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Democratic House Managers Make Opening Arguments In Impeachment Trial

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Now that the rules are set for the trial, House impeachment managers have begun the first of three days of arguments. They're making the case for why the Senate should vote to remove President Trump from office. Congressman Adam Schiff is leading the managers. Here's how he explained the Democrats' strategy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM SCHIFF: We're trying this case to two juries, the Senate and the American people.

CHANG: Now, today, Schiff and the other managers are methodically walking senators through the timeline they say shows the president abused his power. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales joins us now from the Capitol.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi there.

CHANG: So how are House Democrats so far organizing their arguments here?

GRISALES: So they have up to 24 hours over three days to make these presentations, and Schiff is acting as the lead manager. He himself spoke for more than two hours, and now other members of the prosecution team have been trading out and playing video clips of the president and his allies that they say shows support for the evidence that they're presenting. And they're chronologically documenting these key dates and evidence from this investigation. It's kind of a retelling of their probe, tied to the president's July 25 call with the Ukrainian leader to seek interference in the 2020 elections and what impeachment managers have been calling a subsequent widespread cover-up effort.

CHANG: Right. Now, as you say, it's sort of a retelling of what they've already been saying during the impeachment inquiry, so how are they trying to hold all the senators' attention?

GRISALES: That is a great question. That is - especially after yesterday's marathon session.

CHANG: Yeah, that went into the wee hours of the morning.

GRISALES: Exactly. But today Schiff opened his arguments very patiently, methodically, just laying out these very specific details, pleading for senators to take a new, closer look at this evidence that the House gathered in their investigation. And even though some Senate Republicans don't agree with what the president did, they also don't think he should be removed from office. But Schiff is making the case that they need to revisit that. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCHIFF: Should the Congress just get over it? Should the American people just come to expect that our presidents will corruptly abuse their office to seek the help of a foreign power to cheat in our elections? Should we just get over it? Is that what we've come to? I hope and pray that the answer is no.

GRISALES: Some of these arguments in the impeachment case should sound familiar. But in this new retelling, House managers are hoping to win support in the jury of public opinion as well as some of these moderate Republicans who have expressed interest in remaining impartial jurors in this process. But we should note that they face an uphill battle here, as it's largely expected that Trump will be acquitted.

CHANG: And we should also note that President Trump weighed in this morning. Tell us what he said and give us an idea of what his legal team has been doing as the Democrats are making their case.

GRISALES: Yes, President Trump is tuned in. He seems pleased so far with what his legal team is doing in terms of their defense of him so far. As we know, he's been traveling, attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. But regardless, he's still closely tracking the trial and the developments there, so much so he said he wishes that he could get a front seat. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'd love to go. Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be beautiful?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: So why don't you go?

TRUMP: I don't know. I'd sort of love to sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces. I'd love to do it.

GRISALES: We should also note that he added his lawyers would probably have a problem with his personal appearance. But so far, his defense team has given us a preview of the arguments to come, and they're calling this case a farce, and they're looking forward to defending the president.

CHANG: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales.

Thanks, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.