Democratic prosecutors, declaring that “no one is above the law,” made a last-ditch appeal to senators at US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Monday to vote to remove him from office for abuse of power.
“Your duty demands that you convict President Trump,” Colorado lawmaker Jason Crow said as prosecutors began presenting their closing arguments at just the third impeachment trial in US history.
“How many falsehoods can we take?” Crow asked the 100 members of the Senate who are serving as jurors and will decide the president’s fate. “When will it be one too many?”
The Senate is to vote at 4:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and the Republican president is all but certain of being acquitted.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove a president from office.
Crow, one of the seven members of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives who have argued the case against the president in the Senate, said impeachment was an “extraordinary remedy” to be used in only “rare instances of grave misconduct.”
“It is in the Constitution for a reason,” he said. “In America, nobody is above the law, even those elected president of the United States.”
The House of Representatives impeached Trump on December 18 for withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine to demand that Kiev open an investigation into his potential November election rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
“Donald Trump has betrayed his oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Adam Schiff, the California lawmaker who has served as the chief House prosecutor.
“But it’s not too late for us to honour ours.
“Today we urge you, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the president’s guilt, and knowing that if left in office he will continue to seek foreign interference in the next election, vote to convict on both articles of impeachment and remove from office Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States,” Schiff said.
Crow told the Senate their decision would echo through history.
“What you decide on these articles will have lasting implications for the future of the presidency, not only for this president but for all future presidents,” he said.
Democratic prosecutors presented about an hour of final arguments before the Senate broke for lunch. They will be followed by White House lawyers, who will have up to two hours to present Trump’s defence.
Following the closing arguments, the Senate will adjourn as a court of impeachment and open a legislative session during which senators will have the floor for 10 minutes each to make remarks.
Final arguments in Trump’s trial were being held as voters held caucuses in Iowa to begin the process of choosing a Democratic candidate to face Trump at the polls in November.
Former vice president Biden is among the front-runners in Iowa along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose campaigning in the midwestern state has been hamstrung by the requirement that they remain in Washington for the impeachment trial.
As the Democratic prosecutors addressed the sombre Senate chamber, Trump lashed out on Twitter.
“I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exactly that, a Hoax,” he said. “Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!”
Trump was also asked about his impeachment during an interview with the Fox network ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“It’s been a very, very unfair process,” he said. “It should never happen to another president.”
He expressed confidence that the strong economy would help power him to re-election in November. “I don’t know how anybody could possibly beat me,” he said.
Trump was also asked whether he had given any thought to delaying Tuesday’s nationally televised “State of the Union” speech to a joint session of Congress.
“No, I’m gonna have it,” he said. “We’re gonna talk about the achievements that we’ve made.”
A narrow majority of Americans believe Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress by withholding documents and testimony during the impeachment inquiry, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.
But they remain divided on whether he should be kicked from office, with 46 per cent hoping to see him removed and 49 per cent saying he should keep his job.
The Senate trial moved into the final arguments phase after Democrats failed last week in a bid to introduce witnesses and documents.
Only two Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — joined Democrats as the motion to introduce witnesses was defeated 51-49.
Democrats had been eager to hear from Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other key administration figures caught up in the scandal.
Bolton reportedly says in a forthcoming book that Trump told him military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev’s investigating Biden — corroborating the central claim against the president.