump is stonewalling Congress, we should acquit him quickly.
It isnt elegant, but its necessary. The more time passes, the more damage Trump does to his own case.
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Read more:
Whats next in the impeachment trial
Max Boot: Trump wants you to think everyone does it. No, they dont.
The Posts View: The impeachment evidence will catch up to Republicans and Trump whether they ignore it or not
George T. Conway III: Theres a critical witness impeachment is missing
Jonathan Turley: Its time to ditch the second impeachment article to bring in witnesses
Greg Sargent: Damning new audio of Trump illuminates the Ukraine scandals back alleys